Posts tagged “electric vehicles”
Before its annual Energy Innovation Summit in 2013, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced funding for a new program aimed at rethinking electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The program, Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems or RANGE, was created as part of an integrated effort to accelerate electric vehicle innovation to reduce costs and improve performance of EVs. Last week, ARPA-E announced the names and descriptions of the 22 recipients for the RANGE program, representing fresh approaches to making EVs available to everyone.
ARPA-E has invested in transportation technologies since its creation. The new RANGE program complements the agency’s BEEST program for doubling the energy density of EV batteries by altering battery composition and materials, AMPED for seeking advanced power management technologies for storage, and GRIDS, for developing cheap utility scale storage. The RANGE program is a genuine reflection of these previous ARPA-E’s programs as it supports truly far-reaching innovations and revolutionary energy technologies.
What is DOE’s New “eGallon” and Why is it Useful?
I’ve been looking through a new website developed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to assist consumers in comparing the energy costs of driving an electric vehicle (EV), relative to posted gasoline prices in their state. I heard about this site at the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual energy conference in Washington, DC earlier this week. It sounded like a handy feature for both current EV owners and those considering buying one, but I couldn’t help thinking about it in the context of a presentation I saw at the same conference on the cost effectiveness of federal tax credits for EV purchases. A key question in both instances concerns just what kind of car is being replaced by that new EV.
The website uses simple math, together with the EIA’s continuously updated data on gasoline and electricity prices around the country, to come up with a national and state-by-state price for an “eGallon”. That imaginary construct is essentially the quantity of electricity that would take a typical EV as far as a gallon of gasoline would take the average new conventional car. As the text points out, it’s hard for consumers to do this for themselves. They see gasoline prices everywhere they drive but must dig through their utility bills to find their electricity price–not always obvious–and then might not know how to compare the two.
The Electric Highway
The New York Times reporter John Broder recently published his account of an East Coast road trip he took with the Tesla Model S electric vehicle (EV). It marked an important development: Tesla has opened two new public “supercharging” stations some 200 miles apart in Delaware and Connecticut that can fully replenish the Model S battery in an hour and potentially provide consumers the ability to drive the well-traveled Interstate 95 corridor at near-zero carbon emissions. Unfortunately, Broder’s test results came up short, showing the limitations of existing EV technology, the need for more innovation, and the division of opinions on how the United States should decarbonize transportation.
The set-up was simple: Broder was to travel from Washington D.C. to Milford, Connecticut in the souped-up Model S. But according to Broder, he faced a host of inconveniences as the Model S fell short of its projected 300 mile range, resulting in the car losing charge mid-drive and the need to re-route to find additional charging stations. Since then, he and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have traded accusatory statements, (Musk, Broder, Musk, Broder), with even the New York Times Public Editor chiming in with an investigation.
The back and forth ignited a mini-Internet firestorm. The Atlantic Wire, for example, heavily scrutinized Musk’s rebuttal while Chelsea Sexton at Wired defended Tesla by characterizing EVs as being different from gas cars and thus deserving of different expectations. “The day-to-day experience EVs offer is so much better than gas cars for 95% of driving. Long-distance road trips are among the last 5% of usage scenarios,” Sexton writes, before concluding that “it’s ridiculous to expect EVs to deliver the same experience as the incumbent product.”
This is the 5th and final post in a series analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1 defined “clean energy innovation.” Part 2 broke down the federal clean energy innovation budget. Part 3 took a look at federal investments in clean energy demonstration projects. Part 4 took a deeper dive into clean energy deployment policies.
In the first post of this series, I called attention to the eminent need for supporting a well-developed and funded clean energy manufacturing sector as part of a robust innovation ecosystem. The feedback loops between manufacturing and research is explicitly linked. Even with all the R&D, demonstration, and deployment of clean energy, the United States could lose its competitive advantage over production resulting in the industry (and future innovation) to move overseas without strong policy support for advanced manufacturing. But like many other parts of America’s energy innovation budget, support for advanced manufacturing is rapidly declining.
The figure below shows that investment in clean energy manufacturing has fallen from nearly $9 billion to only $700 million between FY2009 and FY2012, or a 92 percent decrease. Direct spending in FY2009 and FY2010 was directly supported by the distribution of the Recovery Act’s 48 advanced battery manufacturing grants, which the Department of Energy awarded to a range of electric-drive, battery component, and battery recycling facilities. The grants were all devoted to accelerating the development of U.S. battery and electric vehicle manufacturing (a full list of grantees is available here).
Improving energy storage technology is widely recognized as essential to the viability of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), therefore a core technology for dramatically reducing transportation greenhouse gas emissions. But the impact of charging technology on developing a better battery is often overlooked. Senior Editor for MIT Technology Review Kevin Bullis put this in perspective, noting that “fast-charging still takes far longer than it does to fill up a tank of gas.”
The ITIF report Shifting Gears: Transcending Conventional Economic Doctrines to Develop Better Electric Vehicle Batteries summarizes the conventional state of BEV charging technology:
While Level 1 charging is available for all BEV vehicles, it can take up to 20 hours to fully recharge a vehicle. Level 2, meanwhile, charges in around 8 hours, making it ideal for overnight charging… Level 3 charging can almost fully replenish a BEV’s battery in half an hour, but the high-voltage process can shorten its lifespan due to its low density.
Unfortunately, even the relatively fast – by BEV standards – half an hour-level 3 charging offers a poor alternative to gas cars, which can be refueled in less than five minutes, at a much higher cost. (Read More: High Cost Prevents Electric Cars From Penetrating the Market)
Despite the federal government pumping $7.5 billion into the electric vehicle industry in the United States through 2019, overall national gasoline consumption is unlikely to be significantly affected, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Developed by the Bush administration in 2007 and initiated by the Obama administration in 2009, the program delivering the influx of cash is intended to help speed the growth of the fuel-efficient vehicle industry. The funds in question are made up largely by consumer tax credits that offer as much as $7,500 to consumers purchasing electric vehicles, followed by $2.4 billion in grants to electric battery manufacturers and $3.1 billion in loans intended to encourage automotive companies to increase production of electric vehicles. (See also: Will Range Anxiety Impact Electric Car Sales?)
The answer largely depends on your definition of a subsidy and what you mean by payoff.
I’d suggest that many, if not most, subsidies are a roll of the dice (crap shoot) when it comes to the purported pay off. They are social experiments without any guarantee of success, which is not to say they should not be undertaken as long as a mechanism is in place to end the subsidy in a timely manner.
There are many examples that have paid off royally, along with many that were (and are) a waste of time and money to varying degrees.
Here are my choices for the Top 10 energy related stories of 2011. Don’t get too hung up on the relative rankings. They are mostly in no particular order, although I think the top story is pretty obvious. 1. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster On March 11, 2011 the tsunami that flooded Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant resulted in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. The tragedy spurred heated debates over whether nuclear power could ever be totally risk-free. Several countries decided that the potential consequences were just too great, and reversed their plans for new nuclear plants and in some cases shuttered existing plants. The incident will likely slow the global development of nuclear power for years, just as… Continue»
The following guest post is from Victor Sequeira. Mr. Sequeira is Principal of VerisNRG LLC, a Houston based energy consultancy. He can be reached at victorseq [at] comcast [dot] net —————————— Can GM’s Volt Provide a Jolt to the Electric Car Industry? I remember my first trip to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit the WalMart corporate headquarters. As I looked at the offices of all the vendors who sell to WalMart, I remember thinking “being the world’s biggest retailer has its advantages.” So it is with the development of the electric car (EV). We root for companies like Tesla but, to move the market in a substantive way, you need to be big. Most Americans have watched General Motors in recent… Continue»
The Edison2 “Very Light Car” took home the grand prize of $5M while two other teams were awarded $2.5M each.