• May 29, 2010
In case you haven't heard yet, there's a bill sitting in the House and Senate aimed at promoting the develop of electric vehicles. The bill is called the Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010. All sorts of measures are found within the bill which will undoubtedly help drive electric vehicles (EVs) toward widespread adoption. Right now, the House and Senate have separate versions of the bill. They are very similar right now, but one odd stipulation in the Senate version immediately caught our attention.
It appears that the Senate version contains a measure that will award a $10 million prize to the first company to develop a commercially viable battery with a range of 500 miles or more on a single charge. To us, this stands out as a ridiculous waste of money because nobody seems to demand this type of range from an EV and studies have suggested that many people would be willing to sacrifice range in order to get a lower-priced EV. 100 miles seems like a good start to us and maybe there's reason to push for 200 or so at a later date. Also, many gasoline-powered vehicles fail to approach 500 miles on a single tank, so what's the need for an EV that can eclipse that number? Just imagine how much an EV with that type of range would weigh and cost, not to mention how long it would take to charge. But hey, $10 million is a lot of money, so someone's sure to shoot for the goal.

[Source: Green Car Advisor | Image: AMagill - C.C. License 2.0]


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  • 68 Comments
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think ABG's slant in this post is short sighted and negative.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I can not disagree any more strongly with the folks who insist on a 500 mile range, or even a 300 mile range as a goal.

      To me, the goal is to reduce petroleum usage as quickly and steeply as possible. We do not need to satisfy every person's need right away. Some people need pickups, some people actually need SUVs and some people can be happy with a Yaris or a Fit. Why should electrics be all things to all people in the first generation?

      There is a huge pool of people who will buy EVs at 100-200 mile range and that goal is very much in reach today. This money would be much better spent if it were targeted at making those batteries commercially available for under $250/kWh.

      There is nothing wrong with people wanting a 300+ mile range, but they should not be the first target. That is what the Volt and other EREVs are for.

      As Snowdog said yesterday: that's why we have choice, and choice is good.


        • 4 Years Ago
        Agree with the goal of a 100 mile pack at a third the current price. One way to get there is trying to develop an affordable long range pack. I also agree that for many the best fit may be with a range extender. You would be suprised how many people though need say a 300 mile pack. Where I work there are at least 16 to 20 people who make a 80 mile each way commute. Unless we had guarenteed charging at work we need minimum of 160 mile per day range at highway speed during summer and winter. Don't even go to move closer to work. Not an option for too many reasons to list here.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The point is to "Reach for the stars and settle for the moon"

        By setting such a bold goal, they may or may not reach it... but the journey to that goal will increase rate of progress either way.

        For example, Kennedy wanted to put a man on the moon before that decade was out, and return him safely to the Earth.

        Nasa did it.. It was costly, we haven't been back since. But the journey gave us the knowledge and experience with rocket propulsion that made our constellation of satellites possible. As well as the multitude of technology that space exploration has gave us.

        --------------------------

        I agree with you that it would be far better just to make the goal as $$$/kwh so that the market can take care of the rest... But maybe I would also add a goal of wh/kg too, so it is light enough to fit in a vehicle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ECfan said, "Agree with the goal of a 100 mile pack at a third the current price. One way to get there is trying to develop an affordable long range pack. I also agree that for many the best fit may be with a range extender. You would be surprised how many people though need say a 300 mile pack. Where I work there are at least 16 to 20 people who make a 80 mile each way commute. Unless we had guaranteed charging at work we need minimum of 160 mile per day range at highway speed during summer and winter. Don't even go to move closer to work. Not an option for too many reasons to list here."

        Your co workers may settle for a fast charge to make their 160 mile commute plus errands in on trip.
        Convenience is relative. If they had a car that gets 30 mpg they pay $426 in fuel per month at 4 dollars per gallon. EV is about $65. Save $345 per month. Many might find that spending less than 30 minutes per day at a fast charging station is worth the inconvenience of not sending 426 dollars to the oil economy. Fast charging stations will be more prevalent than you think and getting cheaper to install all the time.

        http://gas2.org/2010/05/27/nissan-plans-on-selling-an-inexpensive-under-30-minute-fast-charging-station-in-the-u-s/



        • 4 Years Ago
        You're right Joe, even a cheap battery is useless if it won't fit in a car or last long enough to be practical. I think Dan had a pretty good start on a list earlier:
        "300Wh/kg and 1000 1C 90-10 cycles to 80% remaining capacity would be worthy of 10 million I'd say. " I'd also add in a $250/Wh price target.

        And rather than some silly amount of $10 million, which won't even cover the cost of buying the land you need to produce the batteries, I'd offer a government contract to produce XX number of vehicles for the postal service or something. Pick a fleet that has to be replaced or purchased anyway, such as some new postal vehicles. It would be real business for the company and go towards purchasing some vehicles we needed to get anyway.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, I think a cost target is more important than a density target in terms of opening the market for EVs. There is a price point for everyone, and currently many feel the price point for EVs is too high. Since cell costs typically saturate after a couple of years, a price target will also drive the density target.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You save more oil / emissions by using the smallest battery in the highest number of vehicles.

      It seems like making vehicles which can do daily milage (20-50) miles on electric and then several hundred on a range extender for as cheap as possible is a much better way of saving oil / GHG's.

      They should offer $10M each for 2, 5 and 10kWh sized packs which can meet requirements on cost / lifecycle etc
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Electric vehicles with range extension are not the result of 1+1 gas drive train and electric drive train."

        Right you are. There's no multispeed transmission. So it's 1+1-transmission.

        "because at some point the cost of a battery gets bigger than the cost of a small generator and a gas tank"

        ... a small generator and a gas tank, and a fuel pump, and fuel sending unit, and gas gauge on the dash, and fuel filter,

        ... and air filter, and air mass meter, and O2 sensor, and catalytic converter, and exhaust gas recirculation valve,

        ... and oil tank, and oil pressure sensor, and oil temperature sensor, and oil change light on the dash.
        • 4 Years Ago
        To Ernie:

        You are being too abstract here, and oversimplifying.
        Electric vehicles with range extension are not the result of 1+1 gas drive train and electric drive train.
        The truth is that a gas generator (range extender) is much less complex and much cheaper than a gas engined drive train. It can run at constant speed and it doesn't need a highly dynamic power output, just one power level at one speed which needs to be enough to meet the average draw of the electric motor to effectively extend range. Then turn it on and off as needed.

        The next thing is that advanced batteries are hugely expensive. If you can reduce the battery size that will bring the cost down. Range extension allows for cars to have a much smaller battery and still be useful.

        You say such a system would be more costly than either pure electric or pure gas. Give me a pure electric drive with a big enough range and it will be more costly than a range extended electric with the same range, because at some point the cost of a battery gets bigger than the cost of a small generator and a gas tank (since a gas tank compared to a battery is cheap as all hell.)
        • 4 Years Ago
        The problem with that thinking is twofold:

        1) It's about reduction, not elimination.
        2) The complexity of any such system means it can never be cheaper than one or the other, no matter how you reduce the costs. And if you reduce this cost to any feasible level, then the cost of a pure electric or a pure gasoline drive will still be lower than the entire system.
        • 4 Years Ago
        but all that stuff does not have to be expensive.. but it is heavy.

        The lotus simplified genset is a good idea of what is needed, it runs at two different speeds (power levels) and they left out a heck of a lot of parts.. fairly light also. If they could get the efficiency up and emissions down then a two cylinder air cooled 2-strk would be low cost as well.

        You definitely dont want an expensive genset on top of expensive BEV parts.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Auto X-Prize is doing this with ZERO taxpayer money!

        Those Washington socialists (New-Conservative & Democrat) are amazingly stupid, or this may just be another way for congressional crony-progressives to slip another $10mil to their corporate backers who are getting close to this goal.

        Eather way, WE are stupid for not fighting it harder becasue this is what happens when corrupt politicians realize that they can bribe the electorate with their own money even when the 10th Amendment specifically forbids it. Where does the washington debt & corruption end? When the US economy mirrors Greece?
      • 4 Years Ago
      500 miles at *what* *speed*?

      The folks in Japan just went 623 miles on a single charge... at 25mph.

      Neil
        • 4 Years Ago
        They probably mean one of the official EPA drive cycles. Even on the gentle LA-4 cycle, 500 miles will be tough to reach.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hell, my 6 cylinder got 40mpg then... cuz i hypermiled it.

        Where's my HOV lane sticker :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Heck the Tesla Roadster will do about 400 miles at about 17mph.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Practically is not the issue. For all the arguments about how far people "really" drive or "really" need the simple fact is that the electric car WILL NEVER REPLACE THE ICE CAR until the MAJORITY of people feel they can drive an electric car with NO sacrifice. This in many peoples mind means that even though they may never do it they want the ABILITY to drive accross the country. There are a huge number of people and I admit myself included who will pay more for range. Personally for my needs even though 100 mile per day might work with a good chaging infrastructure. I will not buy a 100% battery car till the range is at least 200 miles and 300 would be better. This will push the battery tecnology. The ev enthusist may trade cost for range but the 90% of the auto purchasing public is just the opposite. I am not an engineer knowledgeable in battery physics but my profession involves human perception and decision making and the more range the better.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "But a financial "pinch" will wake up most people. When high prices at the gas pumps put a hurting on American families, suddenly, SUVs weren't so important anymore. And people started trading in their SUVs for small cars and SUVs. They re-evaluated what was important. And took what was available."

        There was a report on autoblog mentioning that 4 cylinder car sales have been rising and are surpassing 50%. So... yeah :)

        Same thing happened with the oil price spike in 07-08.

        "When gasoline hurts you again, and there IS something else to turn to... you will come crawling... even for just 100 miles."

        Oh, that speaks real highly of EVs :P 'it's less crappy!'
        • 4 Years Ago
        ""For most people that will change when electric vehicles are common on the roads.""

        Exactly.

        People "think" they know what they want. But advertisement firms understand that people are just sheep. And they think what they are told to think. Just like GM (and others) convinced so many Americans that big SUVs were needed for our daily lives.

        But a financial "pinch" will wake up most people. When high prices at the gas pumps put a hurting on American families, suddenly, SUVs weren't so important anymore. And people started trading in their SUVs for small cars and SUVs. They re-evaluated what was important. And took what was available.

        Right now, EVs still aren't available. So it is easy to say that you "need this" or "need that".

        When gasoline hurts you again, and there IS something else to turn to... you will come crawling... even for just 100 miles.
        • 4 Years Ago
        neptronix said, "Oh, that speaks real highly of EVs :P 'it's less crappy!"

        It is all about perception. Perceived value is more important than value. Any successful salesman will tell you that. Perceived value is always changing. One day what you perceived as a wonderful deal, may on a different day be perceived as a rip off. All a car dealer must do to keep you coming back is give you perceived value, wheather their is value or not. If the salesman does not care about your return business he need only give you perceived value for the short or long time you are considering buying the car. Post purchase, if you perceive you did not get that great of a deal, it is to late as the sale is closed.

        Perceptions change a bit depending on fuel prices. Yes, the 120 mpg EV is less crappy, the 15 mpg 4wh, 4d pu is more crappy as it takes a bigger chunk of disposable income to operate after the sale. Your choice, buy the big vehicle and not operate it after the sale because it is cost prohibitive or purchase the crappier EV and worry not about operating costs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Don't beat yourself up, ECfan. You are a product of your environment. There is only one message the public at large hears: that they should have range anxiety and should fear electric vehicles until they can do twice what their current vehicle can.

        For most people that will change when electric vehicles are common on the roads. Once people see their neighbors, friends or family members driving electric vehicles their attitudes will change. The kicker will be when the next gas price spike gets here. The more electric vehicles on the road when that happens the more people will realize that they can get off the oil price merry-go-round.

        Some people may need more time till they're comfortable. That's just human nature; change is scary. Meanwhile, batteries will improve and costs will come down. The two sides will meet in the middle somewhere there.

        One day you'll look back and wonder why you were so hesitant.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All good comments, Worldcitizen. It seems silly to buy a Suburban for one person to commuted back and fourth to work in because they use it to tow there boat 4 times per year but that is what America is full of. It seems silly to carry around the capacity of 500 miles when 95% you will be using one fifth of the battery pack.

        There needs to be a scalable option. Fox example, keep four fifths of the pack in your garage until needed. The uses in your garage could include, storing energy from the grid to sell back at a higher price. Storing back up power for your house. When a long trip is required then slip how ever many modules you need back into your car.

        Like Dan F promotes lite, fiberglass, REV, so to shall I promote the idea of a scalable battery module for use in house, grid and car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think you might be generally right but EV's with current battery tech will cover most of peoples needs most of the time.

        Also since people seem to buy a vehicle for the extreme of their own use it would allow you to rent such a vehicle and get the benefit from it without having to suffer the low efficiency under another use.

        Adding a small 20kW genset would increase the effective range at a minimal cost, and you shouldn't really drive for 200+ miles without taking a break anyway.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Which is where I see the practicality come in. Give me 300 miles and I'm totally fine.
        As much as I like the idea of a small enough pack that can get 500 miles it's going to become just another another reason to steal the sucker if it's got gold and platinum in it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There are several pans in the fire already that may just fit that bill. IBM and MIT have been working on Lithium Air batteries.

      MIT says they are getting closer to lithium-air batteries with 3 times the energy density of lithium-ion by using gold and platinum instead of carbon electrodes.
      (source: http://gas2.org/2010/04/06/mit-researchers-make-significant-advance-in-lithium-air-batteries/ )

      3x energy density could mean a battery 66% larger than the Leaf's but with a 500 mile range.

      IBM may succeed first, though, and bring to the table a Lithium Air battery with 10 times the capacity of Li-ion. Can you say game changer!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly. Many of the commentators, and indeed the author of the write-up, seem to have missed the bit that it has to be at 'affordable cost'
        This means that effectively this is an attempt to leapfrog present technology, as you would need lithium air, lithium sulfur, zinc air or other exotic reactions to work.
        Present battery technology would not work at all.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think it's a great idea and agree with your line of thinking with one caveot; it's not enough. I mean that $10M is a lot of money for an individual, but the big companies deal in Billions, with a B. They might need more than a few million bucks to prod them along in a path other than the one they are already taking. I do construction estimating, and $10m is roughly one small elementary school if you want a gauge. They might be more likely to go for $100M, or $500M, enough to start a factory to produce batteries. Other than that, I like it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Here's a technology that may solve the problem http://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/january9/nanowire-010908.html

        My understanding is this is in the process of being commercialized and they've scaled back the estimates of the range this can produce in an auto battery to 3-4X the current range. That kind of range may not be 500 miles, but will match or beat how far you can go now on a tank of gas.

        Next issue if power density so that a battery can be charged in about the time it takes to fill a gas tank. Several companies are also working in that area. Solve those two issues, and the only place you'll find cars with combustion engines is in a museum.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Indeed, if someone produced rechargeable lithium air batteries today, they would be skipping along to the bank gleefully.

        http://www.batteriesdigest.com/lithium_air.htm

        Last time i checked, lifespan is a severe problem with those batteries right now.

        But these would obsolete the internal combustion engine overnight, if the price were right.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The point is to "Reach for the stars and settle for the moon"

        By setting such a bold goal, they may or may not reach it... but the journey to that goal will increase rate of progress either way.

        For example, Kennedy wanted to put a man on the moon before that decade was out, and return him safely to the Earth.

        Nasa did it.. It was costly, we haven't been back since. But the journey gave us the knowledge and experience with rocket propulsion that made our constellation of satellites possible. As well as the multitude of technology that space exploration has gave us.
      • 4 Years Ago
      500 miles is the only condition? So, I could build a trailer, load it with batteries, and get $10 million?

      Doesn't sound so bad.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I felt the sarcasm in my comment was obvious. Guess not. Clearly a trailer full of Lead Acids wouldn't make the cut.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Has to be commercially viable. Good luck producing a pack that is light enough, small enough and cheap enough to sell in any quantities.
      • 4 Years Ago
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqRJ9GfIJtI
      ^-- cool video from a PR meeting

      but....

      “Radial tire technology will continue as the standard for a long time to come” - Michelin

      Yeah. They believe it is not ready for cars and don't plan on selling it for cars for some time to come.

      Cool tech, but it's got a lot of things going against it in terms of NVH, the opposite of what we want on a car. Maybe they'll solve the problem, but i think the hardness of the surface that meets the road is the biggest issue. It is very hard to beat air filled rubber!
      • 4 Years Ago
      How can you say it's not demanded. It is for sure.
      I leave in a big city. I can "physically" only have one car (Car park space, the insurance costs...etc). I do 80 Miles per week-day for work, totaling 500M/week including week-ends. Then 4-10 x times per year I go on vacations and other longer trips, half are
        • 4 Years Ago
        You can't use the greater than or less than symbols, as this stupid text editor thinks your ending an HTML statement.

        Probably a great way to crash their system if you're into that kind of thing.
      • 4 Years Ago
      half are
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the solution is to improve highway miles. I believe the reason ICE has the advantage of highway miles is because they have an overdrive transmission.

      I always wonder why electric cars don't have overdrive transmission. Is there something that prevents the transmission from working on electric motors?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Electric motors have a radically different "torque curve" than piston engines, as they have full torque at zero RPM, retain high power output up to a very high RPM rating, the "redline" speed is much higher, and it retains very high efficiency over a very wide range of speeds and power outputs. An EV doesn't need a multi-gear transmission at all, and an "overdrive" gear wouldn't provide any improvement in efficiency - quite the opposite as it would add unnecessary weight.

        Really, the only thing that has been holding back EVs is the limited storage capacity and cost of batteries, as the electric motor is superior to piston engines in every single way.
      • 4 Years Ago
      500 miles sounds right to me. For EVs to be appealing to the general masses, that are used to the convenience of gasoline, it has to be significantly better in some major way(cheaper, longer range, better performance etc.) Pushing for drastically longer milage is one way to go.
      Re: comment on weight, I believe the whole point is to stimulate research into batteries that can offer this type of range without being heavy (i.e. actually different technology).
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