There is also a legitimate debate about whether or not experience curves inherently capture technological step-changes. Put simply, something that looks like a future breakthrough today might end up simply being another point on the curve, by the time it is developed and engineered into a viable product and brought to market in a decade’s time.
Sometimes this is definitely not the case, e.g. the Moore's-law-like curve of network speed improvements tend to occur in steps, related to the need to upgrade both infrastructure and the endpoints to achieve a new speed tier.
 pick your domain: LAN, WiFi, cellular
We've got a solar installation and so I have been considering getting a battery for either off peak to peak cost arbitration, or capturing excess solar energy for use at night.
In the UK a Powerwall costs around £9,000 to £11,000 including additional hardware, taxes and installation. Based on some estimates (see below), at current prices I think you would be lucky to get a third of that back through energy bill savings.
If the Powerwall sold at closer to its battery pack cost, it might be worth considering.
Off peak to peak arbitration
Peak cost of energy (£ per KWh) - £0.1573
Off peak cost of energy (£ per KWh) - £0.0815
Saving per KWh - £0.0758
Powerall 2 - maximum lifetime throughput - non solar uses (KWh) - 37800 
Lifetime power bill saving £2,865.62
PV System Size (KWp) - 5.76
Solar irradiation - 986
Annual yield (KWh) - 5679
Annual energy exported to grid - assume 70% - 3976
Annual proportion that could be captured - estimate 50% - 1988 
Peak cost of energy (£ per KWh) - £0.1573
Annual saving - £312.66 
Warrant Period (years) - 10
Total saving over warranty period - £3,126.57
 In winter months, all solar energy could be captured, but in summer the panels will produce more than the Powerwall is able to store.
 Doesn't factory in degradation over the period, which Tesla quotes at 80% capacity after 10 years
It seems easier for powerwall derivitives to become cheaper than solar because the % total cost of ownership not attributable to batteries is less. For example, it may not require a bunch of people on your roof, maybe less permit or zoning related costs, maybe less electrician labor, etc.
Why couldn't a startup with a couple of EE's design something comparable or maybe even something with ease of installation innovations using commodity battery cells? Couldn't they buy cells in small batches online at first, paying notch or two higher than wholesale until they ramp up sales? Not sure how it couldn't start as a garage business for a clever engineer undergraduate and a clever sales/marketing/distribution person.
I mean, people are already rolling their own as side projects right (without going into the practicality or safety of that, just in reference to the barriers to entry)?
IMHO power converters like these are the future, because eventually we'll plug in all noisy sources of power from wind/solar/thermal into an inverter that accepts any voltage and plugs into the wall to provide 110 V AC. So roughly 12 of these (for a typical 100 amp system) would power the average home, meaning the inverter portion of a Powerwall should cost no more than $1200.
Since then, most of my enthusiasm about potential new products, bundles and kits that could be driven by this has steadily evaporated as consumer price per kWh for actual, usable power storage has more or less held steady. At this point I'm just as curious what's keeping it stuck there as I am about what we could do if it wasn't.
Not to mention that selling an unsafe product is a non starter.
No, the interesting thing to me is why everyone forgot about the other chemistries like NiFe, which are cheaper but heavier - matters less for a fixed installation.
Also I feel that proper net metering should be better than domestic batteries for the normal case. The only reason it isn't is regulatory spinelessness.
The reason it isn't widely used is because it is an absolutely terrible idea. The value of home solar fed to the grid is almost everywhere negative to the utility. (They need to maintain fixed capacity to meet worst case demand, constant power sources are cheaper than adjustable ones, and it costs money to bleed off excess power when there is not enough demand for it.)
If you force them to pay you for your useless solar excess, they just have to raise the prices on everyone. This makes home solar more attractive, resulting in even larger useless peak production, and higher electricity prices. It gets even worse if the power transmission isn't decoupled from production.
A form that would make sense is instead to allow customers to sell electricity back to the utility at the current short term spot price. As excess production would drive that price to be negative, it would limit installation to the level that is healthy to the grid.
Also, being of negative value to the utility is not the same as negative value to society! Is it displacing carbon-based generation? Is it reducing the need to buildout power lines?
> costs money to bleed off excess power when there is not enough demand for it
This doesn't happen during the day. Very occasionally some wind farms get curtailment payments at 3am or similar. There are no giant resistor banks to dump energy.
> force them to pay you for your useless solar excess, they just have to raise the prices on everyone
Economics 101: producing more of a product makes it more expensive! No, wait, the other thing.
> constant power sources are cheaper than adjustable ones
Be specific: nuclear (no longer really being built, surprisingly expensive) or coal (phasing out)?
In the UK it mostly displaces dispatchable CCGT: https://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
(Some of these problems might appear at 10x the current solar market penetration, but most of them are just anticompetitive complaints by utilities because solar shows up as negative demand)
Net metering is not at all unambiguously good, and in practice is simply a wealth transfer to the wealthy (who own a house and can afford panels) from the poor.
It might be a decent way to kick start solar (like other subsidies) but as a long term policy it is extremely regressive.
"Energy poverty" is a real problem but that needs to be addressed separately. I'd rather raise energy prices and increase transfer payments than try to keep energy cheap, so long as any of it is generated by fossil fuels.
The reason net metering is chosen is people don't understand or choose to ignore the hidden (but very real) increase in the price of electricity paid by the poor, unlike a line item on a budget which must be explicitly allocated out of the budget.
> Economics 101: producing more of a product makes it more expensive! No, wait, the other thing.
The sibling commenter was absolutely right on that point (I don't agree with him eveywhere). If you view it as so trivially wrong that you can be flippant about it, it's because you don't understand the issue.
There's plenty of argument in the other direction:
https://ctmirror.org/category/ct-viewpoints/eliminating-net-... "This “cost-shift” argument is a tactic from the utility playbook and is commonly used by clean energy opponents. But it lacks any basis in fact"
See the section on "Power Grid Stability and Rooftop Solar"
The third actually makes some arguments and links to data, which is great, so I went and read the reports they're linking to, to see if they back up the claims made.
1) The Nevada study
> They contend that, far from shifting costs, NEM customers create net value to the grid and all grid users. One only need look to a study commissioned by the neutral Nevada Public Utility Commission that shows NEM customers provide a net present value benefit of $36M to non-NEM customers in Nevada.
The Nevada study does not tackle net metering in a vacuum. It's comparing it as an alternative to legislated renewable energy quotas and finds it a wash, i.e. the utility builds solar or buys it from customers. This isn't surprising, and doesn't support the claims the article makes.
2) CPUC Study
> But critics (as well as NEM advocates) overlooked that the same CPUC report also found that NEM customers as a whole “appear to be paying slightly more than their full cost of service” – 103% of their costs, to be precise.
The link was broken, but I hunted it down. The full table looks like this:
[Customer Type] [Without DG] [With DG]
Residential: 154% 81%
Non Residential: 122% 112%
Combined: 133% 103%
In other words, a residential customer that installs solar under net metering will go from paying their cost and providing a profit margin for the utility, to paying far less than their cost, raising the price for other customers (as we have been saying).
The benefits to non residential customers under net metering laws are lower, because it doesn't necessarily help with the demand charge (because the power is actually paid for in a more fair way). Pointing to a combined number in a table and discounting the need for a profit margin is basically an outright fabrication.
The table explicitly supports the fact that net metering is a regressive transfer of wealth, and the author used it to argue the opposite.
So while the first two links were obviously rubbish, I had to waste half an hour of my life digging in to the reports behind the third link to find out that it, in turn, also turns out to be rubbish. The author was clearly just mining reports for data points that would fit their narrative.
I agree that the tech is too expensive right now to break even - although I'm also dumping spare solar into my car's battery.
We've got an electric car too, so I plan on getting a Zappi installed soon to push all surplus energy into the car battery. It automatically adjusts the charge rate to match the level of surplus being generated.
I'm thinking of combining this with Economy 7 for charging the car at night when we've not had much sun.
(Serious question. I hear some of them can.)
New generation cars are coming with that feature on other standards but as far as I'm aware, no other mass production vehicles are equipped with it yet.
When I asked for a price in 2017 it was $2600
I inquired about what is likely to happen as cobalt is a relatively scarce resource if we are looking to use it for powering our world. He said he is sure that they [researchers] will find some substitute, but right now there is none.
As the scarcity of other elements in power storage increase, it may drive up the prices, even if the lithium itself can be sourced.
It’s a good article!
Historical cobalt price charts: http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-prices/cobalt/all/
What I mean is, if demand goes up, but the cobalt suppliers are all on long-term contracts with manufacturers, could the manufacturers then drive up price since they control the essential inputs?
- Doubling the price of a mineral does generally causes many new suppliers to appear.
How is collusion risky? Seems worth trying.
Restrict supply, jack up prices, maybe lose 20% of your sales by weight, but make it up with revenue.
You cant enforce a cartel where all non land locked countries can compete with you if they choose.
And for businesses cartels are illegal in most of the largest markets so that won't work either.
There's an ass-ton of lithium in certain parts of the American west. I've met some of the people working for the companies getting set up to exploit it once battery demand drives the price high enough.
Oil has lots of substitutes and alternatives too.
OPEC’s members seem to have good enough business relations with the largest markets.
I don’t see too many OPEC members getting arrested anywhere.
Much easier to convert for those than the cost of switching from mined lithium vs sea lithium.
The first player to defeat from a cartel can take most of the market for itself, right from the other colluding players.
That's a euphemism for child slave workforce.
Silver boom town at the begging of 20th century turned into ghost town when the mines have run out of silver, now might turn into boom town again because of how cobalt is used in battery manufacturing.
Funny how that blind faith in "market prices will figure it out" never applies to renewables.
To be fair, it's what has been happening so far. Of course it'll stop one day. Also I think oil major are aware of the fact, that's why some of them are investing in renewables (like bio-fuels).
Counter example lithium comes from primary sources. If demand goes up we'll just increase extraction and or bring new sources online.
Panasonic manufacture the cells, do they not own the ip etc?
I suppose its a current Tesla advantage, Panasonic are signing contracts with other manufacturers though, so it isn't really a defensible moat.
I don't think any advantage in battery tech today could possibly hold for another 5-10 years considering how much competition and active research there is. We hear about major battery breakthroughs in the news every few months, presumably some of these will reach consumers in the coming decades.
* Tesla chemistry, pack design, and use.
* Panasonic manufacturing equipment and expertise.
I don't think Tesla is unassailable here, but they do have a significant head start.
You'd need 90 of these batteries to make a 1kWh pack, costing $270. Obviously this does not include casing, assembly, and BMS (battery management system), but that's an inexpensive (probably 10%) overhead.
Buying in "super bulk" and "from alibaba" would probably be even cheaper, and would probably approach $176/kWh.
edit: Check out Jehu Garcia on youtube if interested (no affiliation).
- Sort by orders. If seller has sold the most, probably a reliable seller.
- Buy a handful (or samples) first (you can ask seller that you need samples first), and test their capacity (using e.g., a good charger, I have Zanflare C4). The model I mentioned should have 3Ah (or 3000Ah). If confirmed, those are legit cells.
I seem to remember reading that $100/kWh is the point where electric cars are cheaper to manufacture than traditional ICE cars.
$62/kWh would pretty much mean that BEVs are cheaper to operate in nearly all segments though.
I've surely misunderstood you when I take you to say that Tesla is the only one making mass-market electric vehicles.
That's simply not mass market.
Keep in mind, too, that cheaper batteries doesn't just mean cheaper Teslas, it also means cheaper hybrids which are likely to remain popular for quite some time.
It's not pushed anywhere. None of those have shipped yet. The only car with that branding that you can buy is a hybrid, not a BEV.
Theres a lack of product range, and don't forget the scale, these manufacturers are currently producing 1000s of evs, they need to scale to millions.
VW seem to sound most serious, aiming for 50 models by 2025, but what do they have now?
And don't forget lead times. They will be starting to design those 2025 cars right about now. Are they ready for that?
Quoting from Forbes at the time of the announcement:
>Keep in mind, this doesn’t always mean a pure electric car. An electrified vehicle could mean a gas-electric hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. For instance, VW’s 80 new electric cars goal for 2025, includes about 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 plug-in hybrids.
That's encouraging that at least one company is serious.
Why not with US vehicles?
Do you think US consumers will continue buying combustion cars even when EVs are cheaper?
Not OP, but I would speculate north american consumers have more range anxiety than many markets (300km range would suit a larger portion of the market in Asia and Europe than in North America). Also, fuel taxes are significantly lower in North America (and the US in particular) than Europe and Asia, so combustion engined vehicles will remain total-cost-competitive for a few years longer.
Even 100km of range will cut it, especially with charging at place of work.
For long distance travel, rent an ICE and put the wear and tear on someone else’s vehicle.
> I know Americans can drive a lot, but I still think 300km or range vastly exceeds 95%+ of use cases.
For commutes, sure. But I know a lot of people (most?) who like to travel to the next city to see their parents (450km), or go camping/hiking/skiing (wilderness where chargers aren't common, 200km one way). A 300 km range wouldn't cut it for them (and a 100km range wouldn't be good for anything except daily commute).
Several of my family members have gotten plug-in hybrids - 40km range, but backed with a gas engine. That means their daily commute (or most of it, with winter weather range impact) is electric, and they have gas for when they want or need to go further (eg kids sports on the other side of the city).
I intend to buy an electric car, but probably not until my current yaris gives up the ghost. I'm willing to put up with the inconvenience of a 400km range, even though I regularly do a 1400km one-way drive, and filling up the battery with a supercharger will take about 15 hours instead of 13 with gas fills.
Already contention for chargers at my workplace.
”we’ve been hearing a lot of companies announcing lofty electrification plans like these, so what makes VW different? Well, they’ve at least got hardware to back up the talk. Here’s a look at what might be the platform that actually brings electric cars to the masses.
The MEB Platform
VW started designing the MEB platform—the company’s very first high volume EV architecture—about three years ago.”
Plug it into a port in your trunk and it takes over all electrical loads (roughly 10-15% of engine load, more when driving slowly), until empty.
Maybe it can also pre-A/C the car (are AC compressors electric yet? Other pumps are (coolant, power steering, brake assist and obviously fuel).
Would very much like to know the assumptions and factors for the demand forecast. Will manufacturers keep up, or will there be under-supply, either of the batteries or any of the key components? Will the pricing of different battery technologies transpire at markedly different rates?
If you ride conservatively that's 80-100 miles on one charge
What about the homes of almost 8 billion humans?
Will we go from peak oil to peak lithium?
Maybe today's production levels don't support the wholesale replacement of every vehicle on the road over night, but there's no shortage of lithium in the world. It's just a matter of the market encouraging greater production, which will ramp up as demand for batteries increases.
For example, lead sulfide is nigh-insoluble in water, so where water containing dissolved lead meets water containing dissolved sulfide, a concentrated ore body of lead sulfide (galena) can form. Sulfate anions are more common in Earth's natural waters than sulfide anions, but so-called sulfur reducing bacteria convert sulfate into sulfide as part of their respiratory cycle. That's an example of the biological contribution to ore body formation.
As an element in Earth's crust, lead is actually rarer than so-called rare earth elements like neodymium. But neodymium's aqueous chemistry doesn't offer such common opportunities for concentration as lead, so in practice useful ore bodies of lead are much more common than those of neodymium.
The lack of liquid water on other celestial bodies is why they don't form ore bodies like on Earth. On the Moon and Mercury, for example, one would expect to find no economically exploitable deposits of either lead or neodymium.
are there game changing inflection points likely within 5 years or is the key take away prices continue to fall fast?
Solid-state would be a game-changer, but mid- to late-2020s is about when that would come about.
- There's nothing wrong with suggesting a tldr/summary post. You hear some here say they'd prefer every article had one.
- It's doesn't leach or degrade site comment quality. At least not if common sense is used to ask sparsely, and keep one's contribution to request ratio > 1.
- It can provide real benefit to the community. When was the last year one person could absorb the sum of all human knowledge, 17th century, or earlier?
I along with plenty of others most often do "just go read" the article here if it seems interesting. Plus a metric crap ton more from other sources. There's just not enough hours in the day. It's humanly impossible to fully read merely the subset of content that seems interesting.
None of that withstanding, thank you for adding the one liner sentence about the article in question. No sarcasm. I consider that beneficial in the same spirit, and it was appreciated.
The main point is concepts analogous to RTFM may have validity in certain contexts, but I don't believe HN is the best possible fit you could find for them.
Hydrogen fuel cells aren't ever going to happen.  Power to weight sucks, energy to weight sucks, and safety sucks among other things. The supposed advantages over electric cars (infrastructure, range, refueling, longevity) don't exist, and at current rates of tech development won't ever exist. But the disadvantages (complexity, hydrogen storage, inefficiency) still do.