EVs, Lithium-ion Batteries and Liars Poker

John Petersen Last week I stumbled across a link that led to a 2010 report from the National Research Council titled "Hidden Costs of Energy, Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use." This free 506-page book takes a life-cycle approach – from fuel extraction to energy production, distribution, and use to disposal of waste products – and attempts to quantify the health, climate and other unpriced damages that arise from the use of various energy sources for electricity, transportation and heat. After studying the NRC's discussion of the unpriced health effects, other nonclimate damages and greenhouse gas...

Electric Vehicles and the Natural Resource Cliff

John Petersen We all love to whine and complain about oil prices because we buy gasoline regularly and that makes the price changes obvious. To solve this overwhelming problem, myopic visionaries with rose colored glasses propose a simple solution – convert personal transportation from vehicles powered by oil to vehicles powered by clean, free and renewable electricity from the wind and sun. Like most fairy tales, it can't happen in real life which means it won't. This is not a technology issue. It's a raw materials issue and electric vehicles cannot solve the problem. In the first...

Plug-in Vehicles and Their Dirty Little Secret

John Petersen Over the last few months I've had a running debate with some die-hard EVangelicals who insist that plug-in cars will be cleaner than simple, reliable and relatively inexpensive Prius class HEVs. Since most of my readers have enough to do without slogging through the comments section, it's high time we lay the cards on the table and show why the myth of zero emissions vehicles is one of the most outrageous lies ever foisted on the American public. The following graph comparing the life-cycle CO2 emissions of conventional, hybrid and plug-in vehicles comes from a...

Plugging Into Car Charging Stocks

by Debra Fiakas CFA Earlier this week, the quieter half of Tesla Motors (TSLA:  Nasdaq) founding team and the company’s chief technology officer, JB Straubel gave a speech at a solar energy conference in San Francisco.  He is largely responsible for Tesla’s innovative battery technology, so it should be no surprise that he thinks that eventually all vehicles will be powered by batteries.  As profound a this view might seem, let’s remember that if hammers could see, the world would look like a nail. Nonetheless, I thought it worthwhile to take Straubel at this word.  This is...

Tesla’s Gift Box – Inefficiency Wrapped in Hype

John Petersen Congratulations! You've been appointed Energy Czar for the island of Self Sufficiency; a wonderful place that can satisfy the bulk of its energy needs from domestic resources, but needs to import gasoline for a 10,000-unit automobile fleet that gets replaced at a rate of 1,000 cars a year. The island's battery factory can manufacture 45,000 watt-hours of lithium-ion batteries each year and depending on how they set the machines; the factory can make high-power batteries for HEVs or high-energy batteries for EVs. Your mandate as Energy Czar is to minimize Self Sufficiency's fuel imports and...

Why The Electric Vehicle House of Cards Must Fall

John Petersen A few days ago Alex Planes published an extraordinary article on The Motley Fool titled the "Real Costs of Alternative Energy" that summarized direct US subsidies for our principal energy sources, restated annual energy consumption from each of those sources using equivalent barrels of oil as a standard measure, and calculated the direct Federal subsidy per unit of useful energy consumed. The following table condenses and reorders the data from the lowest to the highest direct Federal subsidy per unit of useful energy consumed. As I pondered Mr. Planes' work and methodology, the...

An In Depth Guide To Buying and Installing a Home Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Most plug-in vehicles (both pure electric and plug-in hybrids) come with a "level 1" charging station which allows the vehicle to be charged from a standard household outlet.  If your vehicle is a plug-in hybrid with limited electric range, or you don't drive much, this is likely all you will need.  Otherwise, you will want a "level 2" charging station. If you are a do-it-yourself-er and like to get into the nitty-gritty, you should read the whole article.  If you just want some quick advice about the best charging station for you, skip to the last section,...

Tesla and SolarCity: When Acquisition Strategies Run Amok

by Paula Mints When two companies with negative financials and high debt marry a good response to the nuptials is … Huh? When Toto pulls back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz to reveal that the Wizard is just a normal man with no special powers the Wizard says: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. In the case of the proposed stock acquisition of SolarCity by Tesla pulling the curtain would reveal two debt ridden companies with cash flow problems. Just the Facts Please The facts are: two companies with...

Electric Drive – Still Crazy After Five More Years

John Petersen The sunshine, lollipops and rainbows electric car press was at it again in mid-March. This time they were gushing over a $3,800 report from Pike Research predicting that automotive lithium-ion battery prices will fall by more than one-third by 2017. According to Pike, the market for Li-ion batteries for transportation will grow from $2.0 billion annually in 2011 to more than $14.6 billion for 28 million kWh of batteries by 2017. For those without a calculator handy, the figures work out to a future industry average price of $520 per kWh in 2017 versus a current...

Epic Changes Are Coming in the Electric Power, Transportation and Energy Storage Sectors

John Petersen Epic is the only word I can use to describe an evolving tragedy that killed tens of thousands of people, inflicted hundreds of billions in property damage, destroyed 3.5% of Japan's base-load power generating capacity in a heartbeat and will cause recurring aftershocks in the global electric power, transportation and energy storage sectors for decades. While I'd love to believe the worst is behind us, I fear the times of trouble have just begun. Since it's clear that Japan will have to turn inward and serve the urgent needs of its own population first, the...

It’s Time to Kill the Electric Car, Drive a Stake Through its Heart and...

John Petersen I was recently invited to prepare a memorandum on the battery industry for the electric mobility working group of the World Energy Council, a global thought leadership forum established in 1923 that includes 93 national committees representing over 3,000 member organizations including governments, businesses and research institutions. Since my memorandum integrated several themes from this blog and tied them all together, I've decided to publish a lightly edited version for readers. To set the stage for the substantive discussion that follows, I’ll start with an 1883 quote from Thomas Edison: “The storage battery is one...

Energy Storage: Q-2 2012 Review and Analysis

John Petersen While I jumped the gun last week and published my third quarter outlook for the energy storage and vehicle electrification sectors early, it's worthwhile to take a look back and see how my tracking list of companies performed over the last quarter and examine the past to see what the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup portend for the coming quarter. So without further delay I'll present my price performance table for the second quarter that ended on Friday. Q-2 was a dreadful quarter for Maxwell Technologies (MXWL) and ZBB Energy...

Plug-in Vehicles Combine Immense Risk With Insignificant Reward

John Petersen Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." So when the editor of Batteries International asked if I could present my analysis of plug-in vehicles in two pages and prove my numbers in a way that any open-minded adult could follow, understand and verify with an Internet search engine, I jumped at the challenge. The article was published yesterday in their Winter Edition. Since the numbers have profound implications for the energy storage sector and an expected flurry of ill-conceived electric vehicle projects like the planned Tesla Motors...

Plug-in Vehicles; Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

John Petersen Generation specific cultural references can be treacherous ground for bloggers because the flashback effect is usually limited to readers with long and vivid memories. In this case, however, the lessons of history are so relevant that I'll accept the risk and offer some context for younger readers. In my youth a war wrapped in the liberal ideology of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and fueled by an underlying concern over who would control oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Tonkin was fought in the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. By current standards,...

EV Dreams and Industrial Metal Nightmares

John Petersen The hardest part of blogging about the energy storage and vehicle electrification sectors is coping with ideologues who are so enthralled with their myopic EV dreams that they can't see the industrial metal nightmares that make those dreams impossible at relevant scale in the real world. They whimper, whine and complain about the obscene prices charged by diabolical oil companies and gush over how safe, quiet, clean and secure life will be when plug-in cars with immense battery packs are common as wildflowers in an alpine meadow and getting cheaper every day. The fly in...

Plug-in Vehicle Subsidies; Taxing Peter To Buy Paul’s New Car

John Petersen Industrial subsidies have been an important feature of the American economic landscape since the late 19th century for one simple reason – they work. After the steam locomotive proved its ability to quickly and cheaply move people and cargo long distances, the government launched a massive effort to span the country with steel rails and bring the benefits of a rapid, safe and reliable national transportation system to all its citizens. After electric lighting proved its merit, the rush was on to build a national infrastructure and bring the benefits to all. After the internal combustion...