Electric vehicle

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Topic: In 30-40 years, most vehicles on the road will be EVs

When you tell someone you've bought a new car, rarely is the question asked, "What kind of power source does it have?" If it's not gasoline, then it's diesel; what sort of car wouldn't run on oil? After all, wasn't the EV1 a (controversial) failure? Don't EVs cost as much as a luxury car without all the features, perform poorly, take overnight to recharge, and have a range of a few dozen miles -- a bit over a hundred at best? Aren't there a distinct lack of even available streetlegal electric cars?

Historically, to sum up, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. A number of "solutions" have been worked on for non-gasoline alternatives to EVs, such as hydrogen cars and compressed air cars. However, the problems with EVs are rapidly disappearing, their advantages over gasoline becoming more and more significant, and they look prepared to take the automotive world by storm.


[edit] Advantages

Energy efficiencies of different propulsion methods gathered in "Well to wheel study of passenger vehicles in the Norwegian energy system"[1]. Note the unimpressive performance of hydrogen cars (PEMFC and ICE H2) running on ordinary power, in comparison to gasoline and diesel cars, and the excellent performance of electrics.
CO2 and NOx emissions from different propulsion methods, gathered in "Well to wheel study of passenger vehicles in the Norwegian energy system"[2]. Again, note the unimpressive performance of hydrogen cars (PEMFC and ICE H2) running on ordinary power, in comparison to gasoline and diesel cars, and the excellent performance of electrics.

First, we need to cover the advantages of EVs:

  • Torque: Electric vehicles pack more low-end torque into a lower cost, small electric engine (often small enough to allow for multiple engines or even an engine in each wheel). Furthermore, this torque remains high across a broad RPM range, unlike gasoline engines. The range is often wide enough that some EVs can get by without any transmission at all, and usually two gears is sufficient. In short, electrics scale to be "muscle cars" more readily. Despite the limited investment in the technology, one of the fastest cars in the world currently (the Wrightspeed X-1, ~3 second 0-60) is an electric, as is one of the fastest motorcycles (the Killacycle, 0.97 second 0-60), at least in regard to 0-60 performance.
  • Maintenance: Assuming a reliable battery pack (more on that later), EVs are incredibly low maintenance. There are typically few to no belts and pulleys, few to no air filters, no transmission (or only a simple two-gear transmission), no pistons, connecting rods, crankshafts, cylinder walls, valves, valve springs, valve guides, camshafts, cambelts, lifters, pushrods, rocker arms, oil pumps, fuel pumps, water pumps, radiators, gearbox, clutch, distributors, spark plugs, oil filters, coolant and vacuum hoses, injectors, carburettors, turbos, superchargers, gaskets, mufflers, catalytic converters, alternators, seals, and far fewer bearings. In EVs with in-wheel drive, which is becoming increasingly attractive, the only moving parts are the wheels themselves.
  • Noise: EVs are capable of being about as quiet as is physically possible for a vehicle to be.
  • Convenience: EVs typically charge at home. No need to go to a gas station.
  • Economics: A 30mpg gasoline car (better than average), with $3/gal gasoline, costs $0.10/mi to operate. A typical EV gets ~200Wh/mi, meaning that with $0.10/kWh electricity, it costs $0.02/mi to operate. A car like the Aptera costs less than a penny per mile in electricity costs.
  • Grid balancing: EVs could potentially get further discounts on their electricity purchases from power companies by being plugged into the grid and using their batteries to help balance peak versus off-peak electricity generation. This would especially be a boon for solar power.
  • Off-peak charging: According to a DOE study[3], If all of the nation's 220 million vehicles were converted to PHEVs using electricity for their everyday driving, 84% of their electricity needs would already be able to be met with our existing infrastructure, thanks to the fact that most would use off-peak charging (via timers). Pure BEV stats should be similar. Not that building new power plants and transmission infrastructure is somehow harder than developing new oilfields.
  • Efficiency: Lithium-ion batteries are nearly lossless in charging-discharging[4], as are barium titanate supercapacitors (like EEStor's EESU). The total system efficiency, from power plant fuel energy to wheel torque, is generally over 30%, at least 50% more than the ~20% gasoline energy to wheel torque in a gasoline vehicle (the engine itself is typically 30-35%, but much of this energy is lost)[5]. The biggest contributing factor is how much more efficient power plants are than gasoline engines. For more on this topic, see the article on hydrogen cars
  • Pollution: Even if all of the electricity came from fossil fuels, EVs would still emit notably less greenhouse gasses due to the aforementioned efficiency. Just on a watt per watt basis (ignoring the efficiency improvements), coal power plant pollution is comparable to gasoline engine pollution, with higher emissions of sulphur oxides, but lower organics, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen compounds. Furthermore, the pollution is more moved away from population centers, thus improving human health. Probably the biggest advantage, of course, is the ability to use renewable or non-polluting power sources (see the solar power for one possibility, although wind, geothermal, etc are also options). While even conventional lead-acid batteries have a nearly 100% recycling rate, modern batteries, like li-ion, are nontoxic to begin with. They are traditionally made from nontoxic lithium carbonate (often used in ovenware), nontoxic cobalt oxide (used as a pottery glaze), nontoxic graphite (used in pencils), and a polymer (plastic) membrane. The most toxic produced components in the final product are the electrolyte and lithium cobalt oxide, neither of which are persistant in the environments, and both of which are increasingly being replaced by more benign compounds. The A123 batteries, for example, contain a nontoxic lithium iron phosphate cathode, a nontoxic graphite anode, a polymer membrane, and an electrolyte that while corrosive and irritating, is not persistant, non-teratogenic, no reproductive toxicity, and non-mutagenic.[6]
  • No shortage of resources: See here. There's no need to have to worry about anything like "peak lithium".

[edit] Dealing with the problems

[edit] Battery maintenance

Valence LFP batteries, when kept at a reasonable temperature, offer 95% capacity after 1400 cycles (168,000 miles for a BEV with a 120 mile range)
A123 LFP batteries offer 90% capacity after 2300 cycles and an 86% capacity at 3,800 cycles (276,000 and 456,000 miles, respectively, for a BEV with a 120 mile range)

Two types of batteries have unfairly given all batteries a bad name: lead-acid and lithium-ion using a lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) cathode (also known as "laptop batteries"). The problem is visibility. In the former case, we use them every day in our cars, and know how they'll often die after several years of use. In the latter case, we see these batteries in laptops, cell phones, and all sorts of other consumer electronic devices. These lose capacity with age, and in rare circumstances can catch fire.

Unfortunately, these two types of batteries have damaged the name of all batteries. Most are not nearly that unreliable. The NiMH batteries on the Prius, for example, are warrantied for 8 years, and so far, none have had to be replaced for reasons other than manufacturing defects or damage. Indeed, they only typically range from 40-60% charge, but HEVs stress their batteries more than EVs.[7] Supercapacitors also have extremely long lifespans. With lithium-ion, there are half a dozen new chemistries designed for EVs, none of which suffer from either the fire risk nor the lifespan risk of their laptop battery cousins. See the "Charge Time" section for more details.

When it comes to EVs, a few companies are sticking with lead-acid batteries due to their low cost. Few people are buying them -- not simply because of maintenance, but largely because of lousy performance in terms of range and speed. These are typically classified as NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles), generally limited to 25-35mph and 25-40 miles range. A few other EV manufacturers, most notably Tesla Motors, have been using laptop batteries, targetting their sales at a high-end consumer who can afford battery replacement. Almost all of the others are going for the safe, long-life variants of lithium ion chemistry -- hence, battery maintenance is not a problem for these vehicles. A123 lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, for example, are good for over 7,000 cycles.[8] GM plans to warranty the battery pack on the Volt (which is to use either LFP or stabilized spinel cells) for ten years[9] -- something all the more impressive given that the Volt is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), which is more stressful than a battery-electric vehicle (BEV).

[edit] Okay, if these batteries exist, where can I get them, huh?

I'm continually surprised by how dubious many people are about the existence of modern automotive li-ion batteries as described above; hence, I've added this subsection.

If you followed any forums on subjects where these batteries are already in use (such as robotics and RC airplanes), you'd already know the answer, but here you go: it used to be that the only way to get them in small volume for personal use was the A123 cells, which you can get by dissecting DeWalt cordless power tool battery packs[10]. That method would run you a rather pricey $2/Wh; EV manufacturers don't pay that much. In general, automotive li-ion batteries (which are used in over a dozen different upcoming EVs) were only sold in larger volumes, generally directly from the manufacturer at negotiated prices, typically under $1/Wh (excepting AltairNano, which still costs about $2/Wh in bulk; they hope to lower it soon to $1/Wh[11]). Nowdays, there are a variety of lithium phosphate batteries on the market (even low cost ones from China, such as ThunderSkys); google search and you'll find them. These are already in use in things as diverse as electric bicycles, electric motorcycles, RC helicopters and airplanes, robots, and countless other applications.

[edit] Charge time

Historically, the killer for EVs was the combination of a long charge time with limited range. Without fast charging, there's no way to reasonably drive long distances, even if charging stations were to be made available (something that seems increasingly likely; even WalMart is looking to get into offering EV charging with renewable electricity generated on-site [12]).

Thankfully, the charge time issue has already been solved, thanks to existing batteries like A123's, AltairNano's, Toshiba's SCIB's[13], Valence's, and about half a dozen others. Some of them are already used in vehicles, such as the Killacycle, the Wrightspeed X1, the Aptera Typ-1e, and the Phoenux SUV and SUT. Speaking of next-gen batteries:

[edit] Next-gen batteries

Conventional lithium ion laptop batteries are generally around 160Wh/kg and 270Wh/L using a lithium cobalt oxide cathode and a graphite anode. Lithium phosphate batteries are only around 100Wh/kg. Among the more interesting of the many new anode/cathode combinations[14] are:

  • Argonne Laboratories' composite Li2MnO3/LiMO2 or LiM2O4 (M=nickel or manganese) cathode: Entering commercial production. 200Wh/kg, 500Wh/L. Charge rate unknown, but likely high due to stability. Combines high energy density with long life and safety. Cheap (1% the raw material cost of a LiCoO2 cathode)[15][16][17][18][19]
  • Argonne Laboratories / Hanyang University layered cathode: Uses stable, low energy density layer as the electrolyte interface (so it won't degrade) and a reactive, high energy density material as the bulk of the cathode. Versus a 140-160mAh/g cathode density for traditional, unstable LiCoO2 cells, these cells get 210mAh/g on the cathode, good power density, and long cycle life.[20]
  • Nanocomposite metal fluoride cathode: 400-500Wh/kg for the battery as a whole with high power density, being developed by Electro Energy with grants from the USAF.[21]
  • Various cathode technologies from new Google.org invest Actacell[22], including an advanced, low cost lithium iron phosphate cathode that offers 166 mAh/g. Their other technologies include stabilized spinel and and complex layered oxide cathodes as well as nanocomposite alloy anodes [23]
  • GM's cathode: Technology remains secret, but is reportedly close to the goal of 3x capacity over conventional li-ion.[24]
  • LiMn2O4 nanorod cathode: similar to the famous silicon nanowire anode (also developed by Yi Cui). Results "encouraging". More than 85% charge capacity retained after 100 cycles. Charge capacity does not drop relevantly with increase in current, remaining at about 110mAh/g (twice that of conventional LiMn2O4 at the highest rate), with need for only 10% carbon black filler.[25][26]
  • Lithium vanadium oxide anode, such as Samsung's prototype: 695Wh/L when paired with a traditional LiCoO2 cathode, boosted to 745Wh/L by vapor deposition of a Li metal film. Slightly lower expansion than a graphite anode, suggesting longer life. 80% capacity after 500 cycles (not as much of a problem with high energy density batteries, as you go farther on a cycle). Subaru's prototype G4e uses such a battery, and is capable of fast charging.[27]
  • Graphite-encased tin nanoparticle anode: Tin nanoparticles are trapped inside tiny graphite spheres, allowing them to swell extensively without cracking. Allows for higher voltages, no charge loss through solvent interaction, and energy densities of 831 maH/g (depending on the voltage, this would equate to thousands of Wh/kg, although this only applies to the anode, not the complete battery). Higher voltage eases fast charging. Currently loses ~30% of charge capacity in 100 cycles -- still very energy dense. [28][29]
  • Hitachi's silicon monoxide with carbon and silicon nanoparticles anode: Increases total cell energy density by 20%.[30] Being paired with a new cobalt-magnesium-nickel anode to add even greater energy density. Due out in 2009.
  • Silicon nanowire anode, such as the Stanford/Yi Cui prototype: Uses nanowires on a stainless steel substrate to avoid the major problem of cracking in silicon anodes due to their swelling as they absorb lithium. 10x the lithium absorption on the first charge as compared to a normal graphite anode, 8x on subsequent charges, leading to "several" times the energy density without a cathode improvement and the full improvement with a corresponding cathode advance. 1000-cycle validation expected by summer of 2008, and commercialization expected in five years, with a cost cheaper per Wh than conventional li-ion.[31][32][33]
  • Silicon shells over graphite cores anode. Amazingly stable, and at 600mAh/g actual, nearly double the *theoretical maximum* of graphite.[34]
  • Carbon nanotube/silicon nanoparticle anode: Nanoparticles of silicon that have carbon nanotubes grown atop them, then are bonded together with carbon, manage to prevent silicon cracking. 727mAh/g after 20 cycles (thousands of Wh/kg for the anode). [35]
  • GM's silicon carbide nanowire anode: Silicon deposited on top of carbon nanowires. 1,000 to 1,500 mAh/g for the anode, with a huge surface area.[36]
  • GM's metal hydride anode: Sample MgH anode has reached 1,510mAh/g; moving towards a maximum theoretical capacity of 2,038mAh/g[37]
  • Porous silicon nanostructure anode: Charge capacity remains at 2,800mAh/g (anode alone) at a rate of 1C after 100 cycles, with no signs of pulverization. The production method is a fairly simple sintering process and should be easy to scale up. Very rapid-charge capable.[38]
  • Planar Energy Devices PowerBlade: Unknown anode and cathode tech, although uses a unique separator film. 220Wh/kg, 520Wh/L. 500+ cycles. Already in limited production, in a facility designed for massive production. Not fast charge capable. The company is a spinoff from from the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).[39][40]
  • Copper oxide nanostructure anodes, for a 50% higher anode energy density without normal graphite aging.[41]

Li-ion isn't the only game in town. Lithium-sulphur batteries offer the potential of over 800Wh/kg[42]. Sodium-ion batteries promise 400Wh/kg with only minimal expansion/contraction during charge/discharge and a very high surface area. The list keeps on going; there are a lot of interesting new battery chemistries trying for a share of the market. Additionally, EEStor's EESU ultracapacitor was scheduled to hit the market in early to mid 2008, also with a rapid charge time (4-6 minutes) at 342 Wh/kg and 1600Wh/L[43]. Conventional ultracapacitors making use of carbon nanotubes to increase surface area are also competitors[44]. Finally, an alternative to fast charging stations is battery replacement. While it suffers from some problems (weight, standardization, etc), Project Better Place has already raised several hundred million dollars to build networks of charging and battery replacement stations. One type of battery "replacement" proposed is much simpler: while the vanadium redox battery only has an energy density similar to lead-acid, the charge is stored solely in a vanadium-based electrolyte, which can be pumped out and replaced with charged fluid.

[edit] Back to charge time

Not all charging needs to be fast charging. At home, there's generally little reason to need a fast charge. If you did, obviously the lines to your home couldn't deliver power that fast. However, not only is upgrading the lines generally an option, but so is installing a fast charger: a device that trickle charges from power going to your home, and then quickly discharges into your vehicle. Such a device would also provide grid load balancing (thus getting you a discount on your electricity) and provide backup power for your home.

One issue that has been raised is the scale of the current delivered to vehicles, and whether it'd mean that charging in only a few minutes isn't possible. Now, an Aptera (10kWh) could charge in 10 minutes with just 60kW of current. Phoenix Motorcars uses an offboard 250kW charger[45], but that's hardly as large as you can scale them. Drawing that much power would seem to require a monstrous cable; doesn't this mean that you can't charge big, long-range vehicles? Not really. This assumes only passive cooling of wires. A mere fan and a tubular sheath (forced-air cooling) can provide far better cooling than passive cooling alone. Liquid cooling can provide an order of magnitude improvement. If it really came down to it (say, a semi needing a hundreds or even thousands of kWh), and spending more than ten minutes or so charging wasn't an option, one could always rely on a charging docking station rather than a handheld cord.

The last issue sometimes raised is potential dangers from having this much power flowing. Yet, a wall outlet already has more than enough power to kill you. The reason people don't die left and right from electrocution is safe design -- hard to touch electrodes, insulated wires, ground fault interruption, and so on. Yet, this is just the start of what could be done. An EV charging cord could, for example, be programmed to not start current flow until it's registered as being firmly connected to the vehicle. It could have an outer sheath that, if damaged, cuts current flow. And so forth. Not that gasoline must have looked particularly safe to people early in its history. The concept of proposing tanks of readily-vaporizable, highly flammable liquid (containing significantly more energy than EV batteries) in every car, with gas stations having huge tanks of the stuff underground, with the potential for spills, and so on, must have looked just as dangerous, if not moreso. Transportation simply requires a lot of potential energy, and that's why safety systems are always used to keep this energy under control. For more on the issue of safety, see the article on hydrogen cars

[edit] Projects Underway

Are people working toward this? You bet! AeroVironment's PosiCharge chargers deliver a whopping 250kW.[46]. Norvik, 300kW.[47] Others include the Edison Minit-Charger and a charger by EnerSys.[48]. Epyon plans to start installing universal fast chargers.[49] Fast chargers are starting to become a new standard in forklift operations, with many hundreds of amps pumped directly to the battery terminals more safely and more cost-effectively than changing the batteries.[50] Perhaps the most advanced fast-charging EV project is the Hawaii Electric Vehicle Demonstration Project.[51] Check out a map of where you can already find PosiCharge fast chargers on Oahu[52] and where they're planning to build more[53]. In Britain, Evoasis expects six gas stations they're converting to fast charge stations to become operational this year.[54].

As an alternative to Project Better Place's battery swapping system, the preliminarily-titled "Project Fastr Blastr" aims to build a network of fast charging stations across the US[55][56], and has the support of US automakers. The pros:

  • A fast charging station would be cheaper than a gas station (rather than more expensive, like a battery swapping station)
  • Minimal vehicle standardization needed
  • Lower technical hurdles
  • Anywhere can install one

The one downside mentioned:

  • They'd mainly serve power during peak draw, putting strain on the grid

The responses to that downside:

  • This could be offset by the benefits of using the charger's batteries in a "V2G" style configuration, evening out power draw for utilities.
  • The chargers could charge themselves mostly at night.

As noted by Jeff Boyd of Miles Electric Vehicles: "Fast charging is here; it's available. You can put a station at a Starbucks for a cost of $125,000. There's no reason to wait for something else."

Let's examine a case study on fast charging and not rely just on the numbers provided by the companies. Of the phosphates, titanates, and modern spinels[57], the phospates seem to have the shortest cycle life, so we'll pick them. Over on rcgroups.com, an amateur, without a charger specifically designed for A123s, ran them through a thousand abusive cycles -- 3-4C charging, 6-8C discharging (he even did a set going down to 0V). To put that another way, that's charging in 15-20 minutes and discharging in 8-10. The charge profile would be typical for fast charging, but the discharge profile would be far worse than anything an EV would experience. After a thousand cycles, they had only lost 25% of their original capacity. For a vehicle with a 120 mile range, for example, that'd mean abusing your vehicle nonstop that badly for 120,000 miles (rather than more typical usage patterns -- 80% of your mileage nearby -- i.e., slow charging -- and 20% far away -- i.e., fast charging).

Prices? Try this link out. It's a bit dated (1999), but it should give you an idea.

  • 60kW Aerovironment PosiCharge: $40,000
  • 120kW Aerovironment PosiCharge: $80,000
  • 35kW Norvick Minit Charger: $35,000
  • 250kW Norvick Minit Charger: $125,000

[edit] Range / Energy density

The advancement of battery technology is a major factor in the reduction of size of cellphones. From left to right: 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2002, 2004

With fast charge times, range is no longer a fundamental issue -- not that stopping every 1 1/2 to 3 hours to fuel for 5-10 minutes should be seen as such a big problem to begin with especially in light of all of the advantages (above). However, to some people, giving up anything that they had in their gasoline vehicle isn't worth it. Present-day EVs employing lithium-ion battery packs typically have ranges between 100 and 250 miles. However, signs point to this changing soon (see the "Charge Time" section for more details on the many new battery chemistries allowing for significantly higher energy densities). The "several times" improvement that each of the anode techs allows for means putting lithium-ion battery vehicles on par with gasoline for range even without an equivalent cathode advance. With cathode advances as well, ranges could well be in the upper hundreds of miles a decade or two from now.

There are numerous other technologies being worked on at this time, and it seems quite reasonable to expect to hear more such advancements in the coming years, given how rapid battery improvements have been occurring. Fifteen years ago, cell phones were giant "bricks" thanks largely to their heavy batteries. Laptop batteries have remained the same size or gotten smaller despite increased power draw and longer lifespans. This trend of increasing battery energy density shows no sign of letting up.

[edit] Economics

Presently, EVs cover the gamut in terms of pricing. There are luxury EV sportscars like the Tesla and Lightning Car that cost ~$100k or more, and there are little lead-acid powered NEVs like those made by ZENN and ZAP that cost $10k or so. In between, you have coupes like the Aptera Typ-1e at $27k that get normal economy car performance (0-60 in ~10 seconds, top speed of 85-90mph) and use lithium phosphate batteries, but skimp a little on the range (100-120 mi). However, all of these vehicles suffer from a lack of one key ingredient: mass production.

The Chevrolet Volt is scheduled to begin rolling off the lines in ~2010 in numbers around 10,000 per year. Its electric range is similar to the Aptera Typ-1h plug-in hybrid's electric range, but it is a full-sized sedan. Pricing is to be set around $30k -- similar to the Typ-1h's $30k price. It therefore seems one could consider the extra cost of producing a full-sized sedan instead of a two-seater coupe as roughly being offset by the benefits of mass production. So, let's apply this to EVs.

The more companies and models start using the batteries, the more in bulk they can be produced and the cheaper they would get. This is especially promising given the increasing interest of China in getting into the EV battery business; we could easily be looking at half the price in five years time. At the same time, the more energy density ends up in cells, the cheaper they are per watt (assuming equivalent manufacturing costs). For example, the Stanford team expects their cells to cost less than conventional lithium ion cells per watt thanks to the cheap anode backing (stainless steel) and the ability to scale up nanowire growth. EEStor is marketting their supercapacitors as starting out at half the price of even lead-acid, with the price going down by a third with mass production. With prices like that, EVs would easily be cheaper than gasoline vehicles, just ignoring the lower maintenance and operations costs. Toyota VP Masatami Takimoto believes that EV li-ion batteries will be "economical" when produced in numbers similar to NiMH batteries, a rate of hundreds of thousands per month.[58]

To see how the economics of an EV purchase can work out, check out some sample calculations for an Aptera.

Because of the (current) sticker shock with some EVs, some car companies are looking at various purchase agreements where the owner can buy the car at a more typical price, and the additional cost is recouped over time (through battery rental, through electricity surcharges at on-the-road charging stations, or such). Because of how cheap EVs are to operate, the extra cost over time is generally lower than what the person would normally spend on gasoline.

[edit] Battery replacement costs

When it comes to maintenance, the big question in everyone's mind is always, "What about the cost of replacing the battery?" This stems from unfortunate stereotypes brought about by our familiarity with lead-acid batteries and conventional li-ion batteries. NiMH and autmotive li-ion batteries have extremely long lifespans, and your need to replace them is no greater (and potentially even less) than your need to replace a gasoline car's engine block. RAV4EV drivers, with vehicles from the late 90s, using NiMH batteries, report minimal degradation a decade later.[59] A123 expects their batteries to last at least 10 years and 7000 charge cycles[60], and even then, you're not looking at much degradation. Most other LFP batteries should be similar. LG Chem thinks their batteries will last 40 years.[61] For anyone who assumes that batteries inherently must die in short order with age and use, I recommend you read about the Edison cell[62]; early EVs powered by them, such as the 1909 Baker Electric, can still run on their original batteries.[63]. The lifespan of a battery is dependant on how stable of a chemistry it has.

Let us, however, assume that, say, an Aptera needs a battery change once in a 20 year lifespan because the owner is unwilling to accept the loss of 10-20% of its range or so. The battery pack is 10kWh. You're replacing it at least 10 years in the future, meaning that mass production will be well underway (not just for battery-electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), but also in conventional hybrids and the massive mobile electronic device market). It seems, given the price of traditional li-ion in mass production with a cathode containing more expensive cobalt, that it would take a miracle for LFP to not be cheaper than traditional li-ion when they enter an equivalent level of mass production. But let's say that they only make it to the more expensive end of traditional li-ion costs -- say, $0.20/Wh. $0.20 * 10,000 = $2,000. Let's add $500 extra to turn the cells into a battery pack and $500 for labor installing the pack. That's $3k spread out over 20 years. Even in this pessimistic scenario, your annual contribution to the battery pack is only $150 per year. As far as car maintenance goes, that's nothing.

[edit] What's coming out soon?

The following is an incomplete list of highway-speed EVs coming out within the next few years. For inclusion in the list, the vehicle must be able to maintain highway speeds, have at least 50 miles of range, come from either a respected manufacturer or one that has shown significant evidence of moving toward production, and have solidly committing to bringing the vehicle to market (not just creating a concept vehicle).

[edit] Cars, Trucks, and SUVs

This table only includes cars, trucks, and SUVs; the many electric motorcycles and scooters, as well as commercial transport such as electric semis, have been omitted. Lastly, this table omits all aftermarket and/or unofficial conversions; only official vehicle releases from the manufacturers are included.

Manufacturer Model Type Seats Price Electric range (mi) 0-60 (sec) Top speed (mph) Battery type Fast charge? Est. release date Refs
Aptera Typ-1
Aptera "Palomar"/4-series Probably both BEV and PHEV 4

Unknown li-ion

2e BEV 2 ~$30k 120 10 85-90 Unknown, but widely expected to be li-ion 8-10 hours on 120V/15A, 2-3 hours on higher power with optional higher power charger January 2009; mass production in October 2009. [65]
2h Series PHEV 2 > $30k 40-60 10 85-90 Unknown, but widely expected to be li-ion Unknown charge times Early 2010 [66]
Volkswagen Up!
Audi (EV version of the Volkswagen Up!) BEV 4

Before 2011 [67]
BMW Isetta(?) BEV 2

2012? [68]
Mini E BEV 2 $850/mo lease 150 8.5 95

2009 [69][70]
186 10 99 LFP 80% in 15 min 2010 [71][72]

F3DM Series PHEV
$25k 60

LFP 80% in 15 min
F6DM Series PHEV 5 $30k 60 10 99 LFP 80% in 15 min 2010 [74][75]

Chery S18 BEV

80% in 30 minutes
Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt Series PHEV 4 $30-40k 40 <8.5 120 Manganese spinel
Late 2010 [77][78]
(Unknown) Parallel PHEV 5
10 7
Unknown li-ion
2011 (inherited from cancelled Saturn Vue Green Line) [79]
Chrysler Voyager MPV

2010 [80]
(Unknown ENVI) Series PHEV

2012 [81]
Coda XS500
Coda Automotive / Miles XS500 BEV 5 $45k 90-120
2010 [82]
Smart Fortwo
Daimler AG Smart Fortwo ED BEV 2 Probably battery rental 90

Unknown li-ion
2010 [83]
Quicc DiVa
DuraCar QUICC! DiVa BEV 2 + large cargo area
75 Either LFP or PbA
2010 [84]
Fisker Karma
Fisker Karma (?) PHEV 4 $80k 50 5.8 125 Unknown li-ion
Late 2009 [85][86]
Ford Focus EV
Ford Focus EV BEV 5

Unknown li-ion
2011 [87]
Transit Connect BEV 2 plus large cargo area

2010 [88]
Unnamed plug-in hybrid (?) PHEV

2012 [89]
Ginetta G50 EV
Ginetta G50 EV BEV 2

 ? [90]
Heuliez Friendly
Heuliez Friendly BEV 3
140 NiMH
November 2008 [91]
Hyundai Getz
Hyundai Getz BEV 4-5
Yes? November 2008 [92]
Jaguar XJ
Jaguar XJ EV Series PHEV 4-5

2011 [93]
Lightning GT
Lightning Car Co Lightning GT BEV 2 $220k 150-180, can be increased <4 130 Titanate Full in 10 minutes 2009 [94][95]
Loremo EV BEV 2+2 $48k 93-124 <15 105 Unknown li-ion

Mazda 5 MPV (drivetrain mule)
Series PHEV 7?


Parallel PHEV?


Unknown li-ion
2010 [100][101]
Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Mitsubishi i-MiEV BEV 4
10 80 Unknown li-ion 80% in 30 minutes Now. Also, 5 more EV models by 2013 (full-size, sport, SUV, etc). [102][103][104]
Pajero Unknown PHEV 7

<2013 [105]
Nissan BEV 5 Price-competitive with a Civic, Camry, or Altima, batteries included. 100

"Fast enough to get a ticket on I-24, no problem"

26 minutes Mid 2010
Phoenix SUT
Phoenix SUV and SUT BEV 2 $45k 130 (extended = 200)
Titanate 10 minutes 2008 or 2009
Pininfarina B0 (B-Zero)
Pininfarina/Bollore B0 (B-Zero) BEV 4 Initially, a €330 per month lease, incl. 24 hour roadside assistance 155
80 LMP (lithium metal polymer) + supercapacitor No Late 2009 [109][110][111]
Proton Savvy (testbed)
Proton/Detroit Electric E46 BEV 4 $23k 110

February 2010 [112]
E63 BEV 4 $30k 200

February 2010
Renault-Nissan Project Better Place sedan
Renault (Unnamed Megane-based sedan) BEV 4 “Price of a regular sedan” + battery rental costs “less than the average monthly expenditure on gas” 100-120 8 > 80
Battery swap, 20-30 minute fast charges 2011 [113][114][115]
Kangoo BEV 4-5
> 80
Unknown li-ion Battery swap, 20-30 minute fast charges 2011 or earlier [116][117]
(Unnamed) BEV 5, small

Unknown li-ion
2012 [118][119]
Range Rover
Range Rover
BEV, possible PHEV ver also
$175k-$230k 200

2009 [120]
Ultimate Aero
Shelby Supercars Ultimate Aero EV BEV 2

“Twin 500hp motors” World's fastest EV

Q4 2009 [121]
Subaru R1e
Subaru Stella EV BEV 2 $49k-$14k credit ($35k) 56
62 Spinel 80% in 8 minutes 2010 [122]
Tata Indica
Tata Indica EV BEV 4
120 0-40 in <10 seconds
Unknown li-poly

Tesla Roadster
Tesla Model S BEV 5+2 $57,400 for 160mi 160mi to 300mi, depending on pack; larger packs also available for rent for long trips 5.5 to 6.0 initially; faster sport versions coming out later. 120 Unknown li-ion Full charge = 4 hours on 220V, 45 minutes on a high-power charger Q3 2011 [125]
Roadster BEV 2 $109k 241 w/powertrain 1.5 (221 orig) 3.9 125 Traditional li-ion No Now [126][127][128][129]
Th!nk City
Th!nk City BEV 2 $28k plus $100-$200/mo battery rental 124 0-50 in 15 sec 65
No Now [130]
Th!nk Ox
Ox BEV 5

Unknown li-ion

Toyota Prius
Toyota Plug-in Prius Parallel PHEV 5 7 initially, more later

NiMH initially, li-ion later

FT-EV BEV 4, kind of

Expected to be about 50 miles or so

Venturi Fetish
Venturi Fetish BEV 2 $465k 155 3.5 100 Unknown li-ion 1 hour 2009 [137][138]
Venturi Fetish
Volage BEV 2
200 <5 93 Lithium polymer
2012 [139]
Volkswagen Golf
Volkswagen Twin Drive Golf Parallel PHEV 4-5

Unknown Sanyo li-ion, 12kWh
2011 [140][141]
Volvo PHEV
Volvo / Vattenfall V70-based PHEV Direct drive series diesel PHEV 5?

Unknown li-ion, 11.3kWh
2012 [142]

[edit] Honorable Mention

Vehicles that are not showing enough evidence of progress or were cancelled but are still worthy of note:

Manufacturer Model Type Seats Price Electric range (mi) 0-60 (sec) Top speed (mph) Battery type Fast charge? Est. release date Refs
Hiroshi Shimizu Eliica BEV 4 $255k
4 (for the “speed model”; the “acceleration model” should be faster) 230 (speed model) Unknown li-ion

Silence PT2
EBW & Silence Silence PT2 BEV 2 $42k 125-250

thumb|150px|VentureOne Venture Vehicles VentureOne BEV 2

Serial PHEV 2

Wrightspeed X1 (precursor)
Wrightspeed SR-71 BEV 2


Cancelled (for now, at least) due to the loan crisis [148]

[edit] Commercial Vehicles

Heavy duty commercial trucks that are either coming out soon or are already out:

Manufacturer Model Type Base Price Electric range (mi) Top speed (mph) Payload capacity (tons) Battery type Charge time Est. release date Refs
ElectroRides ZeroTruck BEV $130k 65-75 HWY 60 6 to 7.25 EIG lithium polymer 12 hours 220-240V; "Fast Charge available through ETEC" Available now [149]
100 HWY

EIG lithium polymer

Nautilus E30
Balqon Nautilus E20 BEV
30-60, depending on load 25 20 4 hours for full charge, 1 hour for 60% charge PbA Available now [151]
Nautilus E30 BEV
30-60, depending on load 45 30 4 hours for full charge, 1 hour for 60% charge PbA Available now [152]
Mule M150 BEV
40-80, depending on load 50 7 4 hours for full charge, 1 hour for 60% charge PbA Available now [153]
Modec Boxvan
Modec UK Chassis Cab, Dropside, and Box Van BEV $41k 100 50 2 PbA, with two LFP options. 6 hours. Available now [154][155]
Smith Newton
Smith Electric Vehicles Ampere (high roof van) BEV
100 70 1 8-10 hours on non-3-phase, "greatly reduced" on 3-phase LFP Available now [156]
Edison Panel Van (high or medium roof), Chassis Cab, and Minibus BEV
1 to 3, depending on model and options 8-10 hours on non-3-phase, "greatly reduced" on 3-phase LFP Available now [157]
Newton BEV
150 50 4 to 8, depending on model and options 8 hours on 240V/32A 3-phase LFP or Zebra Available now [158]

[edit] Electric Motorcycles and Scooters

Manufacturer Model Base Price Electric range (mi) Top speed (mph) Battery type Charge time Est. release date Refs
Brammo Enertia
Brammo Enertia $12k 45 50 Valence Saphion LFP
Available now [159]
Electric Motorsport GPR-S $8.5k 35 performance/60 economy 60-70mph (gearing adjustable; high speed option also available) Unknown li-ion 4h; 1.5h with high-speed option. Available now [160][161][162]
KLD scooter
KLD Energy Technologies Neue scooter $3.9k to $4.9k, depending on pack 50mi@25mph to 100mi@25mph, depending on pack. 65mph Unknown li-ion
Q3 2010 [163][164][165]



2010 [166]
Mission One
Mission Motors Mission One $69k (initial 50 unit limited run; more affordable model coming after) 150 150 Unknown li-ion 2h 2010 [167]
Piaggo MP3 Hybrid
Piaggio MP3 Hybrid $14k 11 electric, plus gas
Unknown li-ion
Available now [168]
Quantya Strada
Quantya Strada $10.7k "2.5 hours" 45 Lithium polymer; rated for 1000+ cycles 2h Available now [169]
Track $10k "2.5 hours" 45 Lithium polymer; rated for 1000+ cycles 2h Available now [170]
Vectrix VX-1
Vectrix VX-1 $10.5k 35-55 62 NiMH
Available now [171]
VX-1E $8.5k 20-30 50 PbA
Available now [172]
VX-2 $5.2k 45-50 30 PbA
2009 [173]


Unknown li-ion
2010 [174]
Zero Motorcycles Zero-S $10k Up to 60 60 Unknown li-ion <4h Available now [175]
Zero-X $7.5k for "Sport"; $9.3k for "Extreme" "2 hours" or up to 40mi 60 Unknown li-ion <2h Available now [176]

[edit] Rate of adoption

Let's say that a negligable percentage of new cars purchased are EVs in the first five years (years 0-4), 10% are EVs in the next five (years 5-9), 20% in the next five (years 10-14), 50% in the next ten (years 15-24), and 100% from there on out. Let's assume that 8% of all vehicles are replaced per year, and that EVs and gasoline vehicles are equally likely to be replaced (seems unlikely, but let's go with it to favor gasoline). We get the following rates of vehicles owned:

0: 0.00% EV, 100.00% Gas
1: 0.00% EV, 100.00% Gas
2: 0.00% EV, 100.00% Gas
3: 0.00% EV, 100.00% Gas
4: 0.00% EV, 100.00% Gas
5: 0.80% EV, 99.20% Gas
6: 1.54% EV, 98.46% Gas
7: 2.21% EV, 97.79% Gas
8: 2.84% EV, 97.16% Gas
9: 3.41% EV, 96.59% Gas
10: 4.74% EV, 95.26% Gas
11: 5.96% EV, 94.04% Gas
12: 7.08% EV, 92.92% Gas
13: 8.11% EV, 91.89% Gas
14: 9.07% EV, 90.93% Gas
15: 12.34% EV, 87.66% Gas
16: 15.35% EV, 84.65% Gas
17: 18.12% EV, 81.88% Gas
18: 20.67% EV, 79.33% Gas
19: 23.02% EV, 76.98% Gas
20: 25.18% EV, 74.82% Gas
21: 27.16% EV, 72.84% Gas
22: 28.99% EV, 71.01% Gas
23: 30.67% EV, 69.33% Gas
24: 32.22% EV, 67.78% Gas
25: 37.64% EV, 62.36% Gas
26: 42.63% EV, 57.37% Gas
27: 47.22% EV, 52.78% Gas
28: 51.44% EV, 48.56% Gas
29: 55.33% EV, 44.67% Gas
30: 58.90% EV, 41.10% Gas
31: 62.19% EV, 37.81% Gas
32: 65.21% EV, 34.79% Gas
33: 68.00% EV, 32.00% Gas
34: 70.56% EV, 29.44% Gas
35: 72.91% EV, 27.09% Gas
36: 75.08% EV, 24.92% Gas
37: 77.07% EV, 22.93% Gas
38: 78.91% EV, 21.09% Gas
39: 80.59% EV, 19.41% Gas
40: 82.15% EV, 17.85% Gas
41: 83.58% EV, 16.42% Gas
42: 84.89% EV, 15.11% Gas
43: 86.10% EV, 13.90% Gas
44: 87.21% EV, 12.79% Gas
45: 88.23% EV, 11.77% Gas
46: 89.17% EV, 10.83% Gas
47: 90.04% EV, 9.96% Gas
48: 90.84% EV, 9.16% Gas
49: 91.57% EV, 8.43% Gas
50: 92.24% EV, 7.76% Gas

Hence, in about 30-40 years, you see a conversion to an EV-based transportation system. Note that all of the calculations on this page assume no government incentives or mandates to support EVs.

[edit] Addendum 1: Aptera Typ-1e, an emissions case study

"A car manufactured today produces two orders of magnitude fewer regulated emissions than one made in the early 1990s." [177]

Let us look at the very strict Euro IV (2006) emissions limits on vehicles.

Gasoline vehicles:

  • CO: 1.0 g/km
  • HC: 0.1 g/km
  • NOx: 0.08 g/km

Diesel vehicles:

  • CO: 0.5 g/km
  • NOx: 0.25 g/km
  • HC+NOx: 0.3 g/km
  • PM10: 0.025 g/km

Sulphur emissions are very low from modern transportation fuels, especially gasoline, although I'm having trouble finding out just how much is emitted (references would be appreciated). CO2 emissions from a 50mpg gasoline car are 110 ~g/km.

Aptera Typ-1e has a 10kWh battery and goes 120 mi at 55 mph. This means 83Wh/mi, which is 52 Wh/km (1 kWh = 19.2 km)

Typical electricity emissions in London (most of the power from coal) are: [178]

  • CO2: 588 g/kWh
  • CO: 0.093 g/kWh
  • NOx: 1.69 g/kWh
  • HC: 0.070 g/kWh
  • SO2: 2.31 g/kWh
  • All PM combined: 0.26 g/kWh

This means that an Aptera Typ-1e, running off this power mix, gets:

  • CO2: 30.6 g/km (28% of that of a 50mpg car; 14% compared to a 25mpg car; 7% compared to a 12mpg car)
  • CO: 0.0048 g/km (0.5% of the Euro IV limit for gasoline vehicles and 1.0% of that for diesels)
  • NOx: 0.088 g/km (110% of the Euro IV limit for gasoline vehicles and 35% of that for diesels)
  • HC: 0.0036 g/km (3.6% of the Euro IV limit for gasoline vehicles)
  • SO2: 0.12 g/km
  • All PM combined: 0.014 g/km (All particulate matter combined is 56% of the Euro IV limit for diesels' PM10 alone)

Remember, when comparing these numbers with a car, that A) these emissions aren't in cities; they're displaced away from population centers; B) this is with normal, dirty power generation, not next-gen clean power; C) it's much easier to clean up existing power plants than vehicles on the road; D) this is comparison to cars that have improved "two orders of magnitude" in emissions since the early 90s; and E) this doesn't include refinery emissions, which can be significant, especially on pollutants like NOx.

A brief summary of various pollutants:

  • CO2: According to the IPCC, the largest contributor, by a good margin, to global warming. Relatively harmless apart from that.
  • CO: A highly potent poison that permanently weakens the heart, among other effects.
  • NOx: Lung irritants that produce the stereotypical brownish "smog haze"
  • HC: Irritatants, some of which are carcinogenic.
  • SO2: An irritant and the prime source of acid rain. On the upside, it contributes to global cooling by seeding cloud formation.
  • PM10: Respiratory disorders

To follow up, let us consider the results of one conducted on PHEVs in general (thus not as efficient as the Aptera) in the US by the DOE[179][180]. Under the constraints of the study, around a third of the US's petroleum consumption is eliminated. From this use of electricity in lieu of petroleum, greenhouse gasses are reduced by 27%. The study confirms the extreme reduction in HCs (93%) and CO emissions (98%). They get a small (18%) PM10 increase and a 31% NOx decrease. They note that SO2 emissions could not increase significantly because sulfur emissions on coal plants (the primary source) are capped by the Clean Air Act, so for coal power plant operators to cash in on the boon from charging vehicles, they would have to improve their scrubbers so as to eliminate excessive SO2 emissions.

As the study states, "It should be noted that with the emergence of PHEVs, the emission sources will shift from millions of individual vehicles to a few hundred generation facilities. All urban emissions are expected to significantly improve. The economics for emission-reduction and carbon-sequestration technologies may look much more attractive when installed at central power plants rather than in motor vehicles, especially when the costs are spread over longer operating periods and billions of additional kilowatt hours."

Here's another study which tested nine different scenarios, finding GHG reductions in all of them.[181]

[edit] Addendum 2: Doesn't gasoline have a lot more energy density?

The best mass-market rechargeable batteries today have an energy density of ~160Wh/kg. Next generation cells are expected to have energy densities of a few hundred Wh/kg. Gasoline has an energy density of ~12,000 Wh/kg[182]. It's a huge difference that could make one wonder how an electric could possibly compete at all. Well, let's run some numbers on a typical gasoline economy car and its electric equivalent.

Gasoline has a density of about 3 kg/gal. Using a 12 gallon tank, we have 35 kg of gasoline. This means 432,000Wh. However, the tank to wheel efficiency of a gasoline engine is only about 20%, so you really only have about 86,000Wh. The tank weighs about 15kg. The engine may weigh something like 200kg. The transmission weighs something like 40kg. Let's throw in 10 kg for fluids (motor oil, transmission fluid, etc), and 50kg for other gasoline engine-related components (muffler, emissions controls, etc) (probably notably more -- for example, EVs often don't need long driveshafts, which is especially a big advantage on a RWD or 4WD car; however, we want to favor gasoline in this comparison, so let's ignore that). Grand total, 350kg. So, we have the ability to deliver 86,000Wh with 350kg of infrastructure (35kg of that being consumed in the process), so the real energy density of the drivetrain is optimistically 246Wh/kg.

EVs have their heavy batteries. Let's use a middle-of-the-road next-gen battery and say 340Wh/kg (see earlier sections about batteries for details). To deliver the same 86,000 Wh with 90% efficiency (typical), they need ~280kg of batteries. Let's say 20kg for the inverter/charger and the extra wiring (some automotive inverter/chargers are under 5kg). No transmission is generally needed, nor are any of the usual fluids. Electric motors are much smaller than internal combustion engines (ICE). The Tesla Roadster, which does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, has a motor the size of a watermelon. A ~50kg inverter+charger+motor will outperform the previously mentioned 200kg engine at low speeds but be beaten at high speeds, so is probably roughly comparable. Net total: 350kg, thus giving the same energy density of the drivetrain at around 246Wh/kg. Repeating these calculations for LiCoO2/graphite (160Wh/kg) and LFP (100Wh/kg), we get drivetrain masses of 667kg and 1025kg, and energy densities of 129Wh/kg and 84Wh/kg. None of these are unreasonable numbers -- certainly not showstoppers.

In summary: despite the much lower energy density of batteries in comparison to gasoline, a middle-of-the-road next-gen battery powered electric vehicle may have the same weight for a given range as a typical gasoline-powered car thanks to the much lighter drivetrain. The concept that batteries compete with gasoline for weight and volume is a fallacy; they compete with the ICE.

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