Thursday, June 4, 2015

Will We Ever See A 500 Mile Electric Vehicle?

There are few guarantees in life these days.  It seems like all the old rules are being rewritten daily but there is one given; an undeniable segway  when a new electric vehicle is announced that has longer range than its predecessor or previous version and the 30 Kwh 2016 LEAF SV/SL is no different.

The argument always lines up the same. There is the "Wow, awesome! This is perfect!" group which is generally small but knowledgeable.  Then comes the "sounds great if its the same price" group. They love EVs, probably already have one and rarely use the range they already have.  And finally, you have the "Well, "XX" has failed us again and I won't be interested. I will save my money for the "blah blah" when it comes out"

Now, it would not take too much imagination for us to figure out that the 30 kwh 2016 LEAF 1.5 is not what we are talking about here, its the 2017 LEAF II with its "double range" capacity verses the much talked about mystery car aka the Tesla 3. So what do we know?  Well, nothing actually about either one so best we can do is what we have been told which as we all know is subject to change.

Musk promises the Tesla 3 will have a 200 mile range and start at $35,000. Now due to the extreme inequities of the federal tax benefit for EVs, The Tesla 3 will see the $7500 tax credit for probably a few years... but then again, that all depends on when the car shows up. I generally add a year to any Musk prediction which means I am only slightly antsy when the car does finally show up.   Keep in mind; the fed tax max only applies to the first 200,000 units from each manufacturer.  How many S's and X's will go before the 3 arrives is anyone's guess.

Now, the 2017 LEAF II will have what I am guessing to be 135-160 miles of range and will retail for something close to what they are selling for now. Middle ground says $32,000. So for an extra $3,000 or so, you can get 40-65 more miles of range. Sounds like a good deal right?

Well, I am predicting that the average selling price for LEAF II will be no more than $2,000 above my $32,000 estimate but more than $5,000 above Musk's $35,000 estimate for the average selling price of the Tesla 3 which now puts it over $40,000.

So, does this make the Tesla a significantly more expensive car when their is simply more pages in the accessories catalog? Do we base the cost of the car on the "stripped down" price of the no frills option in each line? Well, some might but I have to go with what is selling.

The actual reality is probably going to be "Musk being Musk"  He has always excelled at promotion and hype and this is no different. the $35,000 price tag is just the bait and like all Fish, the biters will realize that there is much more to it. Either way; Nissan does not have to worry about the Tesla 3.  infiniti, BMW and Mercedes? well, that is a different story.

As mentioned above, every new EV announcement is immediately followed with what everyone "really" wants and rarely does anyone really want something that correlates to their needs.  There was a guy who was basically a traveling salesman delivering medical equipment all over the State of Florida. He put several hundred miles on his Prius every day eventually getting to nearly a half million miles (in less than FOUR years!) Ok, so he might need a 500 mile EV but for the rest of us?

But I hear this every day. "I won't buy an EV until it has the range to do everything I need it for so it will have to have at least 500 miles of range."  Well, guess what? That will NEVER HAPPEN EVER.

No matter how much better the batteries get; a chemistry based battery solution will never go that far on a single charge and the main reason is we simply don't need it to.  There will be no car manufacturer willing to design a car for the few dozen people who actually may need that much range on a fairly regular basis. The other reason is there is simply too many reasons not to

Battery Swapping;
Now the need to drive 500 miles will arise but before we start hauling around more than twice the battery we need (along with paying for it!) other solutions will cover our needs.  Battery swapping will come back. Yea, Better Place had a great idea but was about 10 years too early.

Public Charging;
A build out of the public charging network will also help to cover our more extreme needs as well. Score one for Musk, he really nailed that one.  But this benefit won't happen until the Oil Companies accept the fact that electric vehicles have gained enough of a foothold in the market to warrant the consideration. Look for BIG movement in that arena within 2 years. Look for 2017 to be the banner year for public charging. Yea, our future is likely shifting from paying oil companies for gasoline to paying them for charging...

Chemistry;  There was a lot of noise made just before this decade started with Ultra capacitors and electronic charge storage from a company called eestor.  They claimed to have found a way to hold electrons with the ability to control the discharge. IOW, an electronic battery of sorts.  But their claims of a working prototype being just months away has been proven false.  Other companies have come out with random claims of new super capacitor  benchmarks but none appear to be near production ready at this point. But another company has taken old technology, conquered a key drawback and promises a "production ready" product in less than two years. Phinergy has already demonstrated a working prototype with great success which I wrote about in a blog a while back.

Now, this option has great potential. It has huge weight/charge performance gains, very low weight, and a supposedly no shelf limit. IOW, you could order the range extender on your new EV, drive on the rechargeable batteries for years all the while knowing you can switch over the range extender any time as often as you wish without any creating any detrimental effects to range within.  Sounds like a dream come true?  Well, Nissan thinks its their dream come true. They have invested into the technology so don't be surprised to see this in the 2018 model year and an option.  My take?  Well, Hydrogen; It was nice knowing you...          

Finally; need is not the real question here. Its desire. Who really wants to drive for 10+ hours in a day?  I am a military brat who joined the military so all day driving marathons is something I have gone thru way too many times. Ignoring things I did before the age of one, I was 18 (flying to basic training) when I took my first airplane ride. So it was drive and ya, its like drive to Virginia from California. Virginia to Alaska (and back!), etc. so who needs it??

Well, we do. I predict the occurrence of marathon driving sessions will jump up within 10 years but we won't be doing the driving. I will leave that up to Google.                      

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