• Aug 13th 2010 at 5:06PM
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Volkswagen E-Up! Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

The guy who helped bring us the 250-mile electric vehicle (EV) thinks we will be able to go a lot further on a full pack of batteries in ten years. Yes, Martin Eberhard, one of the co-founders of Tesla Motors who is now working with Volkswagen, is predicting that EVs will have plenty of range at affordable price points not all that far into the future. Eberhard spoke with Autocar recently and said something that should put a bit of fear into vehicle charging station companies and people who still fight against plug-in vehicles:
At the current rate of progress, I'd say we will have banished the range anxiety problem, and will be making EVs with greater than 500 miles of operational range, within 10 years. At that point, the further development of fast charging infrastructure won't be so important - because how often do you drive more than 500 miles in a day?
Eberhard also confirmed the rumor that the battery packs he's helping develop for the Blue-e-motion Golf, the E-Up! and the Audi e-tron are all "exclusively" using 18650-type (i.e., laptop size) li-ion cells. The reason is that:
Because 18650 cells are at the leading edge of battery development, and by using them we can benefit from state-of-the-art technology straight away. Put simply, 18650s develop faster than any other kind of battery because there's more demand for them; the industry is already making two billion of them a year.
In fact, development is so fast that the original e-tron concept had a range of 150 miles. Now, with newer 18650 cells that are about to arrive at VW, range will be doubled to 300 miles. Cost is a big factor, too, and Eberhard said that the latest cells offer a price point of 200 euros ($255 U.S. at today's exchange rates) per kWh.

[Source: Autocar]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm (not) surprised that he doesn't mention any of the problems associated with consumer cells. Nor does he say anything about the chemistry.

      - Difficult to remove heat, so need extensive thermal management, including liquid cooling
      - Difficult to mass produce the pack, because of large number of cells needed to be used

      Since there is so much variety possible in anode & cathod materials, Li ion batteries can be very different from one another in terms of energy density, power density, longevity, thermal stability, internal resistence etc.

      The commonly used consumer cells are Cobalt oxide based. Those tend to have good energy density but are poor in thermal stability - which is one more reason for the way Tesla manages the battery. Manganese Spinal that Nissan uses are less energy dense but have excellent thermal stability and withstand abuse better. The upcoming NMC batteries (Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt) have better energy density and good thermal stability.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The potential is certainly there for the electric car to storm onto the market like almost no one (except Ghosn and a few others) is calling for.

      Just try to keep up with all the new battery tech announcements.

      Look at how fast the battery factories are going up/expanding "over there".
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yep, guess its time to close the patent office.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There has been some talk in this thread on battery progress, with some seeming to think that lithium/air is an inevitability.
      It would be a very good solution if it could be made to work, but there are multiple barriers to it's development, and my view on stuff requiring multiple breakthroughs is fairly conservative.
      It may happen, but you can't count on it.

      The use of silicon has been mentioned, which seems to have much better medium term prospects.
      Another technology I like which requires many fewer breakthroughs is solid state batteries:
      '“It will allow solid state battery fabrication that will enable manufacturers to increase their capacity by 200-to-300 percent, while reducing costs more than 50 percent. This is what the automotive industry needs to make electric vehicles practical and affordable,”'

      This sort of technology might enable batteries to approach their theoretical capacity, whilst substantially solving durability issues.
      Around 700-1000 wh/kgs might be attainable with some chemistries.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @David Martin.
        I agree Planar Energy's solid large format solid state batteries currently sound the most promising in the short to medium term - which claim 2-3 x greater range and 50% reduction in cost.

        Improvements will continue to come - there are millions in research dollars going to battery technology right now which will continue to yield results.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This all fits in with VW's lack of enthusiasm for EVs and prediction that they will make up a relatively small share of the market by 2020.
      Under those circumstances then 18650 cells remain the cheapest commodity item.
      If EVs take off at a faster rate then it is difficult to see how EV cells will not be in the biggest production, and hence likely to be cost leaders.
      For Nissan/Renault 550,000 car a year gives you 13,200,000 kwh of production pa.
      That is going to blow the output of 18650s for laptops etc away.

      So the argument presented here is that a commodity product which will not be the largest item in production shortly, which was never designed for this use, is expensive to rig up into a car module, and suffers from overheating is the best way forward.

      This is patently nonsense.

        • 5 Years Ago
        It still seems a cack-handed way of doing things to me, but Panasonic reckon they will have the high energy density modules available in four years, and certainly their density is very high - around 272wh/kg at cell level.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Checking up, it seems they are talking about using Panasonic batteries.
        They put the 18650 batteries into modules, so VW would not need to mess around with that, and reckon that being able to use existing production lines means they can do them for half the price of present lithium car batteries:

        And here is the module:

        The module has a volume of approximately 7 liters and weighs 8 kg. Voltage is 25.2V with a capacity of 58 Ah. A prototype will be shown at CEATEC JAPAN 2009 (Makuhari Messe, 6-10 October 2009) and New Energy Industry Fair Osaka (Intex Osaka, 7-9 October 2009).

        The high-energy module is constructed from 140 18650-type lithium-ion battery cells—seven serially connected rows with each row made of 20 parallel connected battery cells. This structure allows for avoiding serious loss in the system performance such as system shutdown even if some individual cells fail, Panasonic says.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That Panasonic module is the right size and heft for the dream of pulling up to the Kwik-eV-Mart in the middle of a long trip and swapping several depleted packs in the trunk for charged ones.

        Just some minor details and safety issues with electrical, mechanical, thermal to work out! Then figuring out an economic case for the infrastructure.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "If EVs take off at a faster rate then it is difficult to see how EV cells will not be in the biggest production, and hence likely to be cost leaders."

        And when that happens everyone will switch to the large format EV cells. Until then, the 18650 is the best price/performance option available.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Excellent point.
      • 5 Years Ago
      These car companies are banking on the fact that the world will be ending in 2012.
      "In 2030 we'll be driving cold fusion cars.. hehehe, they don't know that I know the world is ending muuaaahahaha"
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Yep, guess its time to close the patent office."

      Don't be silly. There are always incremental advances. And there are always substitute technologies that develop and take things in a new direction.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If it isn' lithium ion or lithium air it may be something else. Name any technology that when it "hit a wall" something better did not come along. Hmmm neither can I.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Vanadium. Too bad it's rather rare.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What does he know?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, he has been working on EVs since 2003, and is one of the founders of Tesla Motors, that should give him some knowledge of the subject.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My comment about the patent office was scarcastic. Of course there are always improvments and new technologies. (Now watch me really start an argument) Who knows, we may even solve the problems with fuel cells and hydrogen. The point is that somewhere down the line we will get to 300 or 500 mile batteries and quick charging stations not because we have to have them but because there is a market for them. We don't need 500 horsepower quarter million dollar supercar's either but there is a market for them. Once the first cars are out there by multiple manufactures the advancements will come more quickly. It will be there car goes 100 miles and ours 150 or 200 miles and so on. The market will determine what is the most cost efficient standard range but the longer ranges will come as will the public charging. Not because of a real need but because of a desire for it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Silicon based anodes are going to work. There are a number of researchers looking at this now and several who are getting good results. Better separators, both from a cost standpoint and thinner yet safe, would help. The main thing is the cathodes. Current intercalation compounds can be incrementally improved, but there is a limit to that. Sulfur cathodes appear to hold the most promise, but issues with soluble poly-cyclics needs to be overcome. For a talking head to come out and make a prediction about the time table for technical advances is silly. Probably just a hype attempt to enhance current optics on Tesla. Li-air is way to early in the development stage to be consideration as a real technology, although Argonne is hyping it. However, no one has any idea how to make Li-air work. Again, talking heads can predict Li-air is the way, but it takes an idea, and right now no one has any idea.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Because 18650 cells are at the leading edge of battery development, and by using them we can benefit from state-of-the-art technology straight away."

      Well . . . no. 18650 batteries, by definition, do not have new technology advancements in battery packaging which provides more battery power per battery packaging. The size/shape of the battery does affect the way it operates.
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