• Jun 23, 2008
Petroleum prices are making electric vehicles and engines which run on biofuels look more and more attractive with each passing day. That's why its likely to be a hot topic this election season as each presidential candidate sets out his own unique proposals to ease the country into a new era of lower fuel consumption. Biofuels may be the quickest path to lower petroleum usage, but it's electric vehicles which present the biggest step forward in clean auto technology looking forward.
Both biofuels and battery technology are getting some love from Senator John McCain, who's set to propose a prize of $300 million for the first company who can build a better battery. That's a large sum of money, but it won't be easy to tap considering that the goal is for a battery with "the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars." Oh yeah, and do all that with a seventy-percent reduction in cost. That shouldn't be a problem, right?

[Source: The Detroit News]


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  • 73 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      What's the environmental impact of the batteries from 15 million electric cars a year eventually going into landfills?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Horrendous. Li-ion batts are less toxic than Ni-Cd, which are less toxic than Lead-acid.

        But bottom line is, if not properly disposed of, any ion concentration that great would turn a specific site into a toxic waste dump. Lithium is HIGHLY reactive.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What the hell does hemp have to do with Brazil's sugarcane crop?
        • 6 Years Ago
        My guess then hemp might be less heavier material then steel and lighter as the carbon fiber, glassfiber, magnesium,etc.... and a hemp car will be less heavier and use less gas/electricity I think.
      • 6 Years Ago
      That's the key difference between the parties.

      The Dem energy plans are to tax the energy providers that work and give that money out as handouts to their friends in eco-business and academia for pursuit of hopeless pie in the sky alternative solutions - success or failure doesn't matter because the point wasn't to find a solution at all but to reward their campaign donors. (First campaign since Watergate to avoid public financing limits.)

      McCain's energy plan is to develop what we already know will work, like more nuclear power and the oil right here in America. And reward business for developing alternatives that actually work, but that reward is a carrot for success and not a steady dole to the politically connected regardless of results.

      We've already tried the massive federal handout to corn approach. Bush pushed it. Obama supported it. McCain voted against it.

      It's time for change.

      • 6 Years Ago
      hah, good luck.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This just goes to show how "out of touch" granpa is with reality.and how much he is clearly losing his bearings.

      way to go,robot man!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I honestly believe that we could see this done in the next 4yrs. It may not be on the market in that time but it is most definitely possible.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Libs are to blame for our mess. They will not allow drilling or refinery or oil pipelines to be built.
      Heck we are on a 1970s energy infrustructure. Nothing new has come online since Carter killed all the plans, and his Liberal counterparts have kept it like so, ever since.

      And what do they propose to 'save us'? More taxes.
        • 6 Years Ago
        blast. wrong thread.
        I'll get you AutoBlog! :-P
        • 6 Years Ago
        Do you really believe this? Drilling in ANWR wouldn't even come close to satisfying our current oil demands, plus offshore drilling wouldn't affect pump prices until years down the road, by which time we shouldn't even be using so much oil as to warrant such drilling. Not to mention the ever-present risk of damage to America's coastlines and the wildlife refuge.

        We also wouldn't need to use coal exclusively either, investing in nuclear and renewable power sources would be the smartest route to take. In addition to this, we would need significant improvement of our mass transit system. We are far too big and sparse of a nation to have a system similar to much smaller nations (Japan, Germany, etc), but that doesn't mean we can't have a decent system.

        Of course, taxes would be paying for this, but does anyone expect taxes to decrease with the staggering deficit we currently have?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Now HERE you almost have something, except the problem isn't just liberals, it's the NIMBY attitude of EVERYONE. Conservatives want more refineries to be built, just "somewhere else." You ARE aware, I hope, that in the years since Carter, nominatively conservative presidents were in office for 5 of the 7 presidential terms. You knew that, right?
        • 6 Years Ago
        "ANWR ANWR ANWR... there are already millions of acres under lease to oil companies that aren't being utilized that are more accessible and could be producing oil sooner that's cheaper to get into the refining stream because it's not so remote."

        Well damn son, who knew it was as simple as that!? Golly, I'm really glad you're here to tell us these things!

        I'm so sure oil execs love being routinely demonized in court of public opinion and hauled in front of the very same congress that won't let them direct their companies to build refineries or actually explore on that leased land. And of course, in your mind, I'm sure it makes total sense for Big Oil(TM) to ignore what they've been begging and pleading for. My god, you vote with this line of reasoning too? Big Oil(TM) would love to drill in ANWR and their so-called leased land if only GOVERNMENT would get the hell out of the way. But they can't because it's been made damn near impossible thanks to astronomically thick bureaucratic regulations and punitive and compulsory fees in already place that make drilling very much a lost cause. You don't seriously think these companies haven't TRIED to use the very land they are right now PAYING to lease but CAN'T use? You don't seriously think that? right??

        I'm so beyond sick of hearing clueless dolts espouse this new, trendy and fashionable "already open to drilling/leased land" argument they heard in a 30 second MSNBC soundbite like it's actual news. The rest of us have known about this red herring for years. The oil companies don't care WHERE they get to drill - whether that be ANWR or this much-vaunted leased land. (Why would they?) They just want to be ALLOWED to do their freaking jobs already. That land is as good as worthless -- just like ANWR -- when uncle sam won't let you set foot on it. Jesus Christ on the splintered wood of Jerusalem; it's criminal that such idiots be allowed to vote.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Kaptain75329: Gotta love the last refuge of a small man: ad hominem attacks of someone you've never met and have no idea about! You'll convince a lot of people you're right that way.

        So if all they need is permission to drill on leases they already have permission to drill on (that's what leases are, after all) then why don't they make an issue of all the leases rather than just ANWR? Because they want to make an issue of ANWR and get ANWR opened up in addition to leases they already have. Oh, and the OIL INDUSTRY EXPERTS say that ANWR oil wouldn't come on line for a decade or so. Why then is ANWR all anyone talks about? Even if drilling in ANWR is one aspect of an energy policy going forward, it's not enough, it's not soon enough, and it's not worth all the vitriol that neocons spew about it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think this is a great idea - why not hang the cash out there and challenge people to compete for it? That much dough as a potential immediate pay-off would encourage VCs to fund start-up battery tech companies, and everyone who "lost" would still be sitting on new technology.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If only libs had not stopped us from drilling from ANWAR, we would not be begging our Saudi friends.

      And now we will burn more and more coal to power our plug ins
        • 6 Years Ago
        ANWR ANWR ANWR... there are already millions of acres under lease to oil companies that aren't being utilized that are more accessible and could be producing oil sooner that's cheaper to get into the refining stream because it's not so remote.

        ANWR is like the department of Homeland Defense... "Never mind that man behind the curtain, here, look at this shiny distraction!"
      • 6 Years Ago
      Got to love the haters.

      Its a valid attempt at getting us off of pure combustion powered cars and I welcome any suggestion to move us forward
      • 6 Years Ago
      "put up, or shut up" .. John McCain should put up $300 million of his own funds for this (if he has it after his bankrupt campaign). It is real easy to make suggestions like this when you don't have to pay the bill. This type of funding already exists in the market-place, we do not need more federal money being tossed around.

      Also, Brazil sources most of it's ethanol from sugar in a far more efficient manner than we do with corn, so they are in a much better situation. Maybe we can end our insane 'war on drugs' and consider the use of hemp here in the U.S.
        • 6 Years Ago
        yes, i don't understand how anyone can be down on hemp-based production :)
        • 6 Years Ago
        WTF???

        Hemp?

        Sugar?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, but you have to remember that a) we can't cheaply import sugar because of the sugar lobby, and b) we are required to make a certain amount of ethanol from corn because of the corn lobby.

        While I don't know of any scholarly research on the matter, I'd wager that all hemp is illegal not really because of the psychoactive effects of some varieties (NOT industrial hemp) but because the cotton industry thought it was a threat, since it's a hardier plant than cotton and can thrive in a wider range of environmental conditions. One of the least sane aspects of the "war" on drugs is the treatment of industrial hemp as being identical to varieties that are high in THC.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think it is a smart move, because it is something where, if successful, there could be a HUGE payoff- both from the consumer and the government.

      Before, you have had prizes like $10 million to get a 100-mpg car or $50 million for the first commercial space flight, which are a pittance when you consider the costs involved in the development of technologies to achieve the goals. This payout of $300 million is very substantial because it presents a legitimate incentive for companies to consider this technology.

      I mean be honest, if you are in the car business, what would you focus on, getting a car to 100-mpg and getting $10mil, or working on a battery that will get you 30 times as much money. I'm no rocket scientist, but I know what I would start focusing on.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Uh....not exactly.

        I'm in the car business and I can tell you this is bullsh*t. $300 million is barely enough to cover start-up costs for R&D on a project of this magnitude. Even if it somehow were magically enough, how much do the cars you're going to put these in have to cost to re-coup what you spent, how many cars do you have to sell at said price and how long are you going to have to sell them? Have you added in labor and other associated costs as well? It's not a hand-out. It's an "if-then" situation. So you're going into debt without the guarantee that McCain'll bail you out on the other end and if you aren't the person who gets the $300 mil, you're screwed. On the flipside, let's say you do happen to be THAT person who comes up with this technology. Your tech is going to have a FAR higher market value than $300mil. Last I checked, $300 mil is still less than the potential billions you could reap by patenting the tech and letting others use it for a nominal fee (way less you're talking about the current US dollar *roll eyes*). Don't forget, this isn't just cars. This is a battery technology that could revolutionize everything from pace makers to vibrators. Everybody's going to want it eventually. Aside from the obvious monopoly and the potential to pay off the US' entire debt (okay, now I'm rambling, lol) what's in it for the rest of the poor schmucks who didn't get this supposed $300 mil? McCain obviously doesn't have it. Where's he going to get it from? Like I said, unless you're actually the person who comes up with the technology (more than likely you'll be an employee of one of the asian firms already dilligently working on this because you'll have a head-start on everybody and most of the R&D funded by your bosses' bosses' bosses' bosses' investors), the rest of us are hypothetically out of the loop in this one.

        Of course, this is just one theory. I'm sure somebody else has a different, more positive idea. lol Either way, it's just another ploy by a candidate willing to do and saying anything to get your vote.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, I gotta agree with Cary (well, except for the insults). 300 mil is a lot for R&D. Now, if you're talking tooling and production, its a different story. Remember, we're just talking about developing a single system here. Even if you want to use the billions GM has spent on their fuel cell development, you have to remember that they're looking at an entire integrated system and an infeasible one at that.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You think it is BS that $300 million is a larger incentive than $10 and $50 million? Ok, to each their own...

        If you re-read my comment, nowhere does it say $300mil will completely cover the cost of development. I am fully aware of the costs associated with the development of such a technology and knows that such a price cover a fraction of the costs.

        My point was that you will get a lot more interest with a "prize" of $300 million than you would with prizes of $10 million and $50 million.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Cary,

        Thank you for making it blatantly obvious that I know more about the R&D and development costs and cost spreading of a technology similar to what's being discussed here than you, primarily because my company's been working on it for a little while now. You just made my day. :)

        @ RG, "My point was that you will get a lot more interest with a "prize" of $300 million than you would with prizes of $10 million and $50 million."

        You missread what I wrote. I said BILLIONS, not millions. And that's market value, which is a far higher incentive than $300 mil "prize money".

        @nataku83,

        You can't just look at it as though this is ONE product. In this particular situation, this isn't just about a car battery primarily because to re-coup the development costs and continue to make a profit, any good businessman (something Cary apparently isn't) knows you need to spread the development costs to as many of your products as possible. Our Li-On are primarily known for their use in laptops, but have gone to and will continue to be used in other products, which will continue to bring costs down. Anybody with a basic understanding of economics will tell you this. You all seem to be focused on "well, this will only be used in one product".
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