Electric Car Batteries

I decided to follow suit and post on the electric car industry. This article discusses the costly hybrid, lithium-ion batteries that run in electric cars, such as the Prius, Chevy Volt, and Nissan Leaf. Many of these battery producing companies have recently gone out of business, due to the high cost of producing these batteries. Many firms believe that the prices of such batteries will fall, but this could also cause for an increase in other costs associated with using more batteries. Firms are also attempting to convince customers that performance has not diminished simply because of the use of a hybrid or electric engine. The true market outcome of electric vehicles is uncertain and has yet to be fully seen.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/energy-environment/questions-linger-on-battery-prices-in-electric-car-industry.html

2 thoughts on “Electric Car Batteries

  1. This churn is typical of new industries. To stick to cars, at peak there were 300 manufacturers in the US, many of which produced under 5 vehicles before exiting the industry. It took Henry Ford 3 tries before he launched a firm that survived (though my understanding of the history is that part of the move from firm #2 to firm #3 was to squeeze out other investors; Henry was not a nice person).
    Batteries are slowly falling in price (in terms of energy density, weight matters, not just price per kW). How far that process can be pushed is unclear. But with low US fuel prices the case for purchasing a BEV (battery electric vehicle) remains weak. One caution: when it was launched, the Prius did not make sense either, the price premium exceeded the savings from fuel efficiency. What mattered was successful marketing, so that it became the “in” vehicle in the Hollywood set, which then encouraged yuppies elsewhere to buy into the style: the Prius is a fashion statement.
    That hides the other approach: using batteries to supplement performance in other ways. GM’s “Eco” cars all have a small(er) battery than a full BEV that is used to power an alternator-starter: when you brake, the engine shuts off, and when you pull your foot from the brake, it turns on again. Some vehicles (which I don’t recall) take that one step further, using the alternator as a regenerative brake, eking out further efficiency without going to a full drive motor. This system can also boosts horsepower during acceleration, so that you can get by with a smaller motor (keeping a car cruising requires relatively little horsepower, in contrast to getting up to 75 mph on I-81).
    In sum, these batteries have made far greater inroads than the normal consumer realizes, because for these newer applications — newer to the US, widespread already in the EU — they are not central to the marketing of the vehicle.
    BTW Rockbridge Ford got in their first of the brand new C-Max Hybrid on Friday, which I test drove. It’s a nice vehicle, handles really well on the back road route I took [reflecting its base on a European platform]. Stop by and see it! IMHO it’s nicer than the Prius, and priced very very competitively.
  2. This article discusses the environmental impact of an electric ar as opposed to a gas run engine.

    http://www.gizmag.com/empa-study-environmental-impact-electric-car/16181/

    This article says that with all factors accounted for the electric car is more efficient, but if a gas engine could get 70 MPG than the gas engine would be better. The question here is considering how the battery companies are struggling to make money, is a firm in the auto industry better off continuing to improve their gas engine or to invest in electric?

    My most Honda in Europe gives some insight into what a gas engine is capable of. Honda has built a civic that gets 65 MPG.

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