Will EVs Save the Electric Companies?

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The major utilities in Australia think they might. As I have discussed, U.S. utilities need to start now (Disruption On All Sides – What Is A Utility To Do?) to save their businesses, protecting what they can while building the base for a new  business. The longer they wait, the closer they will be drastic economic losses and fewer options to save themselves.

Utilities in Germany and the rest of Europe are already there, having lost two-thirds of their market value since 2008 (Reuters: Renewables turn utilities into dinosaurs of the energy world). The utilities in Australia are now there as well, complicated by the fact that many of them are actually state enterprises.

The European utilities were first; their executives can be forgiven for not seeing the future. The Australian executives much less so. The U.S. utility executives will have no excuse.

EVs of some sort must be part of the answer to offset the loss of electricity sales. Utilities must understand they now have a competitor with an exact substitute at the point of use, so their price and customer relations matter. They have  customers, not ratepayers.

Giles Parkinson sums up the situation nicely:

The more utilities appear to declare war on their customers, and seek to make solar unattractive by increases in fixed charges, and raising tariffs, and regulatory barriers, the more battery storage and distributed energy seems appealing. The more utilities feel they are competing against their customers, the quicker they will become estranged.

The only reasonable option seems to be to encourage people to consume more. Mandating them to turn on more air conditioning, or re-install wasteful appliances, obviously won’t work. Time to think of something new.

That option could be electric vehicles.

via Electricity suppliers look to EVs to save their business models : Renew Economy.

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Want To Bet Against Elon Musk? Solar City / Tesla Energy Storage

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SolarCity Sees Energy Storage ‘Viable’ Within 10 Years, CEO Says

Elon Musk is CEO SpaceX, CEO Tesla Motors, Chairman Solar City. SpaceX made history as the world’s first privately held company to send a cargo payload to the International Space Station. Tesla builds electric vehicles and its Model S is Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year. Solar City is one of the largest solar manufacturers and installers in the U.S., and provides the solar panels and installation for Tesla’s free charging stations.

Now Tesla is providing SolarCity with batteries for their energy storage product. SolarCity already has 395 energy storage “pilots” under contract. SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive says storage will be viable in 10 years and that “We will solve the storage issue.”

Given the technological and business success of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, do you want to bet against their storage success?

SolarCity Sees Energy Storage ‘Viable’ Within 10 Years, CEO Says – Businessweek

“It’ll be a viable product in the next ten years,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said today in an interview in San Francisco. “We don’t know yet how big the next phase is going to be, but this is a long term investment, full stop,” he said. “We will solve the storage issue.”

The San Mateo, California-based company is installing 8 kilowatt-hour battery packs provided by Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) and combining them with energy management systems that allow for remote monitoring. Storage will be crucial to balance the U.S. electric grid as solar expands from 1 percent of total generation capacity today, according to Rive.

via SolarCity Sees Energy Storage ‘Viable’ Within 10 Years, CEO Says – Businessweek.

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Envision Solar lands contract for 2,300 Solar Trees

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Envision Solar announced plans this week to install a forest of 2,300 of its Solar Trees at a property in North Carolina.

I don’t know the cost, but this is a great concept. According to details at their website (envisionsolar.com), each “tree” has 14.4 kWp and will shade six parking spaces. A charging system in the base of the tree for six EVs is optional.

See on www.cleanenergyauthority.com

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Toyota recycling old hybrid batteries into energy-storage systems for dealers

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Toyota is going to recycle nickel-metal hydride batteries from old hybrids into energy management systems.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Toyota will get experience in marrying their battery technology to customer use and grid prices. The energy management system knowledge they gain will be invaluable as they move downstream to homes and, ultimately, embed this knowledge in their cars with batteries. Yes, your Toyota will be a home energy storage device.

See on green.autoblog.com

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EV Solar And Battery Powered Charging Station Ready To Charge At Indiana’s Clay Terrace

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Shoppers at Clay Terrace in Carmel, Ind. can, as of yesterday, charge their EV while shopping through an innovative charging station.

Shoppers at Clay Terrace in Carmel, Ind. can, as of yesterday, charge their EV while shopping through an innovative charging station. The Simon Property Group, Toshiba Corporation, Duke Energy …
Douglas Short‘s insight:

The key item, I think, is not the solar charging of EVs. Instead, it is the solar + storage solution they have created.

“The solar energy can be stored in the Toshiba 75-kilowatt lithium ion battery, located next to the charging system. Toshiba developed its end of the ‘Plug-in Ecosystem’ for North America by combining existing micro-EMS (energy management system) optimization control capabilities with our latest rechargeable battery technology. This system ensures the efficient management of load within the EV charging system.”

It sounds exactly like what is needed, on a smaller scale, for homes and small businesses to store excess solar energy.

See on elonmusktesla.wordpress.com -Today, 3:59 PM

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Tesla Begins East Coast Fast-Charging Corridor

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Tesla developed its own fast-charging protocol, which uses a smaller connector and thinner cable than its competitors.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Just as he did with SpaceX for private space transport, Elon Musk is driving the  market for electric vehicles with Tesla Motors and Solar City. It is not enough to have the vehicle (the Model S); he needs to make people comfortable with its range for long trips. The solution is to give away the fuel in the most traveled long trip corridors: Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Los Angeles to Phoenix, and now Boston to Washington. Without a place to reliably charge, few would pay the price for the Model S. But if you can mostly expect to use it like a regular car, then look out!

See on wheels.blogs.nytimes.com

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Ford and the EV-Backed, Solar-Powered, Cloud-Controlled Home

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Ford, SunPower, Whirlpool, Nest and partners seek big household energy savings by integrating plug-in cars, smart appliances and solar via the cloud.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Two things about this development are notable. First, unlike other approaches, Ford’s approach is utility-agnostic and uses the cloud. Second, Ford tried to work with utilities and use their smart meters, but found it way too difficult and so decided to bypass them with the cloud. What does this say about smart meters and smart grid investment if utilities make the data unavailable or hard to use?

See on www.greentechmedia.com

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Advances in Lithium-Ion Batteries Will Make Electric Vehicles Competitive, But It Will Take a Decade

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McKinsey projects battery costs for electric vehicles will come down  enough to make them cost-competitive.  In a decade . . .


It will likely take a decade, but improvements to lithium-ion batteries could lead to much cheaper EVs.

By Kevin Bullis on November 9, 2012

Why It Matters

Electric vehicles could reduce petroleum consumption and curb greenhouse-gas emissions. But that will only be possible with better batteries.

Overcharged: Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, shown recharging here, are expensive. Cheaper batteries could eventually change that.

Overcharged: Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, shown recharging here, are expensive. Cheaper batteries could eventually change that.

There are plenty of reasons why electric cars aren’t catching on, but one problem is certain: the batteries cost far too much.

For electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to compete with gas-powered cars, battery prices need to drop by between 50 and 80 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy. Getting there might require inventing entirely new kinds of batteries, but there’s also a strong case that improvements to the lithium-ion batteries that power the current generation of electric vehicles may be enough.

The United States could have the capacity by 2015 to produce enough battery packs for 500,000 cars. But this year, due to high prices, plug-in vehicle sales won’t even reach a tenth of that in the United States. As a result, advanced battery makers in the United States have struggled. A123 Systems went bankrupt. Dow said its battery joint venture Dow Kokam had dropped markedly. And an LG Chem factory meant to supply batteries for the Chevrolet Volt has been built, but the factory is sitting idle, waiting for demand to pick up.

Electric vehicles cost less to operate than gas-powered ones, but that economic advantage largely disappears in the face of expensive batteries. The battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt costs about $8,000. The larger battery in the Nissan Leaf costs about $12,000.

The cost for the Leaf battery could drop to under $4,000 by 2025, according to a recent study by McKinsey, just by increasing the scale of battery production, forcing down component costs through competition, and approximately doubling the energy density of batteries, which reduces materials costs.

One startup, Envia Systems, has already built prototype lithium-ion battery cells that store about twice that of the best conventional lithium-ion batteries and can be recharged hundreds of times (see “A Big Jump in Battery Capacity” and “Should the Government Support Applied Research?”). And crucially, it’s similar enough to conventional lithium-ion batteries that it can be made on existing manufacturing equipment. The technology still needs work, and could take several years to start appearing in cars, the company says.

Jeff Dahn, a lithium-ion battery researcher at Dalhousie University, says cars like the Leaf and Volt use a special type of flat lithium-ion cell that is made with recently developed equipment that is still relatively slow. More conventional cylindrical lithium-ion cells cost roughly half as much to make because they use much faster equipment and are made at a larger scale. Dahn also notes that many of the components, such as a plastic film that separates electrodes in a battery, are overpriced. “You can’t tell me separator cost can’t come down.”

Read more at:  Advances in Lithium-Ion Batteries Will Make Electric Vehicles Competitive, But It Will Take a Decade | MIT Technology Review.

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Tesla scores $10M grant from CA for Model X

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Tesla is on its way to developing a full line of electric vehicles.  Now a stylish SUV.


Electric car maker Tesla has scored a $10 million grant from the California Energy Commission to help it make its next-generation electric SUV/minivan the Model X, Forbes reports. The article says that Tesla will use the grant to hire another 700 workers in 2014, and Tesla will match the grant with $50 million of its own funds.

Tesla unveiled the Model X — a crossover vehicle with “falcon” wing doors (double-hinged doors) that could appeal to women and families — in February of this year. The Model X will be built on the Model S platform and will be priced in the same range as the Model S.

via Tesla scores $10M grant from CA for Model X — Cleantech News and Analysis.

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Tesla unveils free solar-powered car charging stations for Model S owners — Cleantech News and Analysis

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Free fuel for your Tesla model S!  How are Detroit and Tokyo going to match that?


Electric car maker Tesla has quietly built out solar-powered rapid electric car chargers at six locations around California and has plans to install many more next year. The tech, which uses a solar system from SolarCity, will be offered for free for Model S owners.

Electric car maker Tesla announced on Monday night that it has installed its “Supercharger” rapid car charging network at an initial six locations throughout California and Tesla says charging at these stations will be free “indefinitely” for Model S owners. Tesla says the Superchargers will be powered by solar technology, developed by solar installer SolarCity (Tesla CEO Elon Musk also is an investor and the Chairman of SolarCity).

Musk has been discussing the idea of a Tesla-bankrolled Supercharger for almost a year and I first heard about the plan back in November 2011. The idea is that because the market for electric cars is so new, Tesla wants to help build out the charging infrastructure, which is one of the industry’s biggest barriers.

Musk called the Supercharger “the answer to the three major problems holding back electric vehicles” in his remarks during the event. These problems are being able to drive electric vehicles long distances conveniently, the issue of electricity being generated at a distant fossil fuel power plant, and the issue of cost of electricity.

One of the surprising parts of the announcement is that Tesla will be installing a lot more stations than I had originally thought. While Tesla announced the locations of its first six stations at the event tonight (“constructed in secret”), the company also says that in 2013 it wants to install many more Supercharger stations throughout the U.S. as well as Europe and Asia. Within two years the U.S. will be covered in Superchargers, said Musk during the event.

In that respect Tesla is making a considerable commitment to becoming an infrastructure installer and is developing more of a vertical business model for electric cars. I wonder how the companies who are building business models off of electric car charging — like Better Place, NRG Energy, Ecotality and Coulomb — feel about Tesla crossing over into their turf.

Because the technology is using solar power, as well as previously designed technology for Model S charging, Tesla says the chargers are cheap to build and install. There’s also the fact that there’s just not a whole lot of Model S drivers out there yet that will be using the power. For those reasons Tesla is offering long distance charging free for Model S owners.

The Superchargers can charge the Model S cars with 100 kilowatts of power and provide three hours of driving at 60 mph in about half an hour.

via Tesla unveils free solar-powered car charging stations for Model S owners — Cleantech News and Analysis.

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Toyota plans expanded range of hybrids – Business – The Boston Globe

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Toyota does not think batteries are good enough for electric vehicles, yet, and so will offer lots of hybrids.  They think there will be lots of fuel cell powered vehicles in 2020s.


TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. is boosting its green vehicle lineup, with plans for 21 new hybrids in the next three years, a new electric car later this year, and a fuel cell vehicle by 2015 in response to growing demand for fuel efficient and environmentally friendly driving.Toyota said Monday it will offer an electric compact called eQ, based on its iQ model, in Japan and the United States in December though the number of the vehicles made will be extremely limited — about 100 for special fleet use, according to the company.The car, which will be called the iQ EV in the United States is pricey at $45,000 and has a cruise range of 62 miles.In the United States, an electric version of the Rav-4 sport utility model, which Toyota worked on with US electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, goes on sale this month.The fuel cell vehicle, which runs on hydrogen to produce electricity, will be offered from 2015.Like other Japanese automakers, Toyota is gearing up for expansion after getting battered the last few years by the financial crisis and disasters in northeastern Japan and Thailand that disrupted production.The manufacturer is also counting on its reputation for green technology that it has built with its hit Prius, the world’s leading gas-electric hybrid, to woo buyers and fix its brand battered by the massive recall scandal in the United States a few years ago.But rivals are working on green offerings, too, such as Nissan Motor Co. focusing on its Leaf electric car. Another challenge is that customers in emerging markets, which are driving growth in demand for autos, are still not as interested in hybrids and other fancy — and expensive — technology.Takeshi Uchiyamada, the executive overseeing technology and new model development at Toyota, said the long-term potential for fuel cells was great, compared to electric cars, because of greater cruise range and shorter charging time. He said tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles were likely to be sold in the 2020s.A good compromise at the moment is the plug-in hybrid, which works as an electric vehicle until the battery runs down, and then switches to its hybrid motor, so there’s less chance of being stranded than with a standard electric car.Toyota has sold 15,600 of the vehicles since launching it this year.Uchiyamada said the positive reception for new technology, such as the hybrid, surprised Toyota, underlining the deep interest the public has in reducing emissions and protecting the environment.Although annual hybrid sales were tiny when the Prius first went on sale in 1997, such sales have grown to more than one million a year worldwide, comprising 10 percent of Toyota’s global sales.In Japan, where green subsidies have been a big plus in recent years, hybrids make up nearly half Toyota’s sales, Uchiyamada said.

via Toyota plans expanded range of hybrids – Business – The Boston Globe.

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Solid-State Batteries – Technology Review

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Continued research improves batteries for vehicles, potentially increasing electric demand but making on site generation from intermittent sources (solar, wind) more feasible.


Ann Marie Sastry wants to rid electric vehicles’ battery systems of most of the stuff that doesn’t store energy, such as cooling devices and supporting materials within the battery cells. It all adds up to more than half the bulk of typical lithium-ion-based systems, making them cumbersome and expensive. So in 2007, she founded a startup called Sakti3 to develop solid-state batteries that don’t require most of this added bulk. They save even more space by using materials that store more energy. The result could be battery systems half to a third the size of conventional ones.

Cutting the size of a battery system in half could cut its cost by as much as half, too. Since the battery system is the most expensive part of an electric car (often costing as much as $10,000), that would make electric cars far cheaper. Alternatively, manufacturers could keep the price constant and double the 100-mile range typical of electric cars.

via Solid-State Batteries – Technology Review.

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