Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
VW announces $84B investment in electric cars and batteries (electrek.co)
158 points by dannylandau 14 days ago | hide | past | web | 127 comments | favorite

This and the other MB announcement come at interesting times. Both these companies are slightly on the back foot in Germany. BMW supposedly took the strategic route of redirecting investment into electric a while back. they already have the i3 and the i8 (which, depending on how you look at it, could be the most beautiful or the most ugly car in the world) and in a few months the X7 hybrid SUV. VW has Golf and Passat hybrids, whereas MB just discontinued their B series leaving them with no electrics at all. BMW had nothing to show for the last few years going up against MB's latest line-up refresh and the poor sales over the last few years reflects how dated-looking BMWs have been. I'm thinking BMW has another ICE refresh to go before they too go fully electric/hybrid, and it might happen sooner rather than later.

Tesla is probably an important competitor but at the moment I'm more likely to believe BMW, Audi and MB could pull off a production capacity of a million+ hybrids per year each by 2020 if they put themselves to it.

* I wrote a similar comment in the MB submission.

The most ugly. These are literally the ugliest things I have ever seen. I have no idea what BMW is thinking. And I used to own a 330i.

disclaimer, I have eyes

The i8 are hybrids with two engines. BMW sold an e-Mini 2009 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_E and announced to release the next version 2019 http://www.businessinsider.de/bmw-electric-mini-concept-fran...

edit: corrected what I said about the i3, there are full electric versions

i3 not only has the hybrid trim (called REx, range extender with a motorcycle engine to recharge), but also has a BEV (battery EV, 100% electric) trim. I owned one of the i3 BEV for 2 years.

And yes, the 2009 Mini-E (based on a modified Mini Cooper) was a limited production trial, as well as the 2011 BMW ActiveE (based on a modified 1-series). Both were predecessors of BMW i3.

Finally, the EV battle is getting exciting!

I'm very curious who will win the race to the middle, that is mass EV production: either (1) Tesla becoming a mainstream car manufacturer, or (2) the mainstream car manufacturers learning to do EVs.

I'm inclined to favor the Big Auto. I believe they can easily catch up with Tesla's EV technology, whereas Tesla will have a hard time ramping up production to Big Auto scale.

My money is on pure electric brands from China winning. The entrenched western groups have too much inertia, and Tesla will point the way but will get bogged down fighting those other corporations and their own government for sane policies.

Chinese corps will set up EV only marques and allow them to freely attack ICE competitors where it hurts, even if they don't initially rake in high profits, giving them a feel good halo and they'll get sensible long term support from their government.

At the moment Nissan, Hyundai and Mitsubishi are good mid-level electric options and I can see new Chinese entrants sweeping them aside as they take the whole market.

What are some of those new Chinese entrants?

BYD is a battery maker that also does electric cars and buses now. Warren Buffet has invested with them.

Geely have bought Volvo and also make the new hybrid London Taxi, and are trying to make a delivery van platform from it.

> "I'm very curious who will win the race to the middle..."

I know its the not the "race" you're talking about, but the real winners will be the electric power transmission line owners in a market system. Transmission line companies will be the new oil companies...

I could imagine that this isn't just about manufacturing but also emotions. That is, do people want an "exciting" new brand or will owning an Audi, BMW, Mercedes ... stay a status symbol?

Big auto has been doing badge engineering for a very long time, they’re already experts at playing with your emotions.

That's true. In the past, however, they never had to deal with a new competitor as "cool" as Tesla.

Perhaps Shelby Motors or DeLorean Motor Company would have a word on that subject?

> I'm inclined to favor the Big Auto

I tend to agree with you due to manufacturing scales and manufacturing excellence. Tesla still has a long way to catch up.

So pretty much every major automaker is saying that in the next 5 - 10 years they will either be fully electric or significantly so. I don't see that ending well for Tesla or at least for their business line of making cars. Full credit to them for showing what an electric car can be (i.e., something more than a golf cart), but they also have awakened the mainstream automaker giants, who can completely dominate them in dealerships, manufacturing capacity, and worldwide presence.

I think Tesla is the only one going with a fully electric lineup. The others are complementing ICE models with a fully electric option.

Which I think is the best move. I really hated the first Hybrids and electrics from the incumbent automakers. They always looked so different. Always felt if they look the same as the current lineup people would buy more, it happened already with hybrid options.

By making the cars different, they can make them better fitted for electric cars. IE, Teslas put their batteries in the bottom frame. Will VW put them in the trunk and engine bay? how will that change the driving characteristics with the weight changes from the gas model. Will all wheel wells become larger, to handle electric motors for some of the options?

A big problem with ICEs is that you need a large and heavy component (the engine) somewhere practical and accessible. In most consumer vehicles you can't put it anywhere but the front or the rear because the passengers get in the way. Making the car aerodynamic helps here, because you end up with dead space in the hood/trunk which you can put stuff in. Of course Tesla uses this for luggage.

Putting the batteries underneath is a natural solution, giving you a nice low centre of gravity. Virtually all the stuff in the engine bay is unnecessary on an EV. If you have a motor for each wheel, you can distribute weight very evenly.

There are also advantages for cooling, possibly. A long, thin, cuboid gives you more surface area than a squat cuboid.

The German car companies are usually great at weight distribution, BMWs are almost all 50/50. Mercedes are pretty close to that, not familiar with VW models. I'd worry more about the battery capacity than where to put it.

I'd argue it's a harder engineering challenge to distribute weight in an ICE than an EV.

Tesla was conceived, according to Musk, to kickstart the industry.


And that's what it's done. Interesting that in three years, the landscape has changed a lot.

> At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales. (2014)

Would this be an example of "Pioneers get slaughtered, and the settlers prosper." ?

Don't forget VW has to build EV infrastructure worth billions in U.S. as part of their false emissions settlement. Makes a lot of sense to capitalize on all the new chargers you build with the car offering...

How much debt do they have to take to make such an investment?

I think people are confused at how much money big conglomerates like VW and Toyota spend on power train development -- i.e. VW Group revenue yearly is around 250 Billion US dollars.

In the entire group power train and vehicle development is budgeted at around 120 Billion a year, so this is just over half of that budget spread out over probably 5 years. These are not SV startups, they are enormous companies by revenue and investment (which is why they have low profits and aren't sexy to invest in )

VW spends a lot on R&D but it's not 50% of revenue. More like around $14 billion.

Many development tasks are not lumped in with "R&D", for instance an existing power train that is getting a new Fuel injection system or a transmission getting durability testing are only development. Fixed original post wording...

Revenue != Budget you can spend

Most likely not so much. They wont invest $84B in one year but rather over the next 5 or even 10 years. VW's annual R&D budget is about $14B and considering that ICE are going EoL, this should fall right within the means of normal R&D.

I'm useless at reading these reports but I guess they have the liquidity: http://annualreport2016.volkswagenag.com/consolidated-financ...

Maybe they'll shut/slim down the combustion departments.

Why so many cars? 300!

Remembering, the Volkswagen group compromises of several manufacturing brands: Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche, Ducati, MAN, Scania, SEAT, Skoda, VW cars.. Which makes that '300 models' seem more likely

Also a lot of those cars under different badges share a huge array of common parts. Take a look at the Seat Alhambra[0] and Vokswagen Sharan[1]. They're practically identical. Really only the radiator grills and lights clusters are varied to suit the brand identity. Some of the town cars are basically the same vehicle tweaked across 3 or 4 badges.

[0]http://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/seat/alhambra/mpv/review [1]http://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/volkswagen/sharan/mpv/revi...

Plus for every main model they have half a dozen variations (at least), I wonder if those are added to that count.

The article literally says "300 electric vehicle models".

300 models could be a van/pickup platform with some creative accounting.

3 cab configurations, 3 bed lengths, 5 trims and 2 powertrain options ups that to 90. Apply all 90 variations to the 1/2, 3/4 and 1-ton variants and you've got 270.

I have a question. If one were to believe batteries or EV's are our future, what kind of business or startup opportunities does it present?

The push towards electric cars is an ostensible step in the right direction from an environmental standpoint, but most commentators fail to consider the massive quantities of hazardous toxic waste produced as a byproduct of neodymium mining.




Nearly all [Edit: not all, see replies] electric cars use induction motors, not permanent magnet motors. Induction motors only need steel, iron, and copper so they don't contain any neodymium.

Notably, the Tesla Model 3 uses permanent magnets, unlike its big siblings Model S and X: https://electrek.co/2017/08/07/tesla-model-3-new-details-rev...

Tesla is the only major manufacturer using induction motors that I know of. Everyone else is using synchronous motors with permanent magnets.

Tesla is precisely doing it to decrease dependence on China. The synchronous motor is far superior technology efficiency wise. But Tesla is going for stable supply chains as far as possible (which is smart).

Synchronous as well as Asynchronous (no magnet) motors are both very durable. We're talking hundreds of thousands, if not a million hours of operation (according to Tesla that's 60,000,000 miles at 60mph). If we don't throw away the motors with every car purchase (which is a big if in today's world of yearly disposable smartphones). Then even a small efficiency advantage should be immensely useful over the life of the motor. IIRC we're talking about 10% more efficiency for synchronous. If you drive it for 1,000,000h and use about 20kW in average operation, that is 20,000,000kWh. 10% would be 2,000,000kWh. That's significant.

NYC has a peak demand of 14,500MW (see here: http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2015/09/28/how-much-energy-does...). So you could power NYC for 8mins at it's peak usage with these lifetime efficiency savings(again it's unrealistic that the motors will actually run that long in cars, but at least the rare earths could be easily recouped when recycled properly).

So the motor is one of the places where an initial investment in rare earths, could be paid off easily over the lifetime of the motor. Assuming that motors aren't disposed of.

The batteries still require massive amounts of rare-earths though, and they don't have the same durability. I see much more of an environmental disaster coming here.

The Tesla Model 3 motor uses permanent magnets unlike the S and X. Another commenter claims rare earths are not needed in battery production.

> (which is a big if in today's world of yearly disposable smartphones)

The auto industry heavily recycles. Pretty much every major part costs extra if you don't return the old "core" so it can be re-manufactured. Autos are stripped down before the frame is crushed. Not doing so leaves money on the table. I don't see EVs being much different.

Rare Earth mining can be done safely, it's just China doesn't want to do so. Ultimately the world has to solve global problems, local or national problems have to be left up to individual countries to sort out.

The only rare earths mine in the US was shut down because of environmental problems. After that no owner was profitable producing REE because of environmental standards to keep up. That was until 2007 when China restricted REE exports. Now that China exports again, the current owner is broke once again (maybe it's already sold, I'm not sure).

While other industries can/could successfully be pressured to move to sustainable, fair and environmentally conscious production, the Chinese REE production, as a monopoly, just doesn't care.

Yes, it's a problem from our end. I would support some policy mechanisms to support mining in a way which was environmentally sound and reliable.

So one question, if China is defacto the sole supplier of rare earths and they don't keep up your standards, will this still be a green revolution?

China is ultimately a global superpower, and its government clearly has wide public support domestically. My hope that I can alter how mining is regulated in China is pretty much nil, that has to be up to the Chinese population to reject their government, to force them into action, or to acquiesce.

What if they decide to dump the toxic waste into the ocean ? Aren't we then pretty much back to square one ?

Yes, that would be a problem if it was happening. But that is regulated by international agreements, and as far as I know, China is not doing it.

Wasn't there a slogan that went like this: local solutions for a global problem ?

Think globally, act locally.

It's not a step in any direction. You still need to burn fossil fuels to mine the materials needed to produce electric cars, and you still need to burn fossil fuels to manufacture and transport them from point of manufacture to sales.

Not to mention, you also need to burn fossil fuels to charge them, at least primarily.

It's also worthy of noting that even if we remove all automobiles from the planet, it will do exactly nothing for reducing global warming.

All electric cars do is trade one form of pollution for another, and isn't really anything more than a bandaid solution for a gaping chest wound.

Indeed, green is the new brown.

Are you suggesting that if we can't solve every problem simultaneously we should not solve any problems? It sounds like a step in the right direction to me. Hopefully this will spur steps to solving the other problems in other directions too.

We use fossil fuels to build an ICE drivetrain. Or we can use it to build an EV drivetrain.

Sorry, unless you back this up with data (that is, numbers), why should anybody believe your assertions?

Here is something that can support OPs claim. Car's are still manufactured with oil, all the plastic, the paint, the tires that comprise the vehicle are dependent on oil. A car requires a lot more oil to produce than people understand so until focus on materials is shifted the car production alone is still a problem.

Totally valid. It doesn't mean that until that problem is solved we shouldn't solve problems. I'd compare it to an anti gun-control argument I've heard. Roughly it's that some people who want guns enough will be able to get them, so gun control is useless because we can't stop all gun deaths at once. Which if flipped, is sort of saying that having less guns cheaply and easily available with more regulation is a bad thing.

Aside from the risk of a spill, What is wrong with using oil to produce plastic?

LOL. Their market cap isn't even that high.

They pull in $250 Billion a year and have almost half a trillion in assets, I think they can manage...


Only in the SV bubble does $5b in profit on $250b in revenue constitute "pulling in."

And if you believe their accounting, then they're trading way under their book value.

If they issued bonds to finance $84b in electric car research, they'd be rated thoroughly junk.

Leverage is a thing...

However, they spend a lot of money on R&D and this is just part of that budget over several years.

I see $3-4b in R+D per year


Total research and development costs 2016 : 13.672B, 2015 : 13.612B

Split over a ~12 years that's a little over 1/2 of total R&D spending. However, much of this is capital expenditures on new battery manufacturing not just pure R&D.

VW announces "XY" $. Compare this with Tesla's style, "Starting next week."

Yes I still remember the "Starting Model 3 production next week" in 2014 ... no, wait ...


Ah no it was the Gigafactory they started ... no, wait again, this was also announced years before building started.

Hmm, you've got me confused.

That's actually the point. Tesla gets customers excited about their next product. Volkswagen makes financial announcements to please investors and regulators.

I guess this announcement from VW got fast-tracked now that China is about to announce a ban on gas-powered vehicles China, in turn probably wants to go forward with that not for environmental reasons, but because they have a near monopoly on the world's supply of rare earths (which the electric vehicle's batteries require)

This is factually wrong; rare earth elements are not required for batteries.

Rare earth elements are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb) and yttrium (Y) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare-earth_element)

Lithium batteries generally require elements such as: Lithium, graphite (carbon), Nickel, Cobalt, Manganese, Aluminium, Oxygen.

None of these are rare earth minerals, and production of most of these elements is not concentrated in China. See https://electrek.co/2016/11/01/breakdown-raw-materials-tesla...

The powerful permanent magnets used in some EVs do require rare earth elements (e.g. neodymium), but many EV motors don't require permanent magnets at all. E.g. Tesla uses an induction motor (no permanent magnet required); whereas the Nissan Leaf does use permanent magnets (assuming https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle#Electric_moto... is correct).

This comment is a great example of why one should triple check anything they intend to post to HN.


Cunningham's Law states "the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer."

This is true in general for humans, the best way to start a design discussion is, "I propose that we do X to solve Y!" rather than, what are some solutions to problem Y? People are much better at correcting than creating from a blank page.

Most of the Cobalt reserves are concentrated in Kongo, though.

There are two Congos. These are in the Democratic Republic of Congo(-Kinshasa), not the Republic of Congo(-Brazzaville), yes?


The Congo appears to have as much reserves as the rest of the world combined! If demand goes up prospecting will go up.

Also Ethereum (ETH)

"not for environmental reasons" vs truly horrible urban smog and grumpy, wheezy citizens. Hmm.

I get nightmares thinking what that will do to electricitry prices. The graph of how they rose is already awful.

And now imagine if the tax collected on mineral oil for gas falls away cause everyone drives electric. And know that there isn't a specific car electricity to tax.

Thinking the government would just eat this loss without thinking of ways to make the people pay would just be naive.

How much electricity do you use? I live in Germany and pay something like 35 Eurocents per kWh. I'm told that's a lot compared to other countries. And yet I somehow spend less than 30 Euros a month on electricity for a two person household. That's something like 5% of what I pay for rent. I really don't understand why everybody is concerned about electricity prices.

Edit: I asked around. While I pay less than my German peers, nobody I asked pays more than 30 Euro per person per month.

How do you use only 85khW per month?

That's a continuous draw of about 120 watts.

What do you do for heating / cool? Do you not have a fridge, or an always-on computer, or a water heater?

May last electricity bill was $750 for three months, a rate of about AU$0.26 / kWh, plus a daily supply charge of about ninety cents. The person who was responsible for a majority of that bill doesn't live here any more, but it wasn't hard to achieve.

Heating, including hot water isn't done with electricity. German climate doesn't require aircon.

I have a fridge that uses about 140kWh/year and I cook with electricity. I turn my electronics off when I'm not at home, so the fridge is the only electricity consumer when I'm at work. I use considerably less than 85kWh per day, the costs I quoted contain a rather large fixed component.

What are you doing to use this amount of energy? I DO have an always on computer, an old fridge, a laundry machine (no dish-cleaner, though, I do that by hand) and electric water heating. I use ~290kWh/month in a 2 person household. That costs me to around 80 Euros / month. Most of my consumption stems from the electrical water boiler and stove (daily cooking).

In Germany heating is most often and depending on where you live done with gas, oil or district heating plants (in cities). Electrical heating has pretty much been phased out (you'll find electrical "storage" heaters in very old apartments only).

Not the grandparent, but I used to use 1000 kWh per year, which is about the same as 85 kWh per month. (It's more since I built a desktop PC.)

> What do you do for heating / cool? [...] or a water heater?

ACs are not typical in Germany in private apartments, only in public and office buildings. My apartment is connected to district heating (which also supplies hot water), so this does not contribute to the electricity bill, either.

> Do you not have a fridge, or an always-on computer [...]?

I have a fridge (fairly energy-efficent and modestly-sized). I have an always-on homeserver, but it too is designed for small power draw.

The biggest chunk of these 1000 kWh per year (about half of it) is actually my terrarium, i.e. its heating and lighting, and the secondary fridge where the tortoises stay in the winter. I could have easily lived on 500 kWh per year if it weren't for that. (It should be noted that I don't have a large house, just a 50 sqm = 530 sqft apartment.)

During this time, my electricity bill was about 30 € per month, at 0.26 €/kWh. I currently pay 40€ per month since my desktop PC joined the consumers, at 0.27 €/kWh. I could pay slightly less (one or two cents per kWh), but I pay extra for a renewables-only power mix.

are you sure your numbers are right? I'm looking at my last electricity bill and we used 450kWh in one month. And it's not summer here so no A/C and our water is gas heated. We're a household of 2+2 young kids. We turn off lights when not in use, medium sized, reasonably new fridge, no always on computers etc.

hard for me to imagine how anyone could find a 12x reduction in usage! I need to know your secret :)

That's absolutely crazy. Do you have electric heat? If not you should probably spend twenty bucks on a kill-a-watt clone and check which of your appliances is consuming several hundred watts all day long.

>Do you have electric heat?

nope gas heating. and it's a modest 3 BR home.

according to this[1] Australian Government website about energy usage, for 3 people in my postcode (5075), no pool + mains gas, average daily consumption is 15.8 kWh, which matches almost exactly my last bill (avg was 15.3kWh).

I think some people are underestimating their usage. We're definitely not a wasteful household, we don't run the drier much, appliances are off when not in use, lights off when no one in room etc.

>If not you should probably spend twenty bucks on a kill-a-watt clone and check which of your appliances is consuming several hundred watts all day

yup already did that a couple years ago. Turns out there are no unusually bad appliances in the house.


[1] - https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/benchmark

Then what appliance uses all that electricity? I'm really curios!

nothing out of the ordinary I think. 2 computers on for about 8 hours/day. Dishwasher, TV on for 2 hours/day. iPad, home lighting.

I think some people in this thread are severely underestimating their energy usage. I wonder if people are just ballparking their estimates based on some rough data from years ago or if they're actually looking at last month's bill when saying they're using < 100kWh in a month.

Maybe for a single person who is never home that would be reasonable, but I can't imagine families being able to survive on so little.

edit: so this was driving me a little crazy and so I had to do some extra digging. My guess is that people not aware of their true usage. According to this [1], the average US household uses > 900kWh of energy/month. We're at half that so clearly not going overboard.

[1] - http://insideenergy.org/2014/05/22/using-energy-how-much-ele...

It may be crazy, but that is below average for a U.S. single-family home in many parts of the country. Old houses tend to be very inefficient, and many new houses are grotesquely large.

My family used 330kWh last month (also 2 adults+2 kids), including moderate use of AC; our energy efficiency report said we're using less than 1/2 the average of our neighbors.

Yours looks a little high, but be assured average power usage for 2+2 in Germany is 3000-4000kwh/year. So lower than your 5400 but max 2x reduction :-)

Just to clarify, I'm only one person. But that certainly doesn't explain a 12x difference.

Just to preface this: where are you getting the 12x reduction from? He spends 40 euros at 0.26, that's 150 kWh per month. That's 1/3rd of your usage, not 1/12th. And he's living alone, you with four. If anything, you're more efficient than he is per person.

Anyway if you want a reduction, just identify all the model numbers of anything plugged in and check specs and approximate usage.

It's insane how large the efficiency spectrum is, and how efficient things have become in recent years.

For example, modern 6ft fridges get so efficient they use about 8 kWh per month. Meanwhile, very old fridges can still use upwards of 40 kWh per month. We've seen a reduction of something like 75% in the past 15 years, that's pretty massive.

The most efficient washing machines now use about 10 kWh a month, while I can easily find washing machines for sale that use 25 kWh per month that were produced as recently as 2012 by LG.

And that's the difference in age. Differences in tech/model are also vast. In Europe we have a pretty decent energy labeling system for consumers for a decent approximation.

For example, here's lightbulbs [0] where you can see, for a certain amount of light (e.g. 3k lumens) the best bulbs use 50W while the worst use 250W. That's a 5x difference. You can easily drop 80% of your lighting electricity usage if you still have old bulbs.

The big items like washing machines, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, dryers, fridges, particularly old ones, all typically draw 2 kW or more at various times, so that's probably low-hanging fruit, assuming you have changed your bulbs.

A big TV is another one, not as high-powered but a lot of people keep em on for very long times, sometimes just as music players or on the background, and some TVs are really inefficient. Mine is alright but still draws 220 W. Contrast that with say the 2017 Macbook, which has a 42 Wh battery and lasts 10h. i.e. it draws about 4W. If you use your Macbook for 5h each day before/after work, you'd use about 0.6 kW per month, or about $1.5 typically. But if I have my TV on for 5 hours (I've used it as a music player like this but stopped due to electricity) it'd draw 33 kWh a month for about $80 a year.

If I compare the utility between these devices, it's crazy I spend 55x as much energy on my TV per hour of usage than a modern laptop. It's just that electricity is so damn cheap. The comparison to a phone is even crazier.

[0] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/EU...

Also from central Europe (same climate zone as Germany) so I can answer.

Central heating in Europe usually works this way. You have a boiler in the ground/underground level of the building which turns water into steam which is pumped to radiators in the building through vertical pipes.

Most of boilers I have seen in central Europe use gas so it wouldn't be included in electricity bill. There are electric boilers as well but I haven't seen a lot of them out there, it seems like a rarity to me.

We have abundance of cheap gas so it makes sense most people would use gas boilers as you'll save money.

Another big factor is in central Europe doesn't need AC which is a massive electricity hog in places with warmer climate.

I think most of your crazy electricity bill in Australia is because of AC no? Do you have electric or gas boiler?

My wife and I had an average draw of about 100 Watts in the winter when we lived in San Diego. Made for electric bills around $12 a month. However, we had gas water heating. The gas bill was always for 0-1 therm per month.

The only always-on computer was an Odroid, and our bulbs were LED. The fridge was pretty efficient.

Just as a reference point, I use a LOT of electricity compared to my peers. 650kwH/month at the moment (and that is before I turn the heaters to max for winter..)

* Lights

* Various electronics (TV, router, speakers etc)

* Floor heating in the bathroom

* AC/heater for warming 2/3 of my house

* electric oven, stove, dish washer, washing machine, coffe machine, toaster etc..

All in all ~72€/month for 650kwH. Living in Europe, a bit colder climate than Germany.

wow, makes me realise how crazy expensive Australian prices are. Your price is .11 Euro/kWh (.16AUD). I'm paying .38AUD/kWh, almost 2.5 times more than you! Don't event get me started on gas prices. Last month my Gas+Electricity bill was $541.44. Insane.

I haven't seen .11 Eur/kWh in Germany :-) It's more like .25 Eur/kWh.

That's insanely high! Here in Europe I'd say 1/3 of what you pay for energy would be considered within reason. Why is energy so damn expensive in Australia? Not just electricity but also gas. Gas is super cheap here.

I live in Aus, and i think I am pay 28c per kilowatt/hr. It wasn't long ago that we were paying 22c.

Power prices in Australia is becoming one of the bigger political talking points at the moment. There is a lot of finger pointing going on. The main culprits appear to be:

1. a poorly designed energy market where electricity suppliers can get paid more by turning down their capacity, increasing scarcity to lead to price spikes, at which they can sell their electricity for inflated prices 2. governments allowing exporting of too much of the countries natural gas supplies - the spike in natural gas prices has caused increased costs for natural gas power stations 3. the market not accommodating the intermittent nature of solar / wind properly 4. the desire to decommission coal stations (probably because coal is on the nose, but more likely that gas stations can fire up/down quicker in response to renewable volatility, and coal is too slow in this respect)

>Why is energy so damn expensive in Australia?

24 million people spread across a really big continent[1] might play a role.

My state, South Australia, recently received the dubious honour of having the world's highest energy prices. Here's an article which has a go at explaining some reasons [2], apparently delivery infrastructure (poles + wires) is a major part of the cost.

That and there seems to be a lot of price gouging going on, not sure of the reasons for this. Maybe not enough competition?

[1] - http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2015/09/09/compare-australi... [2] - http://www.smh.com.au/business/sunday-explainer-why-is-elect...

Need an always-on computer? Get one that's more power efficient or even something tiny like a Raspberry Pi running at 3.7W tops.

A modern efficient European fridge typically costs about $3 a month where I live.

I'd rather ask you, where you spend 900 kWh per month on :p

I suspect airconditioning is a big factor though, I've never had a fan in my home in my life and heating and warm water is done by gas. (although the country is shifting away from gas right now).

I live in Bulgaria in a place completely filled with electronics and gadgets and other stuff. My wife has a gourmet restaurant kitchen and we have heated flooring (electrical) for the winters and air conditioning (that's on 24/7 on max) for 5 months out of the year (it's going to be almost 40 here today) and we pay about $75CAD/month max.

Ohh and BG is expensive for electricity. At least %30 more than Canada.

It's not only what you pay directly, it affects virtually all prices. Let's take a bread for example: most modern bakeries use electric ovens, and as far as I know, it's one of the biggest part of total running cost. Moving that bread to the malls using electric trucks? Add % to that too. Mall also uses electricity to power HVAC, lighting, refrigerators etc. See how that % increase of electricity prices adds up in every step and might lead to much higher increase in a final price?

That's a good argument. But how come that bread is not much more expensive in Germany compared to, say France, where electricity is much cheaper? I used to live very close to the French border and occasionally got my baguettes from there.

"But how come that bread is not much more expensive in Germany compared to, say France, where electricity is much cheaper?"

Because it's not the only factor. Many other factors might balance the price: labor cost, taxes, logistics etc. If electricity prices are as in France, maybe you would get even cheaper bread locally? I'm not trying to say that increase of prices would be dramatic, just wanted to point out that what you pay directly is not the end of it.

Your argument is solid, as long as you completely ignore the constant falling prices of wind, solar, and other renewable energy generation.

Wind turbines, solar panels, dams don't come for free and their capital cost ends up in consumers' bills anyway. Sure, on the long run we might achieve cheap or even free energy, but current tendency is rising of electricity prices in many regions, despite wider use of renewables, due to demand increasing even faster.

Obviously the infrastructure is not free, but the prices are falling.

Scotland's government just made a deal to pay two windfarms £57.50 per megawatt hour (MWh), 40% less than they were paying even the previous year. [0]

Prices will continue to fall even further by the time your hypothetical bakery switches to electric vehicles.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/11/huge-boo...


"UK offshore wind power subsidy set to undercut nuclear"

Have you witnessed the price of food in Europe? It is basically free compared to the US.

I think (not 100% sure) that electricity is expensive in California.

Google says the average rate is ~0.15 $/kWh, less than half of what I pay. The most expensive state seems to be Hawaii at 0.26 $/kWh, which is still a lot cheaper than what I pay.

Perhaps compared to the US, but pretty cheap by first-world standards.

Ah, is this the new pro-fossil-fuel set of talking points?

Edit: see recent HN https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15217697 ; if my moving the decimal point is correct that's £0.06 per kWh.

Overall energy consumption is quite flat: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/... possibly due to all those EU-imposed energy efficiency directives.

There was a burst of news stories in the UK about how EVs would melt the grid, you wouldn't even be able to boil your kettle and change your EV at the same time.

The company running the grid had to put out a "myth-buster" PDF to clean up after the misinformation:


New capacity can be wind and solar, which is getting cheaper than conventional power in a lot of places.

And with electric cars being told when to charge, you can flatten out fluctuation in production.

I get nightmares thinking what that will do to electricitry prices.

What about supply? Where does all the electricity to charge the cars come from? Is there enough surplus generating capacity in the system to support millions of EVs?

In the UK at least, new Offshore wind is now price comparable with other sources, and is getting cheaper.

Combining renewables (which can be intermittant) with EVs (which can recharge batteries) could actually work quite well.

We have plenty of energy supply in the system, we need to optimize our distribution.

We only use about 39% of the electricity we generate. I know that seems strange, but it's true.


You've misinterpreted "rejected energy" there, it's due to Carnot inefficiency not distribution problems.

Yup, that's the other thing. Obviously, the greens don't want nuclear power but so far, the renewable energy can't satisfy the current demand. Let alone an incresed one because of EV's.

Scarce electricity would raise prices, making solar more economical to install.

Is it naïve to hope that solar will reach cost-parity just-in-time?

Even if solar were same price as "dirty" energy what would be the rate at which you build solar to keep up with the increasing demand of energy ?

the beauty is that one day you'll be able to sell electricity from your EV during peak hours, and recharge it when it's cheap.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2018

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact