NRC panel of advocates for dead-end hydrogen cars trashes plug-in hybrids in deeply flawed report, Part 2 on battery costs

In a staggering lapse of judgment, the National Research Council let its panel of hydrogen advocates publish a deeply flawed report trashing plug-in hybrids late last year, as I noted in Part 1. The obvious perception of bias, which the media largely failed to report, should have rung many alarm bells for the NRC.

That overview post focused on some of the apparent conflicts of interest of the panel, including the fact that the chair is Michael Ramage, retired Executive VP for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, who is apparently still an ExxonMobil advisor.   It excerpted a few short critiques of the report and gave a brief intro to the myriad miracles required to make hydrogen fuel cell cars viable and practical as a mass-market consumer vehicle and cost-effective climate solution.  In Part 3, I will expand on the hype about hydrogen cars.  First, however, Felix Kramer of CalCars now has a detailed debunking up, with a focus on the crucial issue of battery costs, which I’ll excerpt at length below as a guest post:

In this posting, we return to address in greater detail the faulty assumptions underlying the conclusion by the National Research Council’s (NRC) fuel cell analyst team that it would be a mistake to commit to plug-in vehicles because battery costs will remain high for over a decade. This report has gained wide attention. And on the same day that GM opened its new Michigan battery plant, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a study saying it would take decades for plug-ins to become competitive without subsidies. We believe BOTH reports are mistaken and are already being eclipsed by industry developments. Real-world information is already a step ahead of their assumptions. Battery and auto manufacturers would not be spending tens of billions of dollars on factories to support over a dozen new plug-in vehicle models unless they saw a long-term path to low-cost, competitive components. We back this up below with citations from multiple sources — including just-in news of the first response from a National Lab to the NRC report. We hope they will deter these reports’ unquestioned acceptance by journalists, analysts and legislators. Read to the end and you’ll find our explanation of how these studies affect the US Department of Energy’s future plans. And you’ll see our call to some missing voices — battery manufacturers and automakers besides GM and Nissan — to release some vital proprietary information. Multiple constituencies need the full story to understand battery economics and help shape public and private strategies. This is all-important as priorities are being set in Washington and across the globe….

NRC CRITICISMS BOILED DOWN: Here we focus on just the central organizing assumption they presume will dramatically limit EV and PHEV acceptance through the next decade: high battery costs. Most notably, the reports say today’s PHEV battery packs can cost well over $1,000/kilowatt-hour. They see it taking 10 years for packs to drop from $1,000+ to the $400/kwh necessary to make unsubsidized EVs and PHEVs competitive. Even by 2030, the NRC says the battery premium for a Volt-like PHEV with a 40-mile range would still be over $10,000. Anticipating that long before then, governments will stop providing the $5-$10,000 subsidies necessary to sell cars with $15-$20,00 packs, they conclude only a “battery breakthrough” or a quintupling of oil prices will motivate consumers to buy plug-ins.

SHORTCOMINGS AND MISINTERPRETATIONS OF THEIR APPROACH: They limit expected price reductions to the low rate expected for already-high-volume and already-cheap laptop and mobile phone battery cells. They don’t evaluate PHEVs with 10 or 20 mile ranges, which have much smaller batteries and very different economics than PHEV-40s and all-electric vehicles. They don’t count the cost savings from an all-electric vehicle not including an internal combustion engine. And they don’t factor in the likelihood of an eventual cost to emit carbon – already an assumption in much corporate long-range planning. Finally — and fundamentally — they don’t follow standard research procedures used in similar studies to document their cost assumptions, look at cost sensitivities or conduct a bottoms-up cost model. Add in all these flaws and ignore the results and reports below, and we can see why they forecast EV and PHEV sales totaling a few million by 2020 — instead of the tens of millions that automakers already plan to build and expect drivers to buy.

CLOSELY-HELD INFORMATION: It’s hard to get battery pack pricing data. Each battery manufacturer and automaker sees its costs as key to its competitiveness. With some batteries selling at dramatically high retail prices, manufacturer prefer to limit access to pricing forecasts for cells or packs in large volumes to potential automotive customers. And since automotive batteries are not yet mature products, price and performance continually evolve. With such competitive pressures and rapid-fire changes, researchers and even governments are often left with incomplete, inconsistent, out-of-date, or even erroneous price data.

LIMITED DISTRIBUTION EVEN OF PUBLIC INFORMATION: It’s frustrating that many useful insights are trapped behind firewalls that some conference organizers short-sightedly enforce. They often limit distribution of presentations to those who paid to attend their conferences. (We’ve often suggested they experiment to see if they gain more attendees next time and achieve their broad goals more by unlocking their gates.) Fortunately we have been able to glean much from reports some authors choose to post online and from media reports.

MULTIPLE SOURCES FOR MORE REALITY-BASED DATA: Below, we’ve gathered information from primary sources — two automakers, and no battery manufacturers — and secondary sources including electric utility organizations, independent advocacy groups, and academic research cited or commissioned by government agencies. We cover the implications of the information we have gathered, then challenge industry players, including battery manufacturers, to release some of their proprietary pricing data. They will ultimately benefit through more support for plug-in vehicle incentives, building demand, and thereby expanding the marketplace for all players. We start with extracts from some reports that directly rebut the NRC:

FORECASTS: “There do appear to be some holes in the new [NRC] study. For example, the study cites a current cost of $1,000-1,200 per kWh for automotive lithium ion batteries. That figure may be as much double the actual cost if General Motors is to be believed. When we spoke with Denise Grey and Jon Lauckner from GM this week they both hinted that the Volt battery was actually in the $500-600/kWh range now and they expect this number to drop.”­2010/­01/­08/­study-battery-electric-vehicles-unlikely-to-be-cost-competitive/ . “Grey tells [AutoBlogGreen] GM is working closely with suppliers to cost optimize all of the pack’s components and hopes to hit the US Advanced Battery Consortium target of $300/kWh by 2015.”­2010/­01/­07/­general-motors-builds-first-volt-battery-pack-on-production-line/ . (Note: these figures and those below refer to actual available energy — 8 kwh, not 16 kwh, in the case of the Volt.)

GM TO CNN: NRC’S BLOATED ESTIMATES: “GM spokesman Rob Peterson called the NRC’s estimates of battery cost ‘bloated,’ saying the Volt’s battery would cost much less than that. Battery costs will also come down quickly, he said. ‘Our starting point, which already costs much less than they estimate, is just the first step,’ he said.”­2009/­12/­15/­autos/­nrc_plug-in_hybrid_report/

AUTOMAKERS: NISSAN/RENAULT CEO CARLOS GHOSN BETS HEAVILY ON PLUG-INS: “Ghosn is so sure the vision will work that he’s building factories to assemble 500,000 EVs a year — 10 times more units than General Motors Co. is planning to make of its Volt hybrid.” And (talking about battery cell, not pack costs): “[Deutsche Bank AG analyst in New York Rod Lache] predicts that high-volume manufacturing will cut battery costs — now $650 per kilowatt-hour — in half by 2020. Ghosn says costs will fall faster. He’s working on batteries with twice the range of Leaf’s and has teamed up with Sumitomo Corp. to sell used batteries that can no longer withstand automotive requirements but can store power for utilities. [thereby effectively bringing down battery prices for the consumer]” From a long and comprehensive review by Bloomberg reporters John Lippert, Kae Inoue and Laurence Frost­apps/­news?pid=20601109&sid=aJEVrzt2t.8o&pos=11 . And as Nissan arranges for billions of dollars in financing to lease its batteries for EVs, it has worked with financiers whose due diligence looks at proprietary cost, reliability, and longevity data unavailable even to the NRC and BCG. The total Nissan-Renault investment is over $6 billion­apps/­news?pid=20601090&sid=a0vDcOKdXYoM .

ARGONNE NATIONAL LAB EXPLAINS HOW SCALE AFFECTS BATTERY COSTS: In what looks like the most detailed analysis to date, “Factors Determining the Manufacturing Costs of Lithium- Ion Batteries for PHEVs,” Paul A. Nelson and Danilo J. Santini from Argonne National Laboratory and James Barnes, battery expert at the US Department of Energy, in May 2009 project the mass production costs to the vehicle manufacturer at $255/kwh for a PHEV-20 and $210/kwh for a PHEV 40 (table p.6). The authors go on the say, “The cost estimates in this study assume a stable rate of pack manufacture at a high rate of 100,000 packs/yrIf the plants were designed for [only] 10,000 battery packs per year, a reasonable production level for the first year for both a new battery pack design and a new vehicle, then the unit costs for the batteries would be approximately 60 to 80% higher. If, in addition, the plants were designed to be expanded for future production or the plant equipment was amortized over a shorter period to allow for the uncertainty of future orders (discontinuous production), the unit battery prices would be even higher. Thus, the low production rates anticipated for initial production of the batteries creates serious per-vehicle battery cost barriers that must be subsidized either by vehicle manufacturers or governments in order to achieve a viable long-term PHEV battery market.” (p.9) The paper was delivered at EVS-24, May 2009 in Norway; it’s found at­files/­papers/­Nelson-Santini-Barnes-paper.pdf

(Along the same lines, but not from the Argonne studies: The NRC report indicated that Li-ion batteries are already in high volume production for laptop computers and cell phones, so their costs are unlikely to fall rapidly. It did not mention that, while laptop and cell phone cells have become commodities selling at fairly stable prices as low as $200/kWh, cells for plug-in vehicles are quite different and are still produced in low volumes at prices that are far above materials costs, with a lot of room to fall rapidly.)

MORE AS WE WENT TO PRESS: (as they used to say) As we were about to post this, we saw “Cost-Effective PHEV Range: Battery Costs Versus Charging Infrastructure Costs,” a presentation to the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting, “Investing in Our Transportation Future — BOLD Ideas to Meet BIG Challenges,” on January 12 by Argonne’s D.J. Santini. This may be the first response we’ve seen from a government entity comparing the NRC study to Lab and other studies. (And it happens to have been presented to another branch of the NRC!) Slides include ones titled, “Battery Cost Estimates are Hard to Compare. Many Factors Influence Our $/kWh vs. NAS & Others” and “The Recent Incremental PHEV and E-REV Price Increases Estimated by Argonne CTR Staff Are Well Below those of the NAS.” We encourage journalists to request the study from TRB or Argonne. (A PDF of last year’s presentation by Santini is available for $25.) And we hope a version of this talk will soon be online at no charge from one or the other place.

THE NRC MAY NOT HAVE NOTED CARB’S CONCLUSIONS: The California Air Resource Board’s Zero Emission Vehicles Review led to a White Paper in November 2009. From its detailed appendix, “Status of ZEV Technology Commercialization,”­msprog/­zevprog/­2009zevreview/­attachment_a_tsd.pdf , based on multiple studies, we highlight four key points:

  1. Cites its commissioned study by TIAX that, with volume production, battery pack prices for PHEVs will reach $340-$400/kwh in the time period ending 2015 (p. 17).
  2. Tesla Motors already buys laptop cells for $200 per kWh and in a costly and time-consuming procedure, carefully packages them for EVs. As they mechanize and expand this procedure, their EV packs will come in under $400/kwh. (pp. 17-18)
  3. From ARB surveys: “Some automakers reported PHEV and BEV near-term, moderate volume costs would be on the order of $500-$600 /kWhr, with evolutionary changes and moderate volume production ‘next generation’ design changes necessary before costs move further down into the $400-500/ kWhr range.” (p. 19)
  4. Finally, the section concludes: “No automaker has stated that current design, or even next generation Li Ion batteries, will achieve sufficiently low cost to make them competitive with conventional vehicles without ongoing government incentives and/or tax credits. Several automakers do, however, believe that Li Ion battery systems will evolve sufficiently to allow automakers to sell cost competitive PHEVs and BEVs sometime prior to 2020” (p.25)

THE ELECTRIC UTILITY INDUSTRY VIEW: The Electric Power Research Institute has been centrally involved in plug-in vehicle development for more than a decade. With the Natural Resources Defense Council, EPRI produced the authoritative “Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles” in 2007. Now “Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles: Promise, Issues and Prospects” is by Fritz R. Kalhammer (battery expert and longtime consultant to EPRI and government agencies), Haresh Kamath, Mark Duvall, Mark Alexander (Project Manager, Director of Electric Transportation, and Project Manager, respectively at EPRI), and Bryan Jungers (researcher at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies). They concur with the Argonne Labs projection that $200-$400/kwh battery packs are feasible with technology now available. And they conclude, “investments in HEVs and PHEVs with mass-produced Li Ion batteries promise to pay back within the nominal 10-15 year lifetime of a vehicle, even at today’s driving energy (fuel and electricity) prices and vehicle efficiencies.These conclusions hold without invoking longer- term economic incentives for PHEVs and/or penalties for excess CO2 emissions from conventional vehicles. However, such incentives and penalties will be instrumental in helping to offset the higher costs of batteries produced at lower rates during the introduction of PHEVs.” That careful statement is on p. 6; the chart on p. 7 shows a PHEV-40 having an even-better near-term payback of 10.5 years and a few years out, 4 years. This EVS-24 paper can be found at­People/­bdjungers/­Plug-In%20Hybrid%20Electric%20Vehicles%20-%20Promise,%20Issues,%20and%20Prospects.pdf . We hope to hear more from EPRI soon.

ADVOCATES: The Electrification Coalition has taken the lead in pointing to flaws in the NRC study: find links at to its press release and fact sheet at­news.php . The Washington Post published EC CEO Robbie Diamond’s response to its over-the-top editorial; his letter said in part, “the NRC seems to ignore these economies of scale. The NRC has done much important work over the years. In this case, however, its assumptions are badly out of line with industry and government estimates, and its conclusions — and unfortunately, those of the Post editorial that relied on them — suffer as well.” Its reply at­news-response-to-nrc.php says, “The NRC study significantly overestimates current battery costs, placing them out of line with published research by DOE National Laboratories, exhaustive research by auto-industry analysts and current industry experience.” It cites conclusions from its own comprehensive “Electrification Roadmap” that, “Based on current and expected industry costs, a PHEV-40 will be cost effective for consumers in 2015 — without any government subsidy whatsoever.”


WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE DOE, WHICH COMMISSIONED THE NRC STUDY? The Department of Energy has much data internally and from its national labs that conflicts with this report. But it has not reacted publicly even as the report’s consequences circulate mostly unchallenged in the media and in Congress. Outside parties can help DOE validate its commitment to electrification and continue to sponsor research grants, loan guarantees, ARPA-E, and the US-China EV Initiative. With more data on the jobs and environmental impacts, DOE can catalyze volume purchases of both new vehicles and conversions of much of its existing military, civilian, and postal service fleet. These programs will in turn accelerate technology development and volume production — leading to further cost reductions for batteries and other components.

WAITING IN THE WINGS: We’re hoping that battery manufacturers — the key primary source — will weigh in over the next few weeks, along with automakers other than GM and Nissan. In 2009, 14 U.S. companies formed the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries. They and many others are committing billions of dollars to this effort because they think they’ll soon be selling their product in the millions of units. While citing their confidence that costs are declining, that batteries are lasting longer than ever, and that carmakers can draw down more than the 50% of the available energy used by GM’s Volt, these companies have volunteered little data, though some have said privately that they are willing to respond if asked.

MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY FOR THE BATTERY COMPANIES: These companies strenuously work to remain friends with everyone as they aggressively expand their businesses, gain customers, and compete on rapidly improving technology. Even understanding that, our fond hope zeroes in on the very first session of the Electric Drive Transportation Association Conference in Washington. It’s aptly named, “Batteries for Electric Drive Vehicles: Manufacturing Challenges and Opportunities”­index.php?ht=d/­sp/­i/­13921/­pid/­13921 .

ON JANUARY 27, we urge the CEOs, founders and top executives from leading suppliers Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions A123 Systems, Ener1, Inc. Electrovaya, and Compact Power each to take five minutes to compare the NRC’s outlook to the mid-term prospects for their batteries’ performance and cost in mass production. We urge them as well to release their slide shows to the general public — not just to industry insider attendees at the conference. If they do, they’ll help ensure the expansion of their entire industry. They’ll earn the thanks of all those working to accelerate the electrification of transportation. And you’ll hear about it from us!

JR:  Whatever one thinks about the technological future of PHEVs vs. HFCVs, it is simply unconscionable that the NRC let advocates for the latter pronounce a judgment on the former.  The report should be retracted.  I’ll discuss the hype about hydrogen in Part 3.  If you want some preview of why HFCVs are many, many decades away from being a mass-market consumer vehicle and cost-effective climate solution — and why it may never happen — see:

16 Responses to NRC panel of advocates for dead-end hydrogen cars trashes plug-in hybrids in deeply flawed report, Part 2

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Important “Meta” Consideration

    I haven’t read this piece, yet, but have something that (I think) is important to say or remind us of.

    One of the VITAL reasons that key people, constituents, and “institutions” need to “get their acts together” and raise the bar is this: With humans, reasoning and genuine problem-solving do not work well, usually, in the midst of political fighting, power-grabbing, position-protecting, and so forth.

    To some, this point might seem “obvious” at some level. But, it goes deeper, and is more problematic, than one might think.

    I’ve seen (very close-up!) situations where two brilliant groups of folks — either of which could have readily solved a problem by itself — spent so much time fighting over ownership of the problem, and of the potential fruits of the solution, that they both took their eyes WAY off the ball and, in the end, caused the problem to get worse, not better. Eventually, the whole thing crashed. It was not even that the problem itself was all that difficult. Instead, the ultimate catastrophe came about because two “brilliant” groups of folks were spending so much time fighting with each other that they took their eyes off the ball and let their “reasoning” get clouded (indeed, almost completely twisted) by the politics between them.

    Two minds are often NOT better than one IF the two minds spend all of their time fighting with each other.

    Here, I’m not suggesting that you, Joe, shouldn’t face and confront false or misinformed views. That’s not my point. My point is a larger one:

    Key groups of folks — scientists, the media, and etc. — HAD BETTER rise above the nonsense so that BOTH “sides” of the matter, and indeed all parties, can place the focus on genuine scientifically-informed and wise problem solving. We are all in this together. If we don’t problem-solve well, we’re very likely to sink the raft or, at a minimum, cause so much future pain and harm that we can’t even begin to comprehend it.

    Journalists and the media: Get your act together. Scientists: Speak out more, and clearly (please). Business leaders: Become part of the solution, or else get ready to be named.



  2. Dan B says:

    Felix and Joe;

    Thanks for this post!

    What jumps out at me is the need for variations of this post to be repeated. The headline I’d like to see is ‘ExxonMobil Insider Pushes Propaganda Disguised as Research’. (or some variation)

    It seems to me that the real story here is a propaganda war heating up. We know the fossil fuel industry will push several messages: 1. Cost, 2. Jobs, 3. Economy. It’s easy to debunk each one: 1. A. Fossil fuel prices will go up as China and India, and the developing world get cheap cars. The U.S. will be competing with billions of drivers for a limited supply of oil. 1. B. Your laptop battery is affordable. The same technology will make car batteries affordable. 2. & 3. The jobs of the future will go to the industries that get their government’s support. The fossil fuel sector generates the smallest number of jobs per dollar of any sector of our economy.

    3. Green energy will power the 21st Century.

    Time to say our prayers that stakeholders in green energy develop and deploy a robust marketing campaign.

  3. Leif says:

    I Second what Jeff said.

  4. Chris Dudley says:

    Something that I seem to get here is that car makers expect their batteries to last a decade in general. That is a step forward. I’ve been reading about what the battery makers say they can do, but their customers seem to now agree. That makes possible an interesting calculation: Let’s say that we get to the point where these batteries cost $250/kWh for a 3000 cycle transportation grade battery and after 10 years it only charges to 80% of original capacity. You then remove it from your car and sell it for $75/kWh original capacity. The battery lasts for 6000 more cycles working its way down to 50% original capacity so that is about $115/kWh of average capacity in this after market. If the battery is 80% efficient then the cost to store a kWh of electricity is $0.024. Now, with amorphous silicon PV panels that cost $0.98/Watt right now and which likely last 50 years, the cost of generation is about a penny per kWh. If 40% of that generation is stored rather than immediately consumed, then the cost on average is two cents per kWh. Now, that does not include the cost of inverting to AC or the cost of installing the solar panels, but it is an interesting figure in that it is much lower than other dispatchable power solutions which might need transmission or other incidental costs such as utility profits. A switch to DC, automated panel installation or lower cost inverters would all seem to be the next sorts of things to work on to get truly low cost electricity.

    Oh yeah, then you sell the battery for scrap at $30/kWh original capacity. Hum, maybe that covers the cost of the inverter….

  5. BBHY says:

    Tesla offers its customers a battery replacement “insurance” for $12,000. This allows customers to get a replacement battery when their pack reaches the end of its life, in approximately 7 years or so. That represents cost of $226 per kWh, and indicates that Tesla is very confident that they will be able to provide a new battery pack for that cost or less.

    Since the buyer is paying up front, I suppose that you should factor in 7 years of interest on the $12,000, so that makes the future pack cost somewhat higher. But then you get into a guessing game about expected interest rates over that period, so the final number is becomes a WAG.

  6. Leif says:

    Chris: Perhaps a neighborhood secured “recycle area” that all “second hand batteries” could be store- housed as a neighborhood electrical felicity. That way the autos would always be getting present technology and communities would be getting renewable storage capacity at cut rates. Battery rebuilds would have a steady source of “raw” materials. Autos would have a continued secure market for the used batteries.

  7. joe1347 says:

    With a mainstream plug-in Prius due to hit the market in a year or so, it doesn’t look like Toyota is too concerned about these so called ‘expert’ assessments that ‘prove’ PHEVs aren’t commercially viable.

    If the price of gas shoots back up around the time that the Prius PHEV’s are available for sale, does anyone think that a car which likely get >70mpg will sit around on the dealer lot for long – even with a fairly high price premium? Granted, if gas becomes a lot cheaper, then it’s a different story.

    Another factor not mentioned is how would gas shortages (i.e., gas lines) play into consumer purchases of PHEVs. One would think that quite a few people would pay a (big) premium for a car that they only have to fill up about once a month if gas stations periodically don’t have any gas.

  8. Doug Bostrom says:

    Chris, that’s a fascinating concept. Thank you.

  9. J.A. Turner says:

    The revolutionary impact of vehicle electrification is a threat to the oil companies and to OPEC, and so we have to expect a determined propaganda war to slow down or altogether derail electrification. Separating power generation from power use opens up a wide range of possibilities for innovation. Anyone who can come up with a good idea for how to generate clean electricity (either onboard a vehicle or off) can compete against petroleum as a power source for vehicles. And yet, it’s in our compelling national interest to stop sending billions of dollars abroad for petroleum and to instead invest those billions in our domestic economy.

  10. KKMcK says:

    This article calls for H2 people not to beat up plug-in people.

    [JR: Uhh, no. It calls on NRC not to let hydrogen advocates write reports on plug ins, their major competitor!]

    Then the article points to other articles where plug-in people have already beat up H2 people. The concept that ‘miracles’ are required before we can become a Hydrogen-based economy is negatively short-sighted (failure attracting failure). Miracles happen everyday at an ever-increasing and evermore accelerated pace, diversity, and vastness. Two decades from now bio-solar hydrogen production will be ubiquitous; ceramic batteries will be ubiquitous. So, instead of the petty, frightened back and forth of school-yard boys and their emotional infantilism ( a very unimpressive ‘dick-wagging contest’ as George Carlin would say), what we really need to do is to simply agree to agree (if you think this is impossible, you are either an idiot or just plain evil). There will very soon be miraculous breakthroughs in hydrogen production and battery design and the American populace will become completely electrified in 20 short years (not unknown distant decades). The petroleum industry needs to start segueing itself into an entirely new business model for the future, as all of these huge companies are forced to down-size themselves into more niche scales for these future markets. The days of giant, cumbersome, lumbering, bloated companies is quickly coming to an end. And if we do not end this bi-polar schizophrenia that is being promoted by the divide and conquer mindset throughout our nation, we are going to be the nation asking “what happened?”. The future is always happening, progress is always happening; hydrogen-powered batteries ARE the future! Stop the childish bitching and moaning, and frightened whining, and get to work together as one, united, Americans proving that they are deserving of the ‘Land of the Free and Home of the BRAVE.” Now shut up and get to work! We need the jobs! And if you are promoting the divisiveness, you need a new job. Get one, and get a life!

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Arrange your life so as to be comfortably carless.

    [Fifth attempt to post this comment.]

  12. Chris Dudley says:

    Doug (#8),

    PG&E is already on it. They have a deal with Think cars to buy up the used batteries. What is new here is the cost estimate based on a more robust battery life and a lower battery price. I calculated elsewhere that we can store half our daily power consumption using discarded batteries if transportation is fully electrified. So, the storage question is a much smaller one than I had originally thought. There is a place for other storage solutions, but none is particularly crucial to a transition to 100% renewables since we get most of what we need by accident.

  13. RyanT says:

    You seem a little conflicted, KKMcK. First you say “the concept that ‘miracles’ are required before we can become a Hydrogen-based economy is negatively short-sighted”. Then you proceed to assure us with vague assertions that miracles are coming.

    The point of the more fact-based discussions (vs. the wagging of body parts) is to figure out which technologies currently hold the most promise for wide implementation at reasonable cost over the next decade. With hydrogen, I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that constructing a new infrastructure so that we can split molecules and distribute the gas (not everywhere is a solar haven) is a better use of resources than focusing on technologies that are nearly ready for primetime. Heck, we could even build methane/natural gas plug-in hybrids that significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles with existing infrastructure, while concentrating even harder on displacing coal from the power grid. Yes, research should continue on potential longer-term solutions, but we need to get the ball rolling now, and funds are likely to be limited.

  14. Stephen Watson says:

    So, the idea is to stop powering millions of cars with one CO2 producing fossil fuel only to replace it with a different one, namely gas, coal or perhaps oil-fired power stations. We’d need all the help we can get and then some to power (let alone build!) all these shiny new hybrids because just trying to get renewables equal our current fossil-fuelled electricity generation is hard enough with out adding who knows how much more demand on top.

    Has anyone considered, err, just driving a lot less, if at all? Very hard in the USA I understand but a lot easier in the rest of the world.

  15. Chris Dudley says:

    Stephen (#14),

    People have though about this and have noticed that electrification leads to reduced fossil fuel use. Currently, transportation in the US is about 20% efficient in its energy use:

    Electrification brings it to about 80% efficient in its use of electricity. So, if the new generation needed is provided by a 60% efficient gas turbine, the overall efficiency is boosted to about 50% from 20% That means that less than half the fossil fuel energy is used. With a 40% efficient coal plants there is a smaller gain, but still a gain.

    More importantly, biofuels don’t scale but wind and solar power do so that electrification opens the possibility of using renewable energy for transportation while sticking with combustion does not unless we synthesize fuel using carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a feedstock. That process requires more energy input than electrification would so it is a less good choice except perhaps for aviation.

  16. Greg Blencoe says:

    Check out the driving range, fueling time, cold weather performance, and trunk/passenger space (all things that mainstream consumers care A LOT about) of the Toyota FCHV-adv mid-size SUV hydrogen fuel cell vehicle:

    *431-mile real-world driving range
    *3-5 minute fueling time
    *Ability to operate in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit
    *Same trunk/passenger space as the gasoline-powered version which is the Highlander

    How do battery-only cars compare?

    Here is what Toyota thinks about battery-only cars:

    “Toyota not betting on an electric love affair”

    And I highly recommend reading the following article about Toyota hydrogen fuel cell cars which includes the following quote:

    “7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles”

    “In 2015, our plan is to bring to market a reliable and durable fuel cell vehicle with exceptional fuel economy and zero emissions, at an affordable price.”

    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    “Hydrogen Car Revolution” blog