Saturday, August 9, 2014

Electric Vehicles In China

This week I read an interesting article on the real story of electric vehicles in China.  Not Teslas or BMWs but a host of small companies making simple EVs that have lead acid batteries (not lithium ion) and selling these cars in rural villages.

These low speed cars are pretty cool and make sense.  Friends then asked why these type of cars are not imported into the US.  The answer is safety.  A three wheel car does not need all the safety approvals.  A our wheel car does need them all.   That got me thinking about three wheel cars which are actually classified as motorbikes in the US.  I found this company called Elio that will soon launch a three wheel gasoline powered car.

The article is a little wrong in that the car cannot accelerate to 100 mph in just over 9 seconds, the author mixed up kilometers per hour with miles per hour, but other than that the article is very revealing.  I do hope the Elio comes to market.

Tesla sales are dropping in the US.  Lots of hype about the Giggle Factory, the Model X, and then the people’s model but the Model S was a 18 month wonder and then sales have dropped in the US pretty precipitously as reported by Inside EVs.  Only 7,900 Model S Teslas sold in 7 months this year versus 11,850 last year.  This is in a growing market where other like the Nissan Leaf are gaining market share.

Tesla is still hyping the Chinese market for their Model S but I think the company is selling a really wonderful car at a high price that has a limited number of potential buyers.  They should simply increase the price on their cars by another $20,000 and make some profit as they are in the luxury goods market not in a major market.   Even Chev has now admitted the Volt is never going to be a mass market vehicle.  

The Volt will have a new model coming out in about a year and will have an even smaller gasoline engine mated to the electric drive.    This is a pretty innovative internal combustion engine.

A lot of innovation is happening in the automotive industry.  Navigant reported that within a decade one billion gallons a day of gasoline will be produced and sold worldwide.  This is pretty scary.  Back in 2006 the US peaked in gasoline usage at approximately 375 million gallons a day.  I drive about 15 miles a day and use about three quarts of gasoline a day.  I am well below average as a motorist and that is good.  I do hope to be using even less gasoline in ten years time when I buy a low miles Model S that someone got tired of.    I am still convinced that Elon knows th3 85 kilowatt hour battery pack in the model S is good for 5,000 charge discharge cycles and that one can get almost a million miles on a Tesla without changing the batteries.  My low miles Model S that I buy in 2024 may have over 150,000 miles on it. 

I am serious that the battery pack can go through 5,000 cycles.  Ping Batteries, the Chinese company, that I referenced more than 4 years ago in my US Senate Testimony claims their much simpler battery pack which is air cooled can last over 3,000 cycles with 70% of the capacity still remaining.

I was completely wrong in thinking that lithium ion batteries are not well suited for electric vehicles as I was wrong on the assumption of the number of charge discharge cycles the battery pack could survive.  The batteries last a long time if properly cooled and controlled and I do not see any reason why a 2012 Model S will not be running 25 years from now.  Sadly for Elon and Tesla they have to find new buyers each month in a crowded market that others have easily copied.    I doubt many of the 2015 Elios will still be running in 25 years.   As they say on Shark Tank it will get squashed like a bug.


  1. Hey Lindsay... Interesting analysis of EV future sales... I think Elon Musk recognizes Tesla growth is tied to EV-for-GV substitution rates... Musk has given away Tesla's patents in hopes of spurring more growth of EV development...Few people are going to buy an EV as their first or primary vehicle at this time, but my experience suggest that many more should consider EVs... I've put nearly 17,000 miles, over 9,000 miles using battery power, on my Ford Fusion Plug-in during the past year, and it's been a dream... Since I began a new job in SF, I drive from HMB to the Colma BART Station and take a train into downtown... Since I get a full charge at home and the Station (free of charge charge!), I use less than 1/10 of a gal. for the 180 miles of travel... I calculated that 0.34 lb. of CO2 was produced to generate the kWh required for each mile of electric travel... This is comparable to the "carbon footprint" of a 50/65 mpg GV...

  2. Hey Blair Glad you got a good paying job. Congratulations! You are actually even greener than you claim as PG&E has a very green grid. They emit only 450 pounds CO2 per mwh. You plug in probably need 0.4 kwh AC from the grid Your emissions at only 0.18 pounds of CO2 per mile. At 25 MPG well to wheels gasoline is 1 pound CO2 per mile. Hence on PG&E grid power and ignoring the energy in China to make the batteries you are over 125 MPG versus gasoline emissions. It all depends how many miles those batteries last what you lifecycle MPG equivalent is. I think ford had a good cooling systems for the batteries and a good battery management system so you may get 200,000 miles of the Fusion. Good luck with the job and good luck with the car.