The New Battle-to-the-Death in the Auto Industry.

Auto makers will face the loss of control over core technologies and the commodification of vehicles they market (11 minutes).

Pent-up demand for high-priced luxury cars in the era of Carmageddon is a tricky thing, especially when tax credits phase out. Read…  Carmageddon for Tesla Model 3: US Deliveries Plunge 55% to 60% from Q4, Laid-off Delivery Employees tell Reuters

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  82 comments for “THE WOLF STREET REPORT

  1. Joe says:

    The challenge for people like me that travel long distances are developing a fast charge available in more areas.

    My father has the BMW i3 and loves that car.

    He says he only bought it because he doesn’t want to have to fool with fuel. He doesn’t concern himself with the environment.

    He has always been one to buy on the frontend of technology. I believe he still has his Star Trek Voyager laser disk collection

    • Patience says:

      I just hope we can upheaval 1800 tech, lead based batteries and the such. It’s crazy that we aren’t more advanced!

      It’s all about the battery source and the advancements there which are nonexistent.

      • WES says:

        Patience: Re-read acid batteries. My brother, an engineer, worked up in Kamano, B.C. Alcan has a power station there that is required to have sufficient battery back power to restart their water turbine powered generators should they ever go down.

        The existing batteries were a large bank of lead acid batteries dating from the 1950s. The batteries needed to be replaced. My brother with a second engineer, were charged with the job of finding new replacement batteries.

        Knowing that much had probably changed with batteries since the 1950s, they researched what had changed. After extensive searches they replaced the old batteries with new batteries built to the same 1950s specs!

        Their conclusion. No improvements had been made to lead acid batteries over the last 50 years! Also there were no replacement batteries that could complete on price with lead acid batteries! No replacement batteries that could last as long either!

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

          Chemistry hasn’t changed in 50 years! Imagine that!

        • EEngineer says:

          For stationary applications like that iron-nickel is also popular because they have a longer service life.

        • Les Francis says:

          Batteries really haven’t advanced in 150 years +.

          It’s the technology on the other end – or what the batteries power that has progressed. Tiny power consumption from miniature circuitry enables very small cells and batteries.

          Tablet calls have been around for more than 50 years.
          One of the most effective tablet cell was the Mercury cell – now banned.

          Where the alleged progression of large batteries occurs is in the charging mechanism. While charging heat is the enemy of the battery. Panasonic and others have devised special charging methods which use the optimum charge current with the optimum heat loss. e.g. Tesla super chargers.

          Cell construction and materials are limited by physics and atomics. Unless some unknown mysterious element arrives with some alien space being (with huge quantities of it) incremental improvements of current technology will prevail.

          All these breakthroughs you see announced in the MSM are laboratory stuff with no real use in the real world.

        • Les Francis says:

          And then there’s the alleged Graphene super capacitors.

          Have you ever seen a capacitor blow up?

          Capacitors content is measure in Farads – generally micro Farads (millionth of a Farad). The explosive index from a 100 micro Farad capacitor is quite surprising.

          In the past I have installed DC power supplies containing 1 Farad capacitors. Theses capacitors were much bigger than a Heinz baked bean can.
          They were also situated in a heavily contained rack.
          If one of them had failed and exploded the power room would have been taken out.
          Graphene super capacitors powered vehicles – I don’t think so.

  2. Howard Fritz says:

    The last article when I compared my old ICE vehicle to a midrange Tesla model 3’s performance commenters insinuated I was shilling for Ford (ahem Ambrose Bierce).

    However, as this week’s Wolf Street Report stated because automakers do not have control over the battery cells and the remaining components aren’t particularly complex (in comparison to the thousands of components an ICE vehicle contains) no one company truly will stand out on top, not even counting diminishing returns on lithium-ion battery improvements, and the availability of lithium itself (sea water extraction may change this).

    What this report didn’t cover is one of the major hurdles towards mass adoption is the energy grid itself, which in places like California is already overstressed.

    Your home likely has 110v and 220v outlets (220v only for Europeans with only two breakers) a Tesla supercharger runs off 480v. This is going to require new infrastructure which many localities will not be able to afford, although our grid has undergone radical changes in the past.

    As I always say more remains to be seen.

    • David Horowitz says:

      EVs will always remain niche vehicles until someone solves cold weather driving issues, extends driving range comparable to ICE vehicles, shortens charge times to a few minutes and builds out the charging infrastructure, or if petro fuels become so expensive that EVs are a more attractive option. But it would probably never happen where gasoline/diesel is prohibitively expensive yet electricity cheap. More likely, we would all be back to riding horses or walking.

      • Howard Fritz says:

        I like your analysis David, it seems unlikely petro-carbons become expensive while electricity remains cheap (baring unique extenuating circumstances).

        However, consider that regardless of what the electric car is powered by the contacts will be required to transfer massive amounts of energy the question is how fast?

        Think of how warm a dongle connected to your phone gets now imagine a battery a thousand times bigger going from 0 to 100 in five minutes. Any material on the market (or in existence) would melt into a puddle, notwithstanding that any battery in existence would explode.

        I know many try to tout some perceived breakthrough right around the corner but the reality is you can’t cheat physics.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Mr. Fritz-thank you for again pointing out the hard truth that you ‘can’t cheat physics’-only that our understanding of it evolves and changes, subsequently allowing us to work with it in ways new to humanity. I’m always amazed at the substitution of ‘technology’ for ‘magic’ in the minds of too many of us (of course, if you look historically at ancient astronomers often parlaying their scientific knowledge of the heavens and seasons into becoming an entitled class of high religious priests, I guess I shouldn’t be). By extension, ‘nature bats last’-‘saving the planet ‘ is a null term, it has never cared . ‘Preserving an environment that allows humanity to survive as a species’, well, that’s a different matter. Thank you again, Wolf, for your hard work in researching and editing this great site (greatly expanding my knowledge of our current civilization’s economic weather and climate), and to every commenter here, who all (generally) use their heads for more than a hatrack. A better day to everyone.

        • Harrold says:

          Petro-chemicals are already extremely expensive, just look at what we have to allow Saudi Arabia to get a way with.

    • Marcus says:

      This is a good point. I want an EV but my rental condo breakers kick when I run the microwave and any other appliance. The old infrastructure just isn’t meant for it. If my workplace adds enough charging spots, I would consider it.

      My few opportunities to drive EVs have been very convincing. I simply love the performance and feel.

    • Covey says:

      In all the clamour that EV are best and will save the planet, there is not much consideration given to the simple issue of electricity.

      I live in the UK and we run on 220-240v 50mhz for home supply. At night my home runs on less than 1kw/hr after we have had our cocoa and retired to bed. Apart from some homes who run storage heaters which use off peak electricity on a special tariff, most homes use little electricity at night. The UK Government has stated that it is policy that all petrol and diesel cars will be banned after 2040.

      According to the Tesla UK web site, a Tesla running on a Home Charger will use up to 22Kw/hour and for up to 10 hours to 100% recharge a battery. That is a lot of electricity per hour for each night of the week. For a few thousand EV cars per night, not a problem, but if 25% of the petrol cars are replaced by EV, it will be a problem, and it will require a massive investment program to build generating capacity to cope with the load. We have generating capacity to run our present load but additional capacity to recharge tens of thousands of EV overnight will see calls for the costs to be met by those who use EV’s so the recharge costs could well prove very expensive.

      All this of course assumes that the raw materials to manufacture all these batteries remain in free supply, but who controls most of the lithium? Look at China and ask yourselves what economic power that would place in their hands.

      • Jonathan Vause says:

        surely overnight charging is a net plus for EVs (power stations can run overnight rather than shutting down?)

      • Wolf Richter says:


        You said: “…use up to 22Kw/hour and for up to 10 hours to 100% recharge a battery. That is a lot of electricity per hour for each night of the week. For a few thousand EV cars per night, not a problem, but if 25% of the petrol cars are replaced by EV, it will be a problem,…”

        This assumes that every EV will be driven 200-300 miles every day to empty out the battery completely every day and that it then has to be recharged fully every day. This assumption is kind of nuts. If you drive 250 miles every day, that’s 95,000 miles per year! A few people might drive this much, but in the UK the average is 8,000 miles per year per vehicle (2015). That’s 22 miles per day. So the charge required every night is what it takes to refill the juice used by 22 miles of driving. This is less than one-tenth of what you used in your assumption.

        • Caliban says:

          Please realize that it’s peak demand, not average demand, that determines the capacity required by the electrical grid and generation system. That is, unless you are willing to live with rolling blackouts at the most inopportune times.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Yes, that’s exactly what I said a few hours ago in my comment down below. I’ll repeat here because it’s important — though this comment was written in the context of the US (which is somewhat different from the UK due to our heavy use of air conditioning where demand peaks in the middle of the day):

          Electric utilities love EVs because they can be plugged in at night and use the otherwise idle capacity of the grid. There is a huge amount of idle capacity in the grid at night. The grid is built to handle peak loads during the day. And then all that capital investment to handle peak loads just sits there not doing much of anything, and not earning any return, for many hours at night.

          Large-scale adoption of EVs would solve the massive problem of grid under-utilization during off-peak hours.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

      To get 480V you just use a transformer, and a rectifier and filter capacitors etc depending on what the Tesla charger needs. So, it doesn’t take a whole new infrastructure, but it does take more parts.

      The beauty of Tesla’s AC generation and transmission system, the one we use now, is that voltage can be stepped up and down as needed using transformers.

      • kam says:

        “To get 480V you just use a transformer,”

        True. But you can’t get past Ohm’s Law. Twice the voltage means half the amperage, less conversion losses.
        Therefor, twice the power cost and/or twice the time to charge.

  3. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Hi from Oz. Great article, Wolf! As someone with 50 years + experience in electronics and IT and as a keen student of the history of technology, I really get how pivotal this battle could be to the global motor vehicle industry. As it happens I was born the year that the transistor was invented, and I was educated through the ‘electronics revolution’ that saw vacuum tubes replaced by transistors, shortly after which most analog technology was replaced by digital, and not much later the personal computer and data networking. But in those days there were hundreds of not thousands of manufacturers of finished electronic products like radios and TVs, many of which made many of their own components, so the transition was probably far less traumatic and disruptive than the ICE/EV transition will be. From my knowledge of history, I’m thinking that earlier technological disruptions, such as the steam engine and mass-produced weaving machines (i.e. the first industrial revolution), or the building of the railways are a better comparison. Are we about to witness the end of an era?

    • WES says:

      Oz: The key for EV will be when they can pack nearly the same energy or preferably more into the same volume and weight as an ICE’s gas tank!

      Right now it is the battery that is holding everything back! Maybe the real solution will come from a non-battery device?

      As for the good old days of transistors, I remember embedding the metal caps of a few transistor up into the ceiling of my electrical lab!

      • John Taylor says:

        I wonder how much you could get out of a simple electric propane motor.

        Think about a small economy car with a 50 mile battery range, and a small propane engine that offsets the energy drain to extend the mileage. Could this be a cheap way to significantly improve the range of the vehicle and keep an economy level cost? Similar to a hybrid but less effective and much cheaper?

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

          That’s a great idea … makes me want to go into business selling propane and propane accessories I tell you hwhat.

      • EEngineer says:

        The next step change in electric vehicles is when there is a standardized battery pack that can be replaced in under a minute. Think automated racing pit stop. You park on a changing spot and a robot arm comes up out of the ground (or side) and swaps your battery out for a fully charged one. So you rent it kind of like the standardized propane tank used for gas grills.

  4. roddy6667 says:

    “Pent-up demand for high-priced luxury cars in the era of Carmageddon is a tricky thing, especially when tax credits phase out. ”
    The average Tesla “S” sells for $104,000, not list price. The average buyer has a household income of $500,000. With this model and any other luxury car, it is doubtful that incentives like tax credits play a big part in making the sale. Another $7800 is just pocket change.

    • Mark says:

      Not true. I am a CPA that prepares taxes for clients in that income range. It is amazing how people behave related to taxes. Does not matter about income level. Behavior is not mathematically logical. Demand will fall off a cliff this quarter. Even more so for X and S models.

      • WES says:

        Mark: You are so correct! Taxes drive sane people insane!

        Example: My Father who worked in mining said it was amazing to watch supposedly intelligent people (doctors, dentist, lawyers, etc.) buy into mining exploration projects that had zero chance of any return!

        Their rationale was if the government was going to take over half of their income in taxes and waste it, then they were going to blow their half for an offsetting mining exploration tax credit so the government would not get any of that portion of their money!

        See how that works! They got to decide how some of their money was going to be wasted!

        This actually a perfectly rational decision to in an irrational world! Stupid, but hey …

      • roddy6667 says:

        I live in China where the wealthy pay huge tariffs on imported cars, much larger than the subsidy on an EV. Nobody blinks. If somebody wants a Maserati SUV or a loaded Escalade (now made here, but imported before), they just buy it.

    • Duke DeGuise says:

      Pocket change, yes, but it does add up, and people should recognize the honor for us Prolz to give what we can to our social and economic betters, via the tax system.

      I feel such a vicarious sense of status and virtue; it makes me proud.

  5. Sinbad says:

    Electric motors are superior to ICE’s in every meaningful way when it comes to propelling motor vehicles. The catch as the story reports is the batteries.
    Battery technology has gone from lead acid to Nickel Cadmium to NiMH and currently Lithium ion. There is roughly 7 times more energy in a Li-ion battery than a lead acid battery of the same size and twice the power of a nicad.

    There is a lot of research into batteries so expect the lithium batteries to be replaced by something better/cheaper in the future.

    I think the real breakthrough will come with fuel cells. A hydrogen fuel cell using methanol is clean and the range of the vehicle would be better than a diesel.

    • BoyfromTottenham says:

      Sinbad, you said ‘Battery technology has gone from lead acid to Nickel Cadmium to NiMH and currently Lithium ion. There is roughly 7 times more energy in a Li-ion battery than a lead acid battery of the same size and twice the power of a nicad.’. True, but this technological progress has taken about a century. How long do you think we have to wait until we get batteries with 7 times the energy density of Li-Ion?
      Oh, and when do you think the various methanol subsidies will be unnecessary? In at least one state here in Oz the state government has forced gas stations to sell the E10 (10% ethanol) blend, even though car owners don’t want it even at a subsidised price.

      • Sinbad says:

        I think you might be confusing ethanol with methanol, to my knowledge there are no subsidies in the methanol industry.
        As for when a breakthrough will occur, how long is a piece of string?

  6. Frank says:

    The death of brands in the motor vehicle market will be vastly accelerated by the driver less car, more so than EVs which I agree will further increase the amount of vehicles that are the same apart from the badging, once you the customer are not driving the vehicle do you care what the badge is, do you look at the badge before you board a bus?, in 20-30 years time probably 80% of driver less EV and other vehicles will be built by a single manufacturer with the remaining 20% niche specialist vehicles.

  7. David Horowitz says:

    The unspoken truth is that a huge increase in nuclear power generation will be required prior to widespread adoption of EVs. In fairness these nuclear plants and waste storage will have to be located in the zip codes where EVs have the most registrations.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Actually no. Electric utilities love EVs because they can be plugged in at night and use the otherwise idle capacity of the grid. There is a huge amount of idle capacity in the grid at night. The grid is built to handle peak loads during the day. And then all that capital investment to handle peak loads just sits there not doing much of anything, and not earning any return, for many hours at night.

      Large-scale adoption of EVs would solve the massive problem of grid under-utilization during off-peak hours.

      • Howard Fritz says:

        Yes, Wolf but consider that during cold weather the energy capacity of a battery can decrease by 25% up to 50% in extreme cases. Also, the car’s A/C is driven by the battery as well. This is going to eat up a substanial amount juice even with regenerative braking, these cars are going to use more power than just what the distance says it will use up.

        If we wanted to solve the issue with grid under-utilization we would truly need a smart grid.

        Also wouldn’t mass adoption of EVs simply increase what baseload power is required?

    • Em says:

      If we rethink nuke plants and use thorium instead of Ur or Ce we’d make a huge leap forward.
      Short half-time, easy to dispose waste, nu usage in amo!!

  8. Auld Kodjer says:

    Wolf – do you have insight on where HV is currently at?

    I vaguely recall that the heads of Toyota and Honda made statements a couple of years ago that they viewed EV as an “interim technology”, while they focused on HV in the longer term.

    • michael says:

      hydrogen vehicles are joke. They make less sense than an EV

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Auld Kodjer,

      I was working with hydrogen fuel cells in 2000. At the time, fuel cells had been a promising technology for over 100 years, and they’re still a promising technology today. They work great, but the problem is hydrogen. Hydrogen is everywhere, but it is attached to other atoms and is energy-intensive to split from those atoms. So it’s tough to make the math work.

      Also, a lesser problem: hydrogen has to be compressed to something like 5,000 psi or 10,000 psi to get any kind of energy density out of it. That’s a lot of pressure and adds to the complexity and expense.

      But if someone handed you hydrogen for free, it would be an awesome fuel.

      • WES says:

        Wolf: Another way to say the same thing about hydrogen is that it requires more input energy than is produced!

        A negative EROI isn’t sustainable!

        What we really need is a positive EROI that doesn’t hurt the environment!

        • Michael Fiorillo says:

          That’s an easy one: all we have to do is repeal the Second law of Thermodynamics.

      • JMB says:

        Yes, Wolf free energy…The savings from our home use energy costs supplied by our roof solar system here in Phoenix, AZ literally makes supplying my driving energy needs, 7,000 miles annually, a freebie.

        Great sunshine, lower driving needs, and an efficient i3 BEV, 4.3 miles/kWh, …it’s the whole package for us.

        • Bin says:

          I wouldn’t call that free energy until the investment costs have materialized. Maybe 10 years down the road?

          I had free energy for a year, a friend who works at a shipyard brought 3 drums of fuel leftover from a job once.

    • MC01 says:

      My Chemistry of the Elements textbook has a page dedicated to “The Hydrogen Economy”. It’s so funny to read nowadays.

      Japanese firms such as Honda threw what I can only call enormous sums of money at hydrogen fuel, especially storage.
      All sorts of metallic alloys have been suggested and experimented with for safely storing hydrogen in non-cryogenic conditions, ranging from the positively mondane (Mg2Ni-MgsNiH4) to the downright exotic (LaNi5).
      In the end the Toyota Mirai (€78,600 MSRP) uses some downright plain carbon fiber-reinforced nylon tanks which store hydrogen at 700 bar (roughly 10,000psi). As a chemist I am rather disappointed at the simplicity of this solution, but the alternative was an even more expensive Prius sibling.
      Three decades of huge investments and even bigger promises and this is all we have.

  9. Jim McCollum says:

    When is a electric car maker going to come up with a readily exchangeable battery pack that can easily be replaced with a fully charged pack within 10 minutes at a battery pack service station, leaving the discharged pack to be recharged for another later customer coming in to get a “fill-up?” No long charging wait times. Seems like something the EV industry would want to standardize but this is probably a long time down the road when much more of the national “fleet” has been converted to EVs.

    • WES says:

      Jim: One big problem! Would you willingly exchange a new battery for one that might be old and about to fail?!?!

      • Jim McCollum says:

        If I was leasing the rights to a battery pack and paying for it incrementally each time I picked up a newly charged one, I would not care whether it was new or used.

    • John Taylor says:

      Think about how large a regular car battery is. They cost in the $100-$300 range and mainly help start the engine, lights, and stereo when the car is turned off.
      An EV requires a much larger and much more expensive battery. Its about as feasible as regularly changing out your internal combustion engine on a routine drive.

      There are other solutions, like the air compressor driven Tata Nano, but battery technology has theoretical limits on energy density.
      Fuel cells would allow much quicker energy replenishment than batteries, but they have other expenses and limitations. For economy use I really think they need to minimize weight & speed and perhaps try to supplement a smaller battery with a cheap electric motor running off a common & plentiful fuel (gas? NG? Propane?)

      I think for low-cost EV’s, the innovation breakthrough necessary will require thinking outside the battery.

      • Bankers says:

        Thinking laterally and speaking broadly :

        Battery on lease with change out facility at stations that have local high efficiency generation is feasible, but you are talking large infrastructure, i.e. dotted every hundred miles around the whole country.

        Slower/shorter range, lighter vehicles would be acceptable for part of the market, e.g. already small three seat pickup that does 40 miles is offered under 10k. They are not cars as we know them but in practical terms work.

        I see battery limits for weight and speed of charge. Try to pack too much energy too fast and you know the result.

        The savings with EV are with efficiency of generation of electricity. Setting aside renewables for now (and they are a feasible in certain circumstance), you have ICE around 20% efficient, diesel up to twice that, but gas generation plants at over 60% . Toyota built a new gasoline engine at 40% efficiency. So you can see roughly where this is going, when you factor in distribution costs, vehicle weight, fuel/oil supply. That is to say I expect a “mixed fleet” of vehicle types, and apart from changes in attitude by society, I think that hybrid and/or high efficiency ICE are also going to replace a major part of vehicle use in future as global fuel demand constrains availability, say over a twenty or thirty year time frame.

        ICE engines and drivetrains are complex, but they are not that expensive, with reliability that should see say ten years trouble free use, they are just recyclable/reparable at choice, and remembering EVs generally take more energy to make into the equation.

        Its swings and roundabouts.

  10. WES says:

    I have a brother who works at GM in Detroit. Recently GM has begun laying off large numbers of it’s staff.

    The reason given for this is supposedly the CEO Mary Berra wants to reposition GM away from ICE to EV by 2021. She wants to be ahead of the curve!

    The problem with this thinking is that there is currently no great demand yet for EVs. It is doubtful the demand for EV will be there in such a short time frame. EVs remain a nitch item only the wealthy can afford.

    Poor people can’t afford to keep two cars at the same time. In addition poor people can not afford the risk that comes with owning an EV, the sudden and unexpected battery failure!

    Try getting a second car loan to buy a new $12,000 battery that comes with a reduced warranty! Also if you can’t afford to buy a new battery now the equity in your EV also suddenly collapses too! A double whammy!

    Check out the cost of used EVs that just need a new battery! Try getting a car loan to buy the used EV and a new battery! Just saying ….

    Right now we are watching Tesla implode! In addition there are new entrances by foreign car makers to take advantage of EV tax credits that Tesla and GM can not.

    It will be very interesting to see how long GM’s CEO lasts when the expected EV sales fail to materialize.

    • ethan in nova says:

      There are a lot of people hacking on the batteries and what not. They can be repaired, there are 3rd party packs. Service on the packs is a thing. They seem to last longer than expected. There is an active community — and has been for the EV world. The Prius batteries lasted a lot longer than expected.

      Maybe ICE serves the cold areas and EV the warm. If it settles out to 50/50 on the roads that wouldn’t be horrible.

    • Mr. Knoss says:

      Perhaps she suspects that the Federal Government will someday force everyone into an EV, just like they have with so many other mandated “features”.

      Again, we are not the Auto-Industries primary customer.

  11. Bill from Australia says:

    In Australia the distance between major towns and cities is so great that my e,v, will have to pull a trailer with a generator on board but who cares I am saving the planet, or not ?

  12. Lion says:

    I know I’m out in left field to the Gods at GM, but I still think a Plugin has the best combo. 90% of my driving is less than 40 miles a day. I don’t think I’m alone in in that I mostly drive less than 40 miles a day. I shouldn’t need a vehicle with a heavy 250+ mile range battery, but I could use an EV type vehicle with a range extender. I liked the Chevy Volt range and concept, but didn’t really like the car. Back seat kinda put me off. GM put that technology into a Caddie, but that car is $65k or more. So, I’m going to continue to sit on the sidelines for now.

  13. Rob says:

    I think this is an exaggeration. The sector is mature and is already reliant on scale to maintain margins. All this report argues is more consolidation. But we are already down to a few global OEMs and then some subsidised national car companies.
    FCA group has to be one of the most vulnerable. Most of the new EV producers will go to the wall. Even Tesla lacks scale to be independent. You have to wonder why Apple is wasting its time on a car when it could embed its consumer tech into someone else’s.

    • Bankers says:

      I.e. let startups test the market and thrashout problems funded by hype, then step in with better and cheaper if a customer base forms, keeping own reputation intact. Not stupid.

      However there are exceptions to this, where innovative direction builds a social trend that people will stick to mark just because, or where scale is not justified. There money eventually talks in today’s world though, and you end up with buyout and further consolidation.

      That is the shape of globalism and its monopoly I suppose.

  14. yngso says:

    Hmmm, the electricity conundrum, apart from offpeak charging, it will be about how we produce energy. As dino jiice runs out we’ll have to adapt, and the new tech is being developed very rapidly.
    The only drawback with hydrogen fuel is cost, and you betcha they’re working hard on that.

  15. Arbuthnot says:

    Wolf: I have just listened to your EV commentary – twice, and will probably listen again later today. Excellent piece! I don’t know how many, if any, people you have working with you on your wolf street reports, but your obvious command of the facts in this instance as well as in previous reports is impressive to say the least. Well done.

    I had one particular reaction as I read this report: This stuff is too good to…

    ***[Wolf here: Arbuthnot, as per your request, I have deleted the remainder of your comment.]

    • Bobber says:

      I view Wolf’s contributions as much more than a business.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Thank your for your very kind words. As per your request, I have deleted the remainder of your comment. Sorry I didn’t get to it sooner. Was busy writing my next piece, which I just posted. I have thought about many times what you’ve suggested, and I will continue to think about it because it is important, but I have some even more important reasons for not going that route.

    • TXRancher says:

      There is a “How to Donate?” button in the top menu of Wolf Street. It works because I’ve tried it. That is a way you can give your monthly subscription fee.

  16. The end of EV cars has several causes, a fraud on the laws of physics, a global recession which will curtail new technology, low energy costs in fossil fuels for the near future dues to the extended duration of cheap credit, and to the purposes of USG which prefers control of their own energy policy, rather than dealing with OPEC. Bolton said he would like to see US companies managing Venezuela’s reserves. The one demographic that keeps the personal automobile going is rural America which will be destroyed in the next twenty years.

  17. RDE says:

    A few basic facts:

    Electric motors are inherently far cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient than combustion engines, even after ICE’s have undergone 100 years of refinement.

    The instant-on torque curve of an electric motor is far more suited to the duty cycle of a vehicle than an ICE.

    Every major automotive manufacturer is in the process of committing their future to EVs.

    The LiO battery is the only currently available battery technology suitable for EV’s. Without it EV’s are simply not useful.

    The known world’s reserves of lithium are insufficient to permit wholesale conversion to electric vehicles as the automobile industry is planning. And we are not going to extract it from sea water without incredible expenditures of energy that is too cheap to meter.

    Wishing does not alter the laws of physics. If the EV revolution is not to fall flat an as-yet-unknown technology must be developed that produces Moore’s Law like efficiency increases in electric storage. Success in this effort is by no means a given.

    And to put everything in perspective, as long as the world is finite, Peak Oil is as immutable a physical Law as gravity. In the year 2075 we will not be driving around in petroleum powered vehicles because oil will simply be to precious to waste on such extravagance.

    • Bobber says:

      Pollution, traffic, population density, and remote connectivity will likely destroy the gas vehicle market long before the world runs out of oil.

  18. ft says:

    Three of my relatives, none of whom are paupers, drive EV’s – a Mercedes, a Ford, and a Tesla. What they have in common is that they all have found a setup where they can recharge their cars for free. Their choice of vehicle is based simply on the fact that somebody else is paying the freight. More power to them, I guess, but something needs to be put right here.

    • And in my area there are dozens of CNG stations but none of them are “public”. In the context of a political “con job” there is reason to doubt the assumption that the EV revolution reflects the free market at work.

  19. raxadian says:

    Not to mention the “using Electric Cars powered by electricity made on ways that pollute” problem.

    The US is stilk using coal to produce electricity. Thankfully Coal is a dying business in the USA.

  20. FuelCellFuture says:

    It is hard to imagine any battery technology being efficient enough to power the world’s machinery on a large enough scale over the next 100 years without evolutionary battery technology breakthroughs. For example, how does one power a jumbo jet on batteries alone? How about an electric train? (yes it runs on electricity, but powered by diesel generators).

    So for “EV” to become mainstream in all aspects of human machinery, a power solution beyond batteries is required. That is where fuel cells come into play, producing virtually unlimited amounts of instantaneous, localized electrical current that future electric powered machinery demands.

    We are not there yet, but we will be forced there by the next generation to deal with both climate change and ever increasing energy consumption. For a taste of the “future” future, take a look at the Hyundai Nexo from 2015 and/or the current military fuel cell truck prototype in the links below. The cost is currently too high, and the infrastructure does not exist, yet the technology is closer than most understand. And perhaps in a few hundred years we can move on to “cold fusion” generators and then a few million years later “anti-mater dark energy” generators. ;D

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Note in my comment above what I said about fuel cells. I worked with fuel cells in 2000. United Technology had an experimental fuel-cell bus, which worked fine. Fuel cells powered the electrical systems of the Space shuttle. Back in 2000, fuel cells had been a “promising technology” for over 100 years — and today, they’re still a “promising technology,” as you point out.

      Fuel cells work great. That has been proven. The problem is hydrogen. It’s everywhere but very energy intensive to split from the atoms to which it is attached. So the math just doesn’t work out.

      Until that’s solved, as your alias suggests, fuel cells will continue to be stuck in the future — rather than the present.

      • Not me says:

        The solution to H2 are the ammonia fuel cell or the methanol fuel cell. Both have stability, storability, temperature lability, energy density, and low total weight, all of which hamper battery EVs.

        Most of all, the cost of the material components of batteries is avoided with low cost FC membranes.

  21. Does anyone remember slot cars? Why couldn’t we embed live rails in current highways that run the cars and recharge the batteries, leaving the battery packs for local driving? I’ve always wondered about this.

  22. Citizen AllenM says:

    Ok, we just went EV with a 2014/5. I3. Totally mispriced, 28k miles, 100k 10 year replacement battery warranty. 15k with range extender. With free charging at work, the net cost is 35%of the used 2010 Acura TL it is replacing for a 48 mile round trip commute.

    This car is doing most of the miles driven, and if the price remain soft, another one will be in service next year. Only going to have one gas vehicle for 3 drivers. And given how easy it is to rent a vehicle for longer weekend trips, I can see the end of gas for a lot of people.

    BTW, the free level 2 chargers at work fully swing the economic equation.

    Also, rapid charging is more expensive than slow charging due to demand charges. And overnight is the best.

    Rural areas are going to stay gas a lot longer than urban areas.

  23. Richard Burr (not the senator) says:

    Your comments please on Tesla’s recent acquisition of Maxwell Technology.

  24. Walt says:

    No one has mentioned the need to maintain roads and bridges as we currently do with federal and state taxes on motor fuels. A rough guess is this amounts to maybe 70 cents per gallon. Currently EV’s get a free ride on this. This will need to be added to any calculations on operating costs of an EV.

  25. Jake Bodhi says:

    So, is Panasonic a stock of the future??

Comments are closed.