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Electric vehicle battery costs rapidly declining, Tesla cited as leading (evannex.com)
402 points by mgdo on June 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 243 comments



I find it amusing to see so many people questioning why Tesla didn't release a cheap Tesla sooner. The answer is: They don't have the batteries to do that. That's why they are building the GigaFactory.

People don't get that, on a large industrial scale, you actually have to think about supply. They think you just spend money and supply shows up because they are used to thinking on a household scale where supply is generally infinite for anything they could possibly consume.

I think one pervasive economic fallacy is that any amount of money can fix anything. We just need to find someone to write a big enough check, either the government or wall street and all those batteries will materialize instantly out of some technology horn of plenty. This has driven the focus on "stimulus" and "aggregate demand" in various forms of economic dialogue. We could use more supply side thinking about very large problems that the economy faces, especially in the public sector. Health Care, for example, is one of those things where, if you're not thinking about supply, spending more money just makes everything more expensive.


Energy STORAGE is a huge bottleneck issue for anyone that follows renewable energy news as well... Solar power itself has been cheap enough to be viable for a long time, 330W 72-cell panels for roofs have been $0.64/watt for several years now. You can quite economically cover the roof of a building in enough high-efficiency 60 or 72-cell panels to generate far more kWh in a year than the building will consume in the same year, but the problem is storage for when the sun isn't shining. It's easy to produce 1600kWh/month from solar panels on a roof, if your house only consumes 1200-1400kWh/month, but you need to use many of your 1200-1400 kWh/month at night.

Off grid energy storage has been severely hampered by the lifecycle cost of $ per kWh stored. Lead acid batteries suck, lithium ion/liPo has until very recently been very expensive in $/kWh. Other energy storage systems have been limited in scale or are only feasible at very specific places, such as large scale pumped-storage hydroelectricity.

If the cost of $$$/kWh stored comes down far enough, it will be entirely possible to build a home that has no connection to the electrical grid at all. Assume this prototypical home is in an American city where electricity from the grid costs 8 cents per kWh. If you make a refrigerator sized battery low enough cost it may be possible with TODAY's cost of solar panels to have a lifecycle cost of 6 cents per kWh consumed. While simultaneously having the effect of making that home energy-independent from the grid and the whole thing being its own immense UPS.

The powerwall is the first step towards this.


Flow Batteries[1]!

They work (as in: are being used in Africa & South America to power mobile networks). Also my (office) building is powered by one.

They don't cost much more than lead-acid

They last much, much longer than lead-acid or lithium*

There is no limit to the number of power cycles(!!) and they can be deep-discharged.

They do have disadvantages - they aren't suitable for cars, and are currently fairly noisy when cycling, and have lower power density than lithium* batteries. They also need to be periodically complete discharged (although most have software to make sure each individual cell does this as part of the normal use)

Disclaimer: An investor in Redflow owns my building (hence the power source)[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_battery

[2] http://redflow.com/


167 Wh/l = 167kWh per cubic metre, say 16 hours of no sun, 16kW output at night, seems reasonable


167Wh/l is a relatively recent prototype, Redflow uses the older zinc-bromide which is only around 70Wh/l.


Yep. Next time someone claims base load means renewables don't work do that math. Also point to the experience in developing countries where they don't have reliable base load, yet have similar uptime.


Wind provides base load anyway, always windy somewhere


That's a bad argument. Arbitrary energy transportation is not a solved problem. Power grids are designed to deliver from power plants to the consumers.


Interesting, haven't heard about such batteries being commercially sold. Any idea who sells those for private consumers in Europe?


Not sure about the private consumer part in Europe, but following seems to be in Austria:

http://www.bluesky-energy.eu/project/redflow-zinc-bromide-ba...


I believe Redflow will have a consumer offering this year, (under another brand). Not sure about European availability.


> Flow Batteries[1]!

From the wikipedia article, it appears that typical flow batteries only reach 10% to 20% of lithium polymer's power density.

That means that it would take a flow battery that weights 5 to 10 times as the standard lithium polymer batteries that equip a Tesla/Nissan Leaf/whatever electric car you imagine to deliver the same power.


Energy STORAGE is a huge bottleneck issue for anyone that follows renewable energy news as well

Very true, but, interestingly, large-scale electric vehicle adoption may help this: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/05/09/3775606/used-sec... as lightly used car batteries may cease being attractive for use in cars but be very attractive in terms of base-load storage.


Absolutely. It's all about the $/kWh stored. A "worn out" electric car battery might have only 70% of its cycle depth/capacity remaining compared to when it was new, but if the battery packs can be acquired for very cheap, that doesn't matter so much.

There is a guy with videos on youtube who has purchased battery packs from crashed Tesla Model S and retrofitted an old volkswagon bus for 100+ mile EV range.


I would like to know more! Is this the incident in question?

http://insideevs.com/diy-project-salvaged-tesla-model-s-to-u...

"Joe’s “donor” Model S will be brought back to life by Otmar in the form of a stretched Volkswagen Vanagon called Strechla.

The Vanagon will exist only on the outside. On the inside, underside and everywhere in between, you’ll find Model S."

edit: added more words


it's this guy:

https://www.youtube.com/user/jehugarcia/videos

scroll down a bit into the older videos and you will see the VW.


Yes. He also had some packs made from salvaged battery cells.

And a battery trailer, inspected by the DMV.


The problem is that current batteries wear down on every charge cycle. This means that by charging and dis-charging a battery, it loses value, which means that there is a cost for each charge cycle.

I am too lazy to put numbers on this, but this cost is currently much too high to make it economically viable to use car batteries for energy storage.


That is a true statement. However, you should not compare car batteries (usually LiFePo, LiMn or whatever it is Tesla uses) with standard laptop batteries.

Electric car batteries can endure thousands of full cycles before their useful capacity drops down to 80%. That figure can be as high as tens of thousands, depending on who you ask.

Suprisingly, for LiMn, temperature and age have a much greater effect on lifetime than cycles.


2,000 cycles sounds great, but at just once per day that's only 5.5 years. Grid storage needs to be really cheap AND last for 20-50 years. Which is why capacitors and pumped hydro are both used. Capacitors can discharge 1,000's of times a day to maintain the proper wave form and hydro can discharge 1-3 times a day to handle changing demand.

PS: The real advantage of hydro is you can invest in capacity or peak load as more or less separate things.


2,000 cycles sounds great, but at just once per day that's only 5.5 years. Grid storage needs to be really cheap AND last for 20-50 years.

5.5 years is about the lifespan of servers in a datacenter. What's wrong with managing energy storage the way we manage datacenters? We don't expect servers to last 20-50 years. And no doubt, as battery tech improves, the lifespan will improve too. But the infrastructure to get good storage needs to start somewhere. Run them as datacenters for now while waiting for battery tech to get better.


It's just a question of cost. If it's cheap and lasts for 50 years, great. If it's 1/8 the cost and lasts for 5.5 years that also works. But battery's are still a long way from cheap let alone 1/8th of cheap.

Don't forget computer investment has long operated under the assumption of rapidly declining prices. With that slowing data centers may go to a 10+ year cycle.


Controlling for state of charge, temperature and less deep cycles, it is likely that we can achieve your figures given current tech. The question is the price. If you are not fully using them, then you need more batteries. At which point it becomes economical requires some guesses and heavy number crunching.

I agree with you on hydro, gravitational storage is relatively simple to do. But it takes space. Batteries could make more sense for microgrids.


That's fine, though. If your car that used to do 300 miles on a charge can only do 200, you'll probably replace it.

That 200 mile charge may still be perfectly usable in a house, particularly given you can fit a couple cars worth into your basement without issues. The resulting battery cluster doesn't have to be particularly compact or light-weight.


Car applications care about kilograms per kWh stored, and cubic volume per kWh stored. Stationary batteries, not so much.


Not as much, yes, but it's still important. Space is quite valuable even in a normal household.


Space is only at a premium because it costs more to have more space.

The real question is "how much space are you willing to sacrifice for energy self-sufficiency?"

In the UK, electric bills hover around $1200 a year for electric/gas households and $2000 a year for full electric.

Renewable households will have a HUGE potential market.

U.K. Residential market is 26 million houses. Theoretical price point of $1500 dollars (one years energy cost) = 39 billion dollar market not including the massive combined secondary services in maintenance, installation training providers, parts, etc.

USA residential would be 6 times that and the provision of renewables to corporates is almost incalculable.

It's an entirely new economic ecosystem divorced from petrochemical.

It a price point higher than $3000 dollars we are getting into a market cap of many trillions worldwide.


IF you can get a solar system and batteries for £1k, then that starts to look feasible. But that's a big if.

I had a 3.8kW solar system put in for £5k last year and have yet to really run the numbers on savings; the payback period is 10 years of feed-in tariff cheques. If I went off-grid that would be reduced. I don't really see why I'd want to go off-grid for its own sake, I'd rather better explore the possibilities of net metering and sharing power with the rest of the city.


If you continue to cycle the batteries as deeply as you were in the car this might be true but if you're willing to charge and discharge slower as well as cycle shallower the gain in life for a Li-ion battery is quite remarkable. Obviously you need more batteries but in general energy storage is just less harsh to batteries than use in cars.


> but you need to use many of your 1200-1400 kWh/month at night

As air conditioning, but there are other solutions! Ice has neigh-infinite charge/discharge cycles and big institutions have been doing this for years. If your "campus" is more than a few hundred tons of AC it's probably cooled by ice.

It's not been terribly economical to do this at a small scale but as solar gets cheaper and batteries don't there are people working on the problem.

https://www.ice-energy.com/technology/


Roughly the same dynamics that relate cloud apps vs self hosted apps to reliability relates solar power and grid power to reliability. The grid is - for now - the cheapest battery there is, and it gives you immediate redundancy. It will be far more reliable than anything you install on your roof and in your basement on a per-case basis, even if a grid outage takes down your whole neighborhood, town, or even country.

Batteries, at whatever price you pay for them are a really in-efficient way to store and retrieve energy compared to the grid.


The thing is, the grid from the perspective of an average residential user is actually not that reliable. In many places in the Pacific Northwest where trees fall on power lines in winter storms the grid does not meet five nines reliability (52 minutes or less outage per year). A properly implemented whole-building off grid battery system and a few inverters running in parallel can be much more reliable than this. The grid is subject to all sorts of failure modes from trees, landslides, flooded vaults and things involving the environment, while a PV system has no moving parts (perhaps except from a ventilation fan in an inverter), and a larger set up can be run with several inverters in parallel providing AC for a building.


If you're still using above ground power lines for local distribution then that definitely would make a difference when it comes to reliability. Just like in Northern Ontario where our solar/wind homebrew solution was a lot more reliable than the local grid. Even so, in a developed country that's a choice, not a necessity.


Isn't it really cloudy in the Pacific Northwest during winter?


How do the LiFePo batteries used in current electric cars change the equation? Not so great energy density, but can withstand an immense number of cycles.


Conversion losses and cost / KWh are the problem nowadays, not the number of cycles, that's getting to the point where it is still a factor but not the factor.


we have two options here: We either improve the power grid all around the world, so whenever it's dark in one side of the planet, the other side, sunny, feeds the darker part; or we start investing heavier on other renewable sources not depending on the sun, to provide the required energy for those nights and cold evenings in the the winter months.


This is one of the most optimistic and best things I have read in weeks.

+1


> Health Care, for example, is one of those things where, if you're not thinking about supply, spending more money just makes everything more expensive.

If you haven't, I highly recommend Paul Starr's Social Transformation of American Medicine. The number of MD medical school seats in the US has remained at about 16k-17k for 100 years.

https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/06/specials/starr-medici...


do you think that if there were 10x as many doctors magically hospitals would charge you any less for your stay? or that pharmaceutical companies would charge you any less for their drugs?


> do you think that if there were 10x as many doctors magically hospitals would charge you any less for your stay?

Eventually, yes.

All those unemployed doctors are more likely to settle for working for a cheap hospital and earn 'only' ~$150k than switch careers or stay home on welfare. This would eventually decrease the cost of basic care.


No, for the same reason that I don't think increasing the battery supply will reduce the cost of leather seats. I do, however, think that if there were 10x as many doctors, my checkups would cost less (in both time and money) and my medical procedures would cost less.


I think fundamentally issue is how much expense is okay for healthcare. Current prevailing thought is whatever it takes.

With consolidation of hospitals and other healthcare facilities: less options coupled with desire that even the most expensive healthcare procedures must be available to all irrespective of individual affordability, we are going to have ever increasing healthcare costs.


When stimulus is suggested in a Keynesian context, it is not to create new factories, etc. It is to provide demand to fully utilize the productive capacity which the economy already has, but which is not currently being used because of lack of demand.


What if the spare capacity is for factory building factories (FactoryImplFactory for the Java programmers in the audience)?


Lol, you nut!


Well Musk has often claimed that the cost of batteries doesn't magically go down due to big new innovations like we've seen in some other industries. Rather it's due to constant iterations, making small improvements, and economies of scale. Particularly that latter part is hugely important and hasn't been much of a factor yet in the specialised market that is car batteries. And that's why they're building a gigantic factory, because producing at scale can really do a lot to push the price of batteries down. But the notion that this is somehow unrelated to money is kind of silly, this is exactly the type of thing you could fix by throwing lots of money at it. The very reason they couldn't do it sooner because there was no cashflow to finance such a massive project.


It's a function of both $ & time. You can't spend a trillion and build a Gigafactory in 1 day even though you are spending 200X the amount of money.


Bingo! This reminds me of the fallacy of the mythical man month which I often compare to pregnancy in women. With 9 women, you can't have a baby any faster. The gigafactory is monstrous (second largest building by square footage in the world I believe) and is doing some quite new things. This requires R&D and no matter how you skin it, that requires time, often in serial.


Fortune 500 are all sitting on record amounts cash right now, they apparently see no place to invest it profitably.

The thinking behind trying to pump up demand is that if people are buying more, the Fortune 500 will put that money to work selling things.

Traditional supply-side economics is basically "shove money into those companies however possible".. but they're already sitting on piles of cash and doing nothing with it. How does more of that help?


> Fortune 500 are all sitting on record amounts cash right now

Are you trying to tell me that the money isn't trickling down to the underpaid employees working for those companies? LIES.


Tesla consumes a small fraction of global lithium-ion battery production. When the overall market is much larger than the marginal consumption, the assumption that offering more money increases local supply holds perfectly well. Even if you assume that Tesla is demanding 5% of the battery market which would be an outside estimate that's still well within the region where paying more will get you more.


Worldwide production of lithium-ion batteries in 2013 was around 35GWh. The current rate is somewhat higher, I can't quite find how much.

Tesla is currently producing around 100,000 cars/year. Each car has about 80kWh of battery on average (the options right now are 75 or 90), so that's about 8GWh. If they meet their goal of 400,000 Model 3s produced in 2018, assuming 55kWh of battery for those cars, that's 22GWh, not counting what goes into continuing Model S and Model X production. I'm not sure it's as small a fraction of global production as you say.

One of the statistics they like to quote about their Gigafactory is that its final production will equal the total global production by the industry when construction started in 2013.


I had to do some calculation on the numbers. Gigafactory promise roughly 150GWh when in goes full online. I was wonder how could a SINGLE electric car company consumes so much batteries? More then Phones?

It turns out even with 2Billion Phones at 5Wh, a conservative estimate, we are only at 10GWh. Billion Phones!, 10GWh!, 5 times more then the World Capacity in 2013 from 1 Factory!

All these numbers and scales are so mind bogglingly huge that i fail to comprehend.


It's pretty cool how much different the scale is with electric cars versus the sorts of batteries we're used to.

I frequently see people discussing range impacts based on a complete misunderstanding of the magnitudes involved. They'll ask about how much range you'd expect to lose from running a dashcam or charging a phone, or recommend turning off headlights to conserve energy.

And of course I can't blame them at all. We're used to battery-powered devices where things like screen brightness are critical to battery life.

But then you run the numbers, and realize that a fully-charged Tesla could run the headlights for over a month before draining the battery, or that it could charge an iPhone 20,000 times....


JB Straubel just mentioned at the annual Tesla shareholder meeting they're now expecting to produce 150GW of storage capacity a year at the Gigafactory, split between vehicles and energy storage based on demand for both.


Just for clarification, Tesla's initial estimates for Gigafactory production was 35GW/year at the cell level and 50GW/year at the pack level (with some cells produced by other suppliers). At the shareholder meeting they speculated they could 3x those numbers with the current Gigafactory. This is at full production, which is years away.


GWh right?


That analysis is sort of ridiculous. On the numerator you're using a number much higher than the number of cars Tesla has ever produced in a year. On the denominator you're using a years-old size of a rapidly growing market for batteries.


How do you think that decisions are made under uncertainty? You can't always wait until you have very solid numbers to come up with an analysis. It's not "ridiculous" to come up with an order of magnitude estimate when better information is unavailable, it's a critical step in solving new problems.

A more productive criticism would have been to offer an improvement, rather than to just point to the imperfections in an attempt to estimate the future impact of a new technology.

edit: added second paragraph


OK, but in 2016 we don't have to guess how many cars Tesla built in 2015. It's historical fact.


What is it? You could actually improve the estimate rather than /just/ pointing out that it has flaws. And your original criticism was vague. At least this one moves things forward.

After a quick Google search, the number of vehicles Tesla sold in 2015 does in fact seem to be a bit uncertain. It seems they sold over 50,000 vehicles, but I've not found a more precise number, in a few minutes of looking.

Sales from previous years seem to be:

2012 - 2,650

2013 - 22,477

2014 - 31,655

2015- ~50,000

though I got these numbers from a quora post, so take them with an adequately large dose of salt.

edit: added google findings, tweaked wording to be more specific


There is no reason to guess at these numbers OR to Google for other people's guesses. The sales figures to 5 significant digits are in Tesla's 10-K report. For example:

During 2015, we achieved significant efficiencies in Model S production and produced 14,037 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2015. We began production of Model X in the third quarter of 2015. We plan to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 new Model S and Model X vehicles in 2016.


So... we're about where we were at with the very first estimate...

Precision isn't particularly helpful for this sort of rough projection. Which highlights that your original criticism wasn't particularly productive.

clarification: In claiming that we're about where we started, I'm saying that a 10-20% correction doesn't significantly impact a rough order of magnitude estimation. The estimate was in the precision bounds of its stated goal. Therefore the estimate wasn't "ridiculous" at all, or at least, you haven't shown that it was.


That's not why I thought it was ridiculous. I said it was ridiculous for using projected 2016 Tesla production and dividing that by actual 2013 battery production, when battery production is rapidly expanding. You either have to use 2016 projected battery production on the denominator, or actual 2013 Tesla production (a number very close to zero) on the numerator.


You've been criticizing the rough order of magnitude estimate for an hour and still haven't offered a significant improvement. I find that more more ridiculous. If the improvement is so obvious that not including it is ridiculous, then why not just produce the improvement you're talking about?

Note: This is rough, back of the envelope projection meant to improve on a 5% figure that someone pulled out of the air.


I think you're confused. _I_ am the one who said 5% and I think it's a reasonable working number. mikeash then replied, saying that Tesla will consume 22GWh (2018) and the battery market is only 35GWh/year (2013), implying that Tesla's share is so large it violates normal rules of market liquidity. Then I objected to that implication.


I don't think 5% is right. You seemed to think that 30% year-over-year growth in the industry was a reasonable estimate. If it was 35GWh/year in 2013 then that puts it at about 77GWh today and 130GWh in 2018. That puts Tesla at around 10% of total production now, and 23% in 2018.

I can't figure out which part of this you object to. You seem to accept all the numbers, but continue to argue about the shape of the box they're presented in.


I'll spot you 10%, but I think that's still within the realm of linear market behavior. I really don't agree with the original idea (now far upthread) that it required a visionary to lay the path for making all of Tesla's batteries. There are numerous firms around the world totally dedicated to market forecasts for major industries like batteries, car parts, and raw materials.


That's fine, I just objected to the "small fraction" bit, not the rest.


> I think you're confused.

How delightfully condescending of you. Yes, I didn't realize that the 5% number came from you, that hardly makes me "confused". Taking that into light, it's not obvious to me how a very rough back of the envelop projection is significantly more ridiculous than a number pulled out of thin air. My whole problem is that you called it ridiculous when it was clearly meant to be a rough order of magnitude projection. You can't really criticize a number pulled out of the air, because it goes without any attempt at justification. But a back of the envelop calculation can be improved in a piece-wise fashion to hone in on a better result. So any attempt to model a phenomenon (as long as it doesn't come with unjustified claims of precision and certainty) is an improvement over a number pulled out of the air. But that process is short circuited when people just dismiss the projection out of hand as you did. This is why I appealed for an improvement in my first comment. It's really easy to shit on someone else's effort, but it is completely unproductive. If you see a problem, then fix it. Then you're adding to the conversation, rather than just shitting on a little bit of effort someone put out there.


I wouldn't have taken the "I think you're confused" to be condescending. I mean I wouldn't interpret it as condescending and I don't think it was meant in that way.


How much do you think the industry has grown since 2013? How much do you think it will grow by 2018? Even if each one is a doubling, Tesla's part is pretty significant.


It's tough to get hard data but a 20-30% CAGR from 2013 to the present time seems like a reasonable guess.


Sounds reasonable to me as well. I won't claim to have great numbers, just trying to compare the rough magnitudes.


> Worldwide production of lithium-ion batteries in 2013 was around 35GWh

I don't think measuring it in terms of GWh is the best way to go about it, because a huge number of lithium ion batteries manufactured are NOT the type Tesla needs to use. Their battery packs are composed of 18650 size cylindrical cells.

Vast amounts of LiIon batteries manufactured today are pouch/flat type cells for laptops, tablets, mobile phones and other portable consumer electronics.

I would be very curious to see a number of the total estimated quantity of high-capacity 18650 cells manufactured worldwide in one year vs. the number of 18650 cells consumed by Tesla.


This ties neatly into another common economic fallacy: That capital is homogenous. Highly productive capital equipment is specialized, and requires long lead times for its production. It cannot quickly be repurposed for other uses. Thus, it's important that demand is genuine and not the result of "stimulus" that will waste a lot of capital equipment when stimulus is withdrawn.


That's why you use stimulus to fill in short periods of slack up to the baseline economic capacity, but not on top. In other words, why you apply stimulus counter-cyclically. It's a good point about stimulus spending within a particular part of the economy, though.


Tesla hasn't sold 100,000 cars in their entire history. Last year they did sell 50,000 cars. Think they'll double that this year?

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/18/how-many-ve...


They've sold well over 100,000 cars. The current total is around 140,000. They project 80,000 or 90,000 this year, with a slow start, so I think their current rate is 100,000 if not higher.


Do their sales in the first 5 months of 2016 somehow not count?


I was looking at the wrong data. At any rate, the point is that Tesla is trying to ramp up production very fast. Going from 50,000 to 100,000 cars sounds difficult in 12 months, while maintaining quality.


Going from 2,700 to 22,000 in 12 months sounds difficult too, as does going from 22,000 to 32,000 and from 32,000 to 50,000.


Unless they have spent the past couple of years planning and preparing to up their capacity..


How small a fraction? Tesla is expected to produce between 80,000 and 90,000 Model S and X this year. With 80 Kwh battery pack on average (my guess), Tesla currently consumes 6.4 Gwh of Lithium-ion battery.

Back in 2013, the global production was estimated to be 35 Gwh (cf. Gigafactory announcement presentation).

How much has it grown in the past 3 years?


Eyeballing the chart in the article, and assuming kWh/car to have remained constant: by a factor of about 6.

The article also mentions 70% growth in the last year. Assuming equal growth in the other years, It would be about a factor of 5.


> I find it amusing to see so many people questioning why Tesla didn't release a cheap Tesla sooner. The answer is: They don't have the batteries to do that. That's why they are building the GigaFactory.

Interestingly (for me), when I leased my leaf the sales guy was talking about how Nissan could make a car with a much better range, but chose not to. It was amusing hearing it from a (otherwise backwards) dealership.

It makes sense, of course. What I keep wondering is, if energy density (not just cost) increases significantly in the future, couldn't existing electric vehicles be retrofitted with "aftermarket" cells? Currently, resale value is pretty low, mostly due to battery concerns (both longevity - which I think is unfounded - and hopes of better tech). But, with otherwise so low maintenance costs, I figure these cars could have a pretty long life.


> Interestingly (for me), when I leased my leaf the sales guy was talking about how Nissan could make a car with a much better range, but chose not to

Wait, what? How did he justify that? That sounds like saying Apple could easily make a laptop with much better battery life but chose not to. Why would they ever do that?


Apple could easily make a laptop with better battery - it would just be bigger, heavier and more expensive.

Elon Musk claims the same thing about Tesla - that he could easily increase the range on Tesla's cars if they wanted to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsixsRI-Sz4 . But with a range of ~300 miles he thinks they're fine.


It's like when apple got to 7+ hours with battery life, their laptops started getting drastically smaller instead of continuing to have longer lasting batteries. I'd like to have a 400 mile tesla, but I'd like to have a tesla that doesn't weigh 40 tons first.


The current MacBook pro has with about 100Wh the largest battery you are allowed to carry onto airplanes - any larger battery would prohibit it traveling by air. So there is a very good reason not to make the battery any larger.


For the sake of argument, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, HP, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba are among the manufacturers that have managed to release a ~13" laptops with Skylake processors, and Apple still may not next week. They also haven't made any meaningful updates to the workstation Mac Pro since 2013.


I guess he meant that Nissan could just put more battery cells in the car, at the expense of space. Fill the boot with batteries, that kind of thing.


They do have schemes where you buy the car but lease the battery, you'd hope the cost reductions in manufacturing the batteries, and maintaining the battery fleet, would lead to reduced costs for the consumer. Might be a forlorn hope, though.

But I agree, if I was buying an electric car, a standardized battery would be a huge draw.


Building the cheap mass market EV was what we tried in Norway. An utter failure. What it meant was a boring, underpowered car at a high price. Exactly the ugly little cars which EVs where known as. Elon Musk understood you had to start at the high end with low volume and high margin to fund your way to the mass market car.


Ah, the Th!nk. Well well, someone had to learn the hard lessons, so others can learn from them.

Although, learn? It's easy to look at things in retrospect and say this billionaire was correct - but one might be committing the Texas sharpshooter error then. Vinod Khosla bet heavily on bioethanol over electric cars.


I think a car that is worse than average is a significantly different thing than a car that is average.


That's proving too much. It's true that factories don't build themselves automatically. But they do require funding. Unless someone predicts demand for a product, they won't write the check, and the people who actually do the work don't get hired.

Better to say that demand is necessary but not always sufficient. Proven demand is a great motivator, but the manufacturers may require a lot of lead time if it's unexpected.


Business is about risk though. The entrepreneur envisions a demand for a product and then builds the capacity to fulfill that demand. If the investment in production capacity were risk free there would be much more capital available for that endeavor. Who would make the investment risk free though? The government? Or in the case of our recent housing bubble catalyzed by the brave new financial world, some thinly capitalized derivatives underwriter?

China has much more intervention in their economy to do this sort of thing, with the banks acting as partially privatized central planning. The role of government in economic planning is certainly an area for policy wonks to carefully consider. In a democracy there's a bit too much incentive for the public to, as Marx noted, vote themselves money from the public treasury.


> fallacy is that any amount of money can fix anything.

That's exactly why I started http://openbatt.org The problem exists partly because incremental knowledge gains, such as additive formulas, are hard to trade.


Chinese cells are like illicit drugs: quality varies widely and it's hard to know what someone is getting. I bought 4 laptop batteries from Amazon and all had overstated capacities of the 18650 chemistries... some had 2000 mAh (10% overstated), others 1800 (22% overstated) , when the 4s3p packs were marked "8800 mAh." I tested the cells individually, and they came out to about 85-99% of spec. The problem is also in the manufacturing because I have zero confidence in these cells not development crystals under anything more than 0.2C dis/charge and lower temperatures.

I think we need an independent UL/CE for evaluating and lifecycle testing and certifying cells are less likely to short out or die prematurely by digging deep into how a battery is made against its specifications, conducting MTTF tests and many other tests and approaches for holistic grading and improvements. Otherwise, fake and shoddy cells will continue to flood the market with phony and dangerous goods. It can't be leveraged as a bureaucratic industry or incumbent protectionism, but to keep standards high as are for all other wall-powered devices. This will knock players whom can't or won't make good products out of the supply-chain, but they deserve it.


There is significant effort (and progress) in standardizing and contrasting test methods [1]. This usually constitues a good first step in a market of lemons. [1] http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/09/f18/es_cunningham...


Yes, exactly this. And it applies in many things, such as guaranteed basic income (what would that do to the money supply, to the labor supply, etc). Too many times we think of specific scenarios but those are misleading unless you take the big picture and all its moving pieces into account.


To claim that we do not have the industrial supply to meet a basic income of the poverty level (at least in the US) is to also say we do not have the housing or food to sustain ~300 million people above the poverty level.

For the nation that is supposed to be the foremost in the world, and has been supposed to be for a century and a half, if that is true, all our talk of technological innovation and futurism is for naught, because we cannot even house and clothe everyone in our collectively agreed upon minimum possible conditions.


Housing, feeding and clothing everyone is one thing. Doing so while telling all of those people that they also do not need to work is quite different. Having just 10% of the current workforce drop out would have huge repercussions. The GDP drop might make it so we can no longer afford it. Or as I've said before, everyone having more money with no increase in goods and services will create serious inflation.

My point is systemic changes have to be looked at as a whole system. An economy and 300 million lives is very complex.


Won't the next problem be the geopolitics of lithium?

I guess what drives the price of batteries is the fabrication process?


I'll throw my $0.02 in here, I think the issue with lithium is price spikes due to production capacity not keeping up with demand.


Well, if they had more money they could build two gigafactories. So money can definitely help them scale up.


> We could use more supply side thinking about very large problems that the economy faces

What do you mean by this? I was under the impression that "supply side economics" meant throwing money at your problem to solve it (and removing regulation). That sounds like it's exactly what you're arguing against.


Tesla is going to be a gigantic company one day.

Disclaimer: I own one (Model S P85+, about 2 years old). And everyone I let drive it (yes, I am crazy enough to do that... As a fan who pushes the bleeding edge, it's important to share the experience in order to change minds... Anyway, my insurance covers me even when I'm a passenger!) cannot stop talking about it afterwards. I actually think Tesla's market is limited right now not only by the people who can't afford one, but by the people who haven't even had the opportunity to drive one yet and have thus not yet had their eyes opened...

Driving is believing. If you have any opportunity at all to experience driving one... Do not hesitate. It makes everything else feel like a noisy clunker.

The older guys I let drive it, like the real car guys of old... they have the best reactions. The look of shock and disbelief on their faces... The stories they start telling about their first muscle cars... The whooping and "OH MY GOD"'s and whatnot... It's totally awesome


I test drove one. Just driving it normally (as I would any high-performance sports car), I scared the hell out of the sales lady. It's the best-engineered car I've ever driven. The Germans are going to have to up their game because of Tesla.


My favorite demo of the Tesla's impressive engineering is the race of a Tesla X against an Alfa Romeo, with the Tesla pulling a trailer with another Alfa Romeo.

http://electrek.co/2016/03/21/tesla-drag-race-alfa-romeo-vs-...


How do you deal with the 8-year limited lifetime? I evaluate a Tesla at 4x the cost of a normal car: I can get a new car for €15k lasting 15 years with a lively second market, Teslas are ~€30k, with free supercharger network, and 8 years warranty but no road license after that, and no second-hand market for spare pieces. Have you calculated the total cost of ownership (including insurance and free petrol) and how did it compete with other cars?


First of all, cars are not investments, they depreciate very rapidly. So if you're already looking at the numbers when it comes to buying a Tesla, you should just not buy any car, period. Or buy a used one that will depreciate the least in dollar value. If you buy a Tesla, you expect to lose money on it, and if you're in that market, the precise amount of the loss is not as important.

What I can say with certainty is that the free charging is nice, and that brushless electric motors have historically had extremely long run times before they break down. And by the time it is time to replace the battery, it will be extremely cheaper and likely much higher capacity and allowing for a higher charge rate. That is all based on extrapolating current trends in battery technology.

Lastly, you're getting a car that will outperform cars that cost more than twice as much. Is that a steal? I guess it's all relative.

The intangible value proposition is the experience of driving and owning one.

I don't know anything about the eight year lifecycle thing, but historically, Tesla has treated past owners of its cars very well, such as offering owners of their first car a battery upgrade and things like that.

I think Musk is smart enough to know that pissing off well-heeled customers is not a good long term business proposition. Whatever you've heard about "8 years and then dead" is probably hysteria or FUD


Can you elaborate on the 8-year limited lifetime? I've never heard anyone mention anything about that before, and "but no road license after that" almost makes it sound like it's a legal thing rather than a physical/practical thing.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11233898

Basically you can drive a Tesla past 8 years, but after any repair, it can only be re-validated for the road by Tesla. Given Tesla has no warranty after 8 years and no published pricing yet for servicing after 8 years, we don't know whether we'll be able to have a car revalidated, let alone repaired.


caution. 1. a tesla accessory site. 2. the report is full of projections and hard to understand what is wishful and what is not. 3. GM: $145/kw Oct 2015 - Tesla $100/kw in 2020, how is Tesla killing it?


Tesla needs more than just steady supply of cheap batteries to make it. As a company it's boom or bust. Musk is extremely bold. Many investors forget that bold=risk.

1. Aggressive cash-negative growth. Tesla is not going to make profits with Model 3. Currently Tesla needs more capital to finance future losses instead of than future returns. Musk has wooed many investors that may not be as patient as they should. Musk estimates that Tesla will make profit in 2020, but it's not looking good.

2. No sustainable competitive advantage in technology. Most of the important intellectual property is owned by Panasonic. Cars are nice and different, but they have suffered from reliability problems. Tesla's warranty costs are also higher than its competitors ($2,000 in warranty accruals and $1,000 on repairs per vehicle in last year).

3. Tesla is small manufacturer and it has fragile and stretched supply chain (Tesla manufactures tens of thousands of cars, competitors manufacture millions). Subcontractors are not going to squeeze their profit margins for Tesla.

Even if his dream "all cars will be electric" will become true, Tesla as a company is not necessarily the winning bet.


Agree it's a puff piece, but the full quote you took that from is "General Motors announced that battery costs for its 2016 Chevrolet Bolt had fallen to USD 145/kWh by October 2015, and that it hopes to reduce costs below the USD 100/kWh mark by 2022 (GM, 2015, EV Obsession, 2015). The electric car manufacturer Tesla aims to break the USD 100/kWh mark by 2020 (HybridCARS, 2015)."

Also, in reading some of the background on the numbers, journalists seem to be failing (surprise!) to distinguish between $/kWh per battery cell vs battery pack.


Musk isn't that great at predicting when will the future happen(he's better at predicting general trends), probably partially because stock pumping PR is critical to his biz.


To some extent stock pumping PR funds Tesla, which in turn provides them easier capital for funding the GigaFactory, which rationalizes the PR. It's only Theranos if you don't deliver.


> It's only Theranos if you don't deliver.

Indeed; last time I checked, Tesla is shipping working cars and SpaceX is successfully putting satellites into orbit/delivering supplies to the ISS.


Not just shipping working cars, but consistently growing production by 40%+ per year.


That's sort of exactly how it is supposed to work.


Purely speculating here, but once the gigafactory is operational they'll unveil the massive trick up their sleeve - Musk will announce new custom cells based on high density sodium-ion technology. Tesla will become a world leader as an energy company rather than an automative one.


Musk has said before they monitor battery developments, but that he hasn't seen anything to catch his eye so far. Even Musk would be insane to switch the Gigafactory to a new, unproven battery chemistry. Plus, sodium-ion batteries are heavier than lithium-ion, so they're (probably) unsuitable for cars. Possible for Powerwalls though perhaps or a hypothetical Tesla truck where weight is less of a consideration.


Is this speculation? Or is it grounded in some facts?


US$145 / kWh -- GM's late 2015 price for Volt / Bolt power -- is OK.

But the differential in price, in New England where I live, between peak and offpeak electricity, is US$0.027 (2.7 cents) per kWh. I worked it out: my investment in a battery setup at those rates would take about 17 years to pay off: far too long.

If we want this to work, we need a smart grid: a grid that can announce pricing based on current costs. Then we need baseload electricity costs (hydro, nuclear, gas, coal) to be significantly lower than peakload (fuel oil, Storm-King style pumped gravity storage) costs.

The smarts for a household energy storage system wouldn't be hard to work out IF the grid were smart enough to advertise present costs, and meters were smart enough to bill for present costs. My Power Wall could charge with cheap power and run my lights during a nasty summer brownout.

I understand they're experimenting in Europe with announcing prices using the FM radio sub channels now used to display song names. That's interesting.


The real time electricity price for several states is published.[1] Sounds like you need a smart device not a smart grid.

Lots of utilities have adopted smart meters, Ontario and British Columbia certainly have. I don't know as much about the states.

1: http://www.nyiso.com/public/markets_operations/market_data/p...


Hear, hear! Be very skeptical when an industry wants to go from dumb to "smart." They want you to remain captive. They want to resist margin pressure as they get ridiculously past merely "mature." They want to resist becoming the transitional backup system for a "smart edge." Newly built grids, and peak capacity will be lighter, cheaper, and local. These trends will be spotted in developing nations first, where the grid providers are unable to keep up with new demand, but they will hit mature grids, too, because they will cost less.


4x drop in battery prices, (or) 5x increase in density in only 8 years. Pretty damn good for batteries that "aren't following Moore's Law", something most battery-related articles are quick to remind us. Hopefully, this continues for at least another decade, which should make EVs more than competitive with ICE cars.


Batteries are the secret to most of the cool "sci-fi" tech we all want but currently can't have.


Hmm. I think fusion is more important, but I'll take what I can get.


We have fusion, 1 AU away. Utility PV gives us an EROEI or around 11. That's good enough, such that a focus on storing the output trumps the development of more abundant local production.


The sci-fi I'm most interested is a lot more distant than 1 AU.


Not so much batteries, but "energy storage" in general. Batteries being one very important type of energy storage.

If photovoltaics and/or wind become extremely cheap, to the point where the cost is 1 cent/kilowatt-hour, it would even be economical to crack hydrogen from seawater via electrolysis (a process that consumes vast amounts of electricity) and use hydrogen as storage.


That is indeed very good progress.

Elon Musk mentioned recently that he expects a yearly capacity increase of 5% for the foreseeable future.


I think that's extremely conservative, even if you don't consider the gigafactory. He said years ago that the rate of improvement in density would be 6-8% per year, but clearly it's been much better than that - more like a 20% increase in density or a 15% drop in price per year, for the past 8 years.


Between this and the projected increase in PV solar efficiency, drop in cost and toxicity of manufacture... I don't think I've felt this kind of cautious optimism for a renewable energy infrastructure before.


Its almost like we're going to fix the climate change issue, slowly (ramping up quickly)....by sheer luck of technological advancement.


> Its almost like we're going to fix the climate change issue, slowly (ramping up quickly)....by sheer luck of technological advancement.

Which is an argument made by those on the free-market side of the political spectrum—that technology will help us solve this problem more quickly and efficiently than central planning and energy austerity. As someone who favors free markets, I have gone out of my way to be an early adopter of electric cars (2008 for me) and home solar (2015 for me) because I want the free market to solve these issues. To be clear, I recognize that incentives such as tax breaks have facilitated this. I obviously take advantage of these programs, but I would be on board with electric cars and home solar even without the tax breaks.


As a free market proponent, I assume you support including the externalities of pollution from fossil fuels into their costs? Which would've made the cost of electric cars and renewables cheaper much sooner?


And don't forget the costs of all the overseas entanglements associated with securing fossil fuel supplies.


> As a free market proponent, I assume you support including the externalities of pollution from fossil fuels into their costs?

How do you even calculate that?

For you to calculate externalities, you'd need to be able to assign costs. What's the cost of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? You can't calculate something like that.

So let me answer with a simple NO. We don't need anything like that. Cleaner technologies are overtaking and will replace fossil fuels. Our energy generation technology has never been stagnant and it won't be now. We'll move on to the next thing soon enough.


You can absolutely calculate that. There is an entire sub-field of economics devoted to doing just that:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_economics

And it is pretty obviously the right way to think about the problem, if you spend two seconds considering it:

The environment is a public good. Which means that it is owned by all of us. Which means that when it is harmed, we have all lost something of value. Therefore, the people doing the harm owe us money in the same way that Subway owes you money if they accidentally put arsenic in their meatballs. Why do places like Subway so rarely have arsenic in their meatballs? Because it imposes an enormous cost on them, so they optimize their business to avoid that cost. If environmental pollution entailed similar costs, businesses would optimize those costs away (to the extent possible).

This is ultimately a far more effective solution than any regulation ever could be. It's just a matter of choosing the right price. Because then what you have is the ability for private individuals to make a living for themselves rooting out cheaters and suing them in court. The system becomes self-policing because everyone's monetary incentives are aligned with the environment, and it is all mediated by one very simple, elegant idea: property rights.

The environment is our collective property and right now private individuals and entities are destroying it for free. That is simple theft, and fixing the enforcement of those rights is the solution.


This is why I oppose free trade to some extent. Chine isn't only competing on the price of their labor; they're also competing on the price of their environment - pollution is simply cheaper there than in the US or EU. However, the difference is, their environment is our environment!

Personally, I would install transparent tariffs for the whole world - they would be based on the estimated cost of externalities depending on the laws in the country of origin, and go down as soon as said countries adopt (and credibly enforce) better environment protection laws.


Your solution will never actually work. Fact is, that so far in human history, if you want to get from poverty to being rich, you need to have significant pollution. But your solution it not really needed in the long run.

Luckily, the amount of pollution generally goes down as countries grow richer. China is doing it cleaner then Britain or the US did it back in the day.

We need Free Trade so that we can grow, growth will lead (on avg) to a cleaner environment. The next society can then maybe do it completely with clean energy.


> The environment is a public good. Which means that it is owned by all of us.

That not strictly speaking true. We all have a stake in it but we don't own it. Also 'the environment' is not a singular thing, lots of people own lots of different parts.

> Therefore, the people doing the harm owe us money in the same way that Subway owes you money if they accidentally put arsenic in their meatballs.

That might be true, but if their tiny bit of a harmful substance in every single sub, they do not have to pay reparations to each person. The amount of damage done, is so small that it does not it would not be enforced. The same problem exists with environmental economics.

> It's just a matter of choosing the right price.

Prices are never a choice. The need to emerge from human interaction and property rights.

I do however agree with me. The problem is how to slice up the environment in different property rights that can be enforced. This problem can often be solved on a local level, such as forest pollution. It is however far harder to do for things that are far larger, like oceans or the stratosphere.

However, such approaches if possible are to be preferred. Sadly the typical environmentalist (and Nonprofits) are anti-market and that is holding everybody back.


Coal is killing a million people a year right now. Is it really "soon enough"?

You can't precisely calculate the costs of the externalities, but you can estimate it decently. A tax based on a decent estimate would be far better than just saying "zero cost, everybody gets to pollute for free" and then trying to patch it up with regulations as we do now.


Without cheap energy in the form of coal, how many would die each year?


Do you mean compared to an alternative where people's energy comes from burning wood and dung, or one where energy comes from widespread solar, wind, and storage?


I mean the alternative that would exist today, absent coal.


As in, if coal had never been used for energy in human history? How is that relevant?


You misunderstand.


You could, I dunno... explain?

I guess you mean a world just like today, but coal power instantly evaporated? There would be mass chaos and death, but again I don't see the relevance.


You're being purposefully daft. A tax on coal would increase the price of coal. An increase in the price of coal would result in more DEATH. Not in the US, obviously, but in some 3rd world country where the price of energy used for heating delineates life and death. So he's asking, quite simply, how many people your good intentions will kill?


No, I don't understand what the guy is asking, for serious. If he wanted to talk about the consequences of a tax on coal, then he wouldn't have stated his hypothetical as "absent coal."


If you tax coal and make it expensive, people won't use it. They'll use X, whatever that is. Hence his comment "absent coal". Now that they're using X, which is more expensive than untaxed coal, some people won't be able to afford heating their hut/yurt/cave/whatever and will die.


Coal wouldn't disappear overnight even if a tax made it uncompetitive with other sources of electricity. There's a ton of infrastructure that would keep it going for quite a while. That's why I can't reconcile "today, absent coal" with this idea.

Anyway, to your point, I think there must be better ways to help poor people afford energy than to subsidize the electricity of wealthy people and industries. Set aside a small portion of the tax revenues for helping poor people pay for electricity. The important thing with taxing an externality is to capture the cost, what you do with the money matters much less.


> For you to calculate externalities, you'd need to be able to assign costs. What's the cost of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? You can't calculate something like that.

You are wrong.

http://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/pricing-carbon


Calculating harm is difficult (what price do you put on a refugee displaced from some now-unlivable region?), but one could instead calculate the cost of removing that CO2 from the atmosphere by whatever is currently the most economical means (aside from natural processes that happen without human intervention).

Realistically, though, it's more likely that the value of any carbon tax will not be calculated by some formula, but rather by what a handful of democratically-elected leaders deem is reasonable. Which might not be completely satisfying from a fairness point of view, but I think it's greatly preferable to not having a carbon tax at all (which is equivalent to saying, "quantifying harm is hard to determine, so we'll just pretend it's zero").


The cost is how much people would pay to prevent you for emitting it into their air.


Ignoring things because you can't measure them well or negotiate a price on them, isn't bad capitalism. It's just all round bad thinking.


The way I'd calculate it is to decide on a target for emissions, and progressively raise the tax until that target is hit.


This is an excellent point and a perspective I hope more free-market learning people (such as myself) come to appreciate. Although making externality influenced descisions in when factoring in your own energy expenditure and limited resource allocation, it may be a luxury of those of us in the 1st world and nearing the top of maslow's heirarchy.

Some climate change reducing habits can be cost-saving though. Such as biking vs cars, reducing meat consumption, long-term investments in solar power, etc.


I can't quite tell what you are trying to argue, because you acknowledge that government incentives have helped, yet you seem to be claiming that the success of solar was due to free market economics.

Just to set the record straight, the solar industry would not exist without government support. Nearly every company past and present has taken grant money from the DOE, or directly benefited from cash rebates or stimulus money. Local utilities in many states are required by local regulatory agencies to buyback excess solar power at retail prices, which for many regions is the difference between hitting the break even point in a reasonable time frame. And before the ITC (tax credit) was unexpectedly extended last year, companies were preparing to downsize considerably and were warning local politicians that without an extension, there would be massive layoffs in the industry.

With battery tech starting to become viable and with continuing efficiency improvements, we are getting closer to a point where solar might be able to compete on it's own, but in it's current form, the industry is still highly dependent on subsidies and tax breaks.


Not to mention that the entire global market was massively supported (you're talking 20-50% of the global shipping volume) by crazily high subsidies from the German government for 5-10 years, over the period when cost went from $5/W to $1/W.


> With battery tech starting to become viable and with continuing efficiency improvements, we are getting closer to a point where solar might be able to compete on it's own, but in it's current form, the industry is still highly dependent on subsidies and tax breaks.

Small quibble: Wind and solar are already cheaper than utility power in ~20 states (unsubsidized), and cheap wind drove Exelon to close two nuclear power plants in the last week.

While wind and solar can now "stand on their own" as it were, we should be doing nothing but increasing subsidies to deploy them faster.


While that is true, it also goes in the other direction. How much money has been put into keeping fossil fuels cheap?

We simply don't have a free-market price in energy. I would say that in the long run the market would probably, by itself switch to renewable non-polluting energy but the governments investment has probably helped.

Governments can make really drag most markets (with a few exceptions), but they can usually kick it in the butt.


Not soon enough and at the scale that we need to address the problem. Keep in mind the ability to adopt electric cars and go home solar is still a very privileged position and will be for quite a while. Think about how many cars that are 10 or 20 years old on the road now. Or how many people live in apartments. And this is just in the developed world.

This is why most climate scientists advocate for at least a tax on all carbon. While the free market might be able to solve this world-wide on a long enough time scale we don't have the time for that to play out. We've been building our current energy and transportation infrastructure out for the past century globally based on fossil fuels.

To get a good idea on the scope of the problem I'd highly recommend start reading through some of the forum below. Some of the brightest (to me anyway :)) experts on the climate post regularly here.

http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php


This is what happened during the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1864[0]. Cities like New York and London were drowning in manure from all the horse-drawn carriages, which caused major health issues. No one could find a solution until Henry Ford came up with a process to build affordable cars and made horse-drawn carriages obsolete.

[0] http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Great-...


Thus solving the problem forever.

Interestingly, I read it in a Theodore Roosevelt biography, but dug the numbers back up on the internet. In Boston circa 1870, the density of horses was around 700 per square mile.


Minor correction, according to the article it is 1894 not 1864.


Can't tell if this comment is sarcastic or not


Zero sarcasm. We've (worldwide government policy) worked against renewables and storage through limited subsidies compared to legacy fuels.

That's not to denigrate the efforts of Tesla and solar/wind developers/technology companies; they just haven't received the support they should've compared to the impetus of climate change.

EDIT: Innovation is saving us from ourselves! Yay?


If it works it is clearly just luck there there is a cheaper and cleaner energy source available. At some time there will be a threat that will always be cheaper and then we are out of luck.


Well, going by history, it's not luck, it's gambling based on historical precedence. Time and again a new technology has come along, often spurred by the problem it solved, just in time to prevent a larger problem.

The issue is that people take this for granted, and don't see it for what it is, gambling, and in this case with immensely large negatives on failure, to the point where the mental model of the world many people keep is unable to accurately assess the consequences. That's a dangerous combination.


Eventually we're going to go through some version of the "Great Filter" like wet tofu through a shredder, but this gives me hope that it won't be in our lifetimes.


Unless we already happened to go through that when life magically transitioned from monocellular, simple competitive organisms to multicellular, complex cooperative organisms...


That seems unlikely, since that transition happened multiple time along multiple pathways, and we observe that just on the single planet we know to have life.


Do you have a source for that? I was specifically speaking about the first eukaryotic cell(s).


OR just don't subsidize fossil fuels and let them compete.


It's not just about subsidy. You also have to price in the carbon pollution.


On both sides


It wasn't luck.

The absurd amount of money poured into green energy the past decade has made a difference. Both government, and stock-market. Green energy is definitely riding high right now with easy money.


Don't worry, we'll find some way to fuck it up.


I'm hoping we're past the point of no return, and can no longer fuck it up.


Advancement also fueled by environmental awareness?


Probably nowhere near the momentum from the cost of renewables generation falling so quickly. Cash is king.


It is, and the feeling I get considering that as a real possibility makes me a little giddy.


So glad the renewables ramp is speeding up!


Check out Electrovaya, they have a non-toxic battery production process. Cautiously optimistic here as well :)


"since 2008 [...] battery energy density had a fivefold increase"

Citation needed! In that time period, the highest energy density 18650 cells on the market have gone from ~200 Wh/kg to ~250 Wh/kg.


The article presents the increase in one of the charts. They're measuring volumetric density though (Wh/L).


Look to China for mass production of cost effective batteries, not Tesla... firms like EV West help me demystify the true state of maturity of this market http://evwest.com/catalog/


That's what I'm afraid of. That China will push a "race to the bottom" not on just prices per se, but on lower prices with poorer quality batteries that hold much fewer charges and degrade faster, making you want to dump your EV battery after 3 years. But everyone will be too focused on their promotion of "cheap long range EVs" to notice.


I would be more concerned about exploding batteries, lithium is no joke. http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?262234-TK...


This is why EV's have a horizontal firewall, to protect the occupants from the batteries. Plasma burns are a big concern for the guys building and tuning drag racing and hill climbing EV's. (Electric vehicles are wonderful for acceleration sports but currently hopeless for any sort of sustained high speed/endurance racing).


Revolutionary idea ... make batteries replaceable. We had it back in the days. You could just remove the old batteries and put the new ones.


Tesla tried this and it didn't seem very popular (albeit low sample size): http://fortune.com/2015/06/10/teslas-battery-swap-is-dead/


Tesla cars can do this in less than 2 minutes - faster than it takes to fill up a tank of gas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5V0vL3nnHY


Insert the typical disclaimer here about how they only did that demo to get some California ZEV credits and how they're not moving forward with actually implementing it for end users


and the disclaimer about how the only semi-viable battery swap company went bankrupt and shut down:

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/27/no-better-place-battery-...


There is an actual battery swap station in california where Tesla owners can swap batteries. But not many people sign up for it.


Well, that sucks.


If ever there was a legitimate role for a government-mandated standard...


I would love to see $100 kWh batteries. Worst case, my house uses 30kWh a day in electricity so 90kWh would be a 3 day+ UPS for the house. Update the solar on my roof and be off grid for an addition $9K in batteries? That would be totally doable for me.

I think it would be hilarious if houses went back to just having a gas hookup like it was prior to the spread of electricity.


So were are only talking about numbers they are hoping for, not currently in production? GMs numbers are current, what are Tesla's current battery costs? Just because they want 100 by 2020 doesn't mean they are leading the charge, simply leading the wish list.

Still waiting on density improvements because frankly 400kg for 200 odd miles of range is not good. Of course with higher density means better charging and hopefully standards are ready for it


Tesla keeps their cost per kWh close to the vest.

Only public statement was in response to an analyst assuming Tesla was at $260. Their investor relations team confirmed they're below $190 (back in April).

http://electrek.co/2016/04/26/tesla-model-3-battery-pack-cos...


Can Lithium battery supply even meet the demand if a significant portion of the auto market switches to electric?


We'll find out! The lesson from oil and gas is that people find ways once the price goes up and the demand is there. Lithium is very abundant. Do we know what percentage of the cost of the battery comes from material costs?


Well 'the internet' says a Tesla Model S battery contains about 11.7 kg or 14.2 kg of lithium. Currently lithium carbonate is $6500/ton. Molar mass is ~74 which is 14/74 = 19% percent lithium. So I'd assume it costs $30/kg

$35/kg X 12kg -> $420

On the other hand the Nissan Leaf contains 4kg or $140 worth.

I'm pretty sure a sustainable increase demand will bring more lithium onto the market.


Very interesting, thanks for doing that calculation. Lithium should scale directly with storage capacity, so despite technological improvements in kWh per unit weight or volume, that should stay relatively constant. So there is a relatively hard limit here for price reductions.


It will have to: Car makers will have to compete with the same amounts of production. Owning a petrol car at the time of global warming doesn't make you the boss anymore.


Can't wait to buy the plastic battery holder grids for Tesla-sized cells. My first 18650 pack is made from 4 laptop batteries and is capable of about 63 A at 0.2C.


Just out of curiosity… whaaat does this comment mean? Are you building some kind of railgun or something?


Just curious, how much damage could a domestic terrorist do with a railgun made from consumer parts?


Railguns are terrible and conventional firearms are much more widely available. If you want a futuristic terror weapon powered by batteries, build a multiple-watt laser. Take down planes by blinding the pilots! Fire it at a glass sculpture in a shopping mall to give thousands of people life-ruining sight loss!


I thought railguns could shoot projectiles with speeds faster than almost anything. And since they are all about stored electricity inducing magnetism can't a terrorist just charge up a huge capacitor like battery for a year and then release a shit ton of energy in the form of a uranium or heavy lead slug??


Yes, although for terrorism purposes why is this tactially useful given the high cost and complexity? It's not particularly easy to build a 3km/s railgun in your garage, and the power storage ends up being hugely bulky.

Conventional terrorist attacks involving homemade explosives, firearms, mortars, and even rockets have been quite cost-effective enough. I'm more worried about someone combining quadcopters and explosives.


I suppose you're right. Its fun to think about the massive power of railguns and their simplicity though.


I don't see how cars will have any impact on battery life. How many cars do we sell each year? Even if we assume 10% of cars are electric it is nothing but a drop in an ocean in terms of number of batteries being sold.

I am unable to see how Tesla car could have any impact on battery industry in terms of economy of scale. Any battery based solution for homes etc. could possibly bring economy of scale into picture.


Your comment would be more interesting if you put some numbers around your conclusions. I personally don't know the current and projected relative demand for Lithium batteries in electric cars and non-electric cars.


The numbers are one search away. In fact even without the numbers intuition should be sufficient to see that it makes sense. Auto industry accounts for 20% of total Li batteries. Where as consumer electronics (which is probably growing way faster than electric Auto) accounts for around 37%.

Most of the reports I have seen tend to estimate that Auto's share would increase upto 30% by 2020 while renewable energy storage would grow to 60%.

It is not really hard to see that real breakthroughs in mass production and lowered prices for Li batteries will come not from auto applications but from power generation sector. I do not know of any sustainably profitable power company that is operating in that area. It also probably explains why Musk is thinking of things like Solarcity and Powerwall.

hint: Search "Global Demand for Li batteries" in Google images to see various charts.


If people pay $35k for a compact car, why would you sell it cheaper? Now Tesla introduced the Model 3, I'd bet we'll see a $25k Leaf next year with better range. It's business, don't blame it on the sub-par 25 year old technology batteries.


What about recycling btw ?


The batteries are highly recyclable. The internal structure changes over time/use but the chemicals are intact.

Tesla have mentioned on several occasions that they will eventually take old batteries and recycle them at the Gigafactory.


What about it? Batteries recycle pretty well.


From the article: "Since 2008, estimates of battery costs were cut by a factor four and battery energy density had a fivefold increase."

We're not seeing that kind of improvement in mobile devices.


In 2008:

The iPhone had an 1150mAh battery and, according to anandtech [0], 284 minutes of talk time (3G) and 400 minutes of web browsing time (WiFi). It weighed 133 grams.

In 2016:

The iPhone SE has a 1,624mAh battery and gets 556.2[1] minutes of web browsing time on WiFi.

It weighs 113 grams.

Of course, I have no idea what percentage of weight made up the battery for either of these phones. I also have no idea what percentage of the cost to manufacture the battery made up for either of these phones. But I do know the iPhone SE @ 16GB is $100 cheaper than the iPhone 3G @ 16GB was, not accounting for inflation.

We're seeing some improvement, most definitely. But unless someone has data to compare the two batteries directly, we can't say by how much.

The smartphone world has been much more keen on improving power consumption of the hardware in question rather than power storage. At the scale of power that an automobile uses, the opposite is true.

0. http://www.anandtech.com/show/2571/18 1. http://www.anandtech.com/show/10285/the-iphone-se-review/3


They say that battery tech has been improving at 2% a year.

That would mean we should see a ~37% improvement between 2008 and 2016. Seems about right.


That's not a "fivefold improvement". A fivefold improvement is 400% more.


Maybe the battery form factors that are being improved aren't appropriately sized for use in smartphones? :)


1.02^8=1.17, or ~17% improvement


errr, oops. I did ^16 by accident. Damn you human error!


Do you work at NASA?


Yeah we are. But phones are more powerful, with bigger screens and power hungry electronics. Plus consumers want smaller, lighter phones, so with the higher density they make the batteries smaller. It's a balance.


Thats exactly why I was disappointed that all the top of the line phones went with 1440p or 4k displays. I have a 27" monitor that is 1440p, I don't need that kind of resolution on my Note 5. I wish it was still 1080p display and better battery life.


Are you sure?


The big problem lies still in the fact that most electricity is generated from coal and nuclear. Every Tesla on the road today is effectively a coal powered car with the potential to be converted to green energy. Solar panels likely being the equilibrium. But the decline in battery cost is good, means it won't be long before they stop losing 1k on every car sold


You seem to be repeating the same falsehoods commonly quoted around Tesla stories.

> Every Tesla on the road today is effectively a coal powered car

Assuming that your energy is entirely produced by brown coal power plants, then even powering your electric car is still more efficient (and thus cleaner) than running a petrol car.

Power generation sources varies wildly depending on region - Nuclear, Gas and Hydro are big contributors in many areas. Wind and Solar in others.

> losing 1k on every car sold

you're conflating the profit on selling cars vs company profit. They make a profit on the sale of each Model S/X, they're investing a lot of money into expanding production.


Depending where you live and draw energy from it could very well be 90%+ renewable energy (such as a few European countries and most of Ontario/Quebec from hydro).

The IEA/OCED world energy production sources for 2015 [1]J:

    41.3% Coal
    21.7% Natural gas
    16.3% Hydro    
    10.6% Nuclear
     5.7% Other
     4.4% Oil
And given the improvements in batteries and solar these numbers will continue to shift away from coal.

Additionally, you could also invest in a solar setup at your own house and Tesla is working on converting Supercharger stations to solar [2].

[1] http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication...

[2] http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1096926_teslas-first-sol...


Power plants are a lot more efficient at extracting energy out of fossil fuels than your internal combustion engine. Even factoring in the efficiency of power generation, power distribution and your EV's electric motor... you're still polluting the environment less with an EV than pouring petrol directly into your traditional car.




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