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Another Elon Musk Bet: Half of All Cars Built In 2032 Will Be Electric 359

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-will-they-fly dept.
New submitter cartechboy writes "Ears perked up when Elon Musk made another bold statement he'd be 'willing to bet on.' This time he says that in 20 years, half of all new cars sold would be plug-in electric cars. Believe him? The math looks a little fuzzy, and one research analyst is willing to take Musk up on the bet. 'It expects the U.S. plug-in market to grow at a 32-percent average rate from now through 2020. That takes sales to roughly 200,000 units in 2020. Even if that rate continued for another 12 years, which Hurst considers unlikely, that would only take plug-in cars to roughly one-third of the market in 2032, or about 5 million sales. But Hurst thinks 8 or 10 percent annual growth in plug-in sales is more reasonable, taking the total to 480,000 or 574,000 plug-ins sold in 2032 in the U.S.'"
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Another Elon Musk Bet: Half of All Cars Built In 2032 Will Be Electric

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  • by GeLeTo (527660) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:37AM (#40682651)
    The amount of electricity required to travel a certain distance with an EV is roughly the same as the amount of electricity used to refine the gas for a regular vehicle that travels the same distance. According to DOE:
    http://gatewayev.org/how-much-electricity-is-used-refine-a-gallon-of-gasoline [gatewayev.org]
  • Lithium-Air (Score:5, Informative)

    by Namarrgon (105036) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @04:42AM (#40683315) Homepage

    Developments in Lithium-Air batteries are rapidly making them viable, and are conservatively estimated to give ten times the power/weight [arstechnica.com] of Li-Ion.

    There's also been a number of advances in high-surface-area electrodes that dramatically increase charge and discharge rates. Some of these have already made it to market, such as the MIT spinoff A123 Systems - which coincidentally enough has developed a Lithium Iron electrolyte that handles extreme temperatures [a123systems.com] very well..

    There's a great deal of industrial interest in improving battery technology, and claiming that there's been no breakthroughs in years is simply ignorant, I'm afraid. If you're paying attention, the future of batteries looks pretty rosy.

  • Re:Fuel cell (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @05:21AM (#40683507)

    I worked with fuel cells for about 7 years, and I'm fairly certain they will never be used in cars on any appreciable scale. They were used as an excuse by the auto industry for a while. ("Don't make us do battery cars. Wait for fuel cells!") Now that battery cars are about to become economical, the excuse is no longer needed, so automotive fuel cell programmes will be scrapped. (There are applications where fuel cells do make sense, but cars is not one of them.)

    The main arguments agianst fuel cells are:
    * Efficiency. Making hydrogen from electricity on an economcial scale has an efficiency of about 50 %. Charging a battery is better than 90 %. Converting hydrogen back to electricity in a fuel cell is again about 50 % efficiency (so 25 % round trip). Discharging a battery is again better than 90 % (so 80 % round trip). * Complexity. A fuel cell needs a supply of moist air to function. This requires a compressior, a humidifier, a water tank, lots of pipes, etc. All of this costs money, adds weight, and introduces potential problems.
    * Cost. Fuel cells require platinum catalysts that are expensive.
    * Reliability. Fuel cells just aren't as reliable as batteries.
    * Lifespan. Again, batteries are better than fuel cells in automotive applications, and since they are also cheaper, they have a much better price/lifespan ratio.

    Modern batteries can actually re-charge quite quickly if you have a powerful enough charger. (A car draws much more power than a house, so residential chargers cannot be very powerful.)

    I imagine in the future there will be robots at gas stations that switch batteries in your car faster than you could refill a gas tank.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @05:24AM (#40683517) Homepage

    The problem with this statement Musk makes, is the countries electric infrastructure can barely keep up with the demands and it is falling apart, it will take close to 20 years to get the systems to where it has been upgraded and added onto so it is not getting maxed out.

    This is simply not true. The DOE and other groups have studied this over and over again. There is no problem generating enough power to switch over almost all of the US's vehicles to electricity, except a small shortfall in the pacific northwest** if everything was switched. The issue is that power plants spend most of their time sitting idle (in order to be able to meet peak demand), while EVs predominantly charge in off-peak hours. The net result is that EVs increase power plant utilization percentages and are thus a huge boon to grid operators (who unsurprisingly are big supporters of electric vehicles), as they get to sell more power without having to build new plants, and the power that they're selling is a nice even, steady draw.

    There is one weakness in the link, but it has nothing to do with generation, or even bulk distribution. It's the final leg of the journey, neighborhood distribution. Several studies have shown that once neighrboods hit 10-20% penetration or so (which is still a long time from now!), you can start having problems with too much load on the local circuits. But this is nothing extraordinary; local circuits are upgraded all the time as neighborhoods grow and power usages change.

    ** - The pacific northwest, due to its heavy use of hydropower, doesn't have as much idle capacity sitting around at night as other regions. Hydropower doesn't care whether you use it during the night or the day; it's generally energy-per-year-limited, not peak-power-limited.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @05:36AM (#40683565) Homepage

    That's not the big problem the problem is the batteries.

    The one true statement in this paragraph, but not for the reason you think.

    we just haven't had any true battery breakthough in years

    Remember what cell phones looked like 20 years ago? Remember that giant brick of a battery? Compare that to the battery on your smartphone today. Now look at what your smartphone is wasting power on beyond just maintaining a cell signal.

    It's a common but utterly false myth that batteries haven't advanced much. They've been advancing dramatically and show no signs of stopping. Now, increasing power *consumption* on electronics tends to waste a lot of this, but as for storage, it's had a pretty consistent 8% energy density by mass gain per year. Power density has risen even faster.

    and lithium batteries just don't take extremes in heat and cold like a lead acid does.

    Most automotive-style li-ions are rated for much more extreme temperature curves than lead-acid. I've seen some rated for as low as -50C, although -30C is more common. Ever tried to start a lead-acid vehicle in -50C weather? Yeah, that's what a block heater is for. And guess what? The block heater concept works with EVs, too. And yes, the same applies on the upper end of the temperature spectrum.

    The average temp in the south has been over 100F, ever leave a lithium battery in a car in this kind of heat? Say goodbye to more than half your capacity.

    Again, automotive-style li-ions (which are a different chemistry than laptop-style li-ions, they're more akin to the li-ions in power tools) don't do this; they're amazingly durable. Something you don't seem to get is that there's not just one chemistry available in each family. Battery manufacturers have an array of tradeoffs they can make in chemistry selection, chemistry details, DOD (depth of discharge), and so forth. This radically alters the ratios between price, energy density, power density, and lifespan. For most consumer electronics, they're thought of as disposable. Hence price and energy density are typically highly optimized at the expense of power density and lifespan. For vehicles, lifespan is fixed at a target (usually something in the 7-10 years to 20% capacity loss range), power density is fixed at whatever the demand is (high for hybrids, medium for plug-in hybrids, low for pure EVs - basically, the more batteries you have, the less power you need per cell), and then the price/energy density tradeoff is adjusted for the vehicle's particular market niche.

    for giving away batteries there simply won't be a used market, nor will those that buy one want to keep the vehicle once the batteries die out of warranty, they'll end up scrapped.

    Simply not true. Grid operators are dying to get their hands on used batteries from the EV industry which they could snatch up at bargain-basement prices. As if they care that they're only 80% capacity or less; energy density is practically irrelevant when your batteries sit in a warehouse in a fixed location, and 50-80% of the density of a li-ion is still way more than a lead-acid anyway.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:06AM (#40683707) Homepage

    Battery life is the big killer. Who would buy a second hand electric car? They are only good for land-fill. They are massively less "green" than mechanically injected diesel vehicles which have a life of a million miles or more with a bit of low cost (potentially DIY) maintenance

    None of this is true.

    1) Cost is the killer, not battery life. Most EV from major manufacturers are coming with 8-10 year warranties on the packs. Toyota and Honda have had no problems maintaining long lifespans on their hybrid packs, and hybrid packs are put through a *lot* more stress than EV packs (far more charge/discharge cycles, at faster rates)

    2) They are not "only good for landfill". "End of life" is usually defined at about 80%, but you can obviously drive it beyond that. And even when they're not used for cars any more, you better believe that power companies would love to get their hands on cheapo used EV packs with 50-80% capacity left in them, to buffer the grid. Battery buffers are often useful for things you wouldn't even think of, not just the obvious ability to use more intermittents or deal with sudden losses in generation or surges in demand. For example, one of the rattlesnake lines out in Utah, which runs from Moab through Castle Valley and onward, has very limited capacity, but they keep getting new requests to hook up to it that they couldn't handle during peak times. Well, what do you do - build a brand new, expensive line in the middle of nowhere? Nah, they just built a big battery buffer halfway down it, which they load up during off-peak times and unload during peak times. Batteries are incredibly useful for the grid, but oftentimes these days, they're too expensive for a lot of tasks they'd be great at. Hence...

    3) Automotive-style li-ions (which pretty much everyone except Tesla and their partners are using) are of chemistries that are so eco-friendly that you can literally dispose of them in with municipal waste after discharging in most localities. The CEO of BYD likes to show off his batteries by drinking the electrolyte from them for reporters.

    4) Even algae is grossly, grossly inefficient compared to solar panels on the same land, orders of magnitude difference. And way too expensive.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:19AM (#40683769) Homepage

    The rare earth thing is a red herring. Tesla, and pretty much all other modern EVs, don't use rare earths. They use AC synchronous motors, which don' have permanent magnets. And anyway, it's not that rare earths are only found in China; they can just produce them a bit cheaper than other parts of the world. The result of the stockpiling is that mines in other parts of the world are starting to be built / reopen (there's one in California, for example, that shut down years ago due to cheap Chinese rare earths that's now reopening).

  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @09:14AM (#40684983) Homepage

    You can't just run a transformer at higher voltage, the core is limited in wattage. So if you doubled the primary voltage the core would saturate at half the current, with no net gain in power.

  • by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:47AM (#40686769) Homepage Journal

    Factory HID ballasts are 35W each, so you're looking at 70W for headlamps.

    Some vehicles (Audi R8, Audi A8, Lexus LS600H, Cadillac Escalade, some motorcycles, ) feature LED headlamps but there are problems with LED headlamp design - mainly cooling (see http://www.caranddriver.com/features/2010-audi-r8-led-headlights [caranddriver.com] ) and collimation/focus (it's not a single-point light source like HID, and it's not a filament like halogen incandescent, but an array of LEDs) but if a headlamp assembly is designed from the beginning to use LEDs it's not a problem.

    It took a bit of searching but I found that one of VW's concept cars uses Osram's new headlamp module which requires only 19W, and Osram expects to get it down to 15W in a few years without sacrificing light output.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @01:28PM (#40688025) Homepage

    Synchronous motors (aka "brushless DC" motors) do indeed use permanent magnets.

    Which would be relevant if Tesla and the others used a brushless DC motor. They use induction-based AC synchronous motors. Almost all older EVs used brushless DC and "neighborhood electric vehicles" (aka, glorified golf carts) still do, as well as most hybrids, nearly all modern, highway speed EVs being developed/on the road are now using AC synchronous motors, which have no permanent magnet. This includes not just Tesla's powertrain (which it also shares with a couple other auto manufacturers and was used in, for example, the electric mini and Toyota's new RAV4EV), GM's vehicles [allnewchevyvolt.com], Think's, Renault's, BYD's, etc. Nissan is the only exception with the Leaf, and I doubt they'll stick with it for long.

    AC motors like this used to be grossly impractical, but this has changed with the advent of readily available high power switching electronics. "Brushless DC" motors are history as far as EVs go.

  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @10:36PM (#40693509) Homepage

    Let me be clearer, then: I'm talking about inductive AC synchronous motors. The Leaf (and apparently the ActiveE, hadn't checked out their motor tech) are the only modern highway-speed EVs with permanent magnets in its motor. Is that clear enough?

    GM does not use a permament magnet motor. I linked to a GM site for you, where they quite clearly say it's an induction motor. The difference in motors between it and the Leaf is one of the oft-cited differences, so I'm surprised that you don't know that.

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