When will EVs be mainstream?

Predicting when EVs will go mainstream is finding the intersection of increasing gasoline cost and decreasing battery cost.
The conventional wisdom is the average consumer will not accept an EV with less than 200 or 300 miles in range.
It is difficult to predict how the minimum range requirement will decrease as the cost to operate an ICE increases, but it certainly will.
If your choice is an EV with only 160 miles of range versus an ICE you cannot afford to drive at all – you choose the EV.

Assumptions:
A 40kWh battery provides 160 miles of EPA driving range.
Battery prices start at $450 per kWh in august 2012. The cost of the battery improves at 8% per year in the future ( and degrades at 8% in the past ).
The gas price curve uses historical data til mid 2012 and then projection based on the trend from 2001 to 2012.

Each chart shows 3 things.
The red line is the cost of gasoline per month to drive 1000 miles averaged over 5 years from that point in time forward.
The blue line is the EV range you would have if you spent exactly as much money on the battery as you would to buy gasoline over the 5 year period.
The purple line is the cost to finance a 40 kWh battery over 5 years at 3% interest.
( left scale is dollars for the red & purple lines, the right scale is miles for the blue line )
Note that your battery is 100% paid for at the end of the 5 years, and then you have a vehicle much much cheaper to operate than an ICE ( this leaves a lot of EV benefit uncalculated, but we assume the average consumer will not be willing to think beyond the term of their car loan. )
We assume that an equivalent quality EV ( minus the battery ) is the same price as an ICE – this is very pessimistic to the EV, because an EV drivetrain is less expensive than an ICE one.
Thus we are comparing an ICE loan cost + fuel cost to the EV loan cost ( including its battery ).

This chart is for a 25 mpg ICE:

Interesting data points:
Right now – today – taking the same dollars you would spend on gasoline to buy a battery gets you a 95 mile range EV.
The cost of gasoline per month exceeds the cost of a 40KWh battery for the first time in november 2015 – so at that time you can buy an EV with at least 160 miles of range that is less expensive than the equivalent ICE over a very short period of time – excluding depreciation and maintenance ).
A 200 mile battery is the same price as gasoline in march 2017 – if you won’t buy an EV until it achieves a 200 mile range at the same cost as an ICE, wait another 16 months or so.
If you wait until november 2020, the EV that is the same “price” as the ICE achieves over 350 miles of range.

This chart is for a 30mpg ICE:

Interesting data points:
Right now – today – taking the same dollars you would spend on gasoline to buy a battery gets you a 79 mile range EV.
The cost of gasoline per month exceeds the cost of a 40KWh battery for the first time in december 2016
A 200 mile battery is the same price as gasoline in may 2018.

This chart is for a 35mpg ICE:

Interesting data points:
Right now – today – taking the same dollars you would spend on gasoline to buy a battery gets you a 68 mile range EV.
The cost of gasoline per month exceeds the cost of a 40KWh battery for the first time in december 2017
A 200 mile battery is the same price as gasoline in may 2019

Peak ICE

The growth of the passenger vehicle fleet in the US stalled in 2008.

Sales plummeted in 2008-2010, and more cars were scrapped than sold in 2009-2010 which reduced the total number of vehicles.

Few analysts think car sales numbers will bounce back to the pre 2006 levels of 16 – 17 million cars per year. If they don’t and sales grow slowly, then this scenario is possible:

Steven Chu believes we can get 1 million EVs on the road by 2015. Carlos Ghosn believes that EV sales growth will grow to 10% by 2020.
Over time EVs will compromise more and more of the fleet – a tiny minority, but a very significant number compared to the growth of the fleet.
If the EV sales follow a path consistent with 1 million EVs by 2015 and 10% of sales by 2020 – then the total number of vehicles will exceed the 2008 high in 2014, but the number of EVs is the difference between the green and red lines in this chart:

The total vehicle fleet exceeds the 2008 peak in 2014, but EVs are a significant portion of the new growth – and the total number of ICE vehicles never exceeds the 2008 number.
That will make 2008 the year of the peak number of ICE vehicles in the U.S., and every year after we will see that number decline.
It is a possibility, we will know in a few years – it all depends on how fast sales bounce back, how fast EV sales grow, and how fast people scrap their old low mpg cars in the face of $4 and $5 gasoline.
If it comes true, then we can all remember 2008 as the moment of “Peak ICE”.

Hacking with two by fours

I have 20 solar panels on the roof, I’ve been wanting to do some experiments with tracking and temperature so I got 1 more solar panel to play with.
I’ve been way to busy to get far on that project, but in a few spare moments my dad and I slapped together this rig to hold the solar panel.
It has a hinge to adjust the angle for seasonal variation, and the panel is on an axle that lets it point at the sky for whatever time of day.
Of course, after we finished it, we realized what we did wrong and how to do it better – eventually I want to build an active tracking system and the geometry of this rig makes that hard.
But I had the wheels and lumber lying around so this is what we came up with:

I haven’t even had a chance to hook it up electrically yet, if I get a few spare moments I’ll try to do that this week.

Retail prices

How much do EV batteries cost?

Tesla uses lithium ion cobalt cells, the same ones that go into laptops. A laptop typically has 6 or 9 of these, but the Tesla Roadster has 6831 of them.
How much does Tesla pay for these cells? I don’t know, except that it must be better than retail, and they probably get a big volume discount for buying millions at a time.
The global market for these cells is many many hundreds of millions.

On my last web search I found 2500mAh 18650 cells for $2.74 each if you buy at least 20.
The Tesla Roadster uses 2200mAh cells, so you would need slightly fewer 2500 mAh cells to make the same capacity pack.
It should take about 108 of the 2500 mAh cells to make 1kWh of battery, and that is $296 per kWh.

Of course, there is the cost of soldering them together, and the cost of some plumbing for the active cooling, and the cost of electronics to monitor and manage the cells.
However all of those things should be minimal at large enough scale.

And there is zero chance that Tesla or others are paying retail prices for their cells, they should be paying much much less.

Anti-EV crackpots continue to post lies that EV batteries are $1000 per kWh and that makes EVs impractical. Their numbers are so ridiculous that nothing they say can be taken seriously.

Ten dollar gasoline

Recently I participated in an email discussion that started from someone speculating how habits would change when gasoline hit 10 dollars per gallon.

That got me thinking, when will gasoline hit ten dollars per gallon?
There are several things working together, the first is of course the rising cost of oil ( massive demand growth from China and India, combined with falling production everywhere )
The second is the declining value of the U.S. dollar against every other benchmark.
A minor one is the increasing cost to refine the oil into gasoline, as we use up the light sweet oil and replace it with heavier oil.
Slowing the growth of the price would be:
Weakened economy due to high gas prices, more fuel efficient vehicles entering the market, driving less.

Instead of analyzing all those things, I am just going to take the historical price trends and extrapolate them out.
Over the last 10 years gasoline has increased an average of 7.5% per year.
Over the last 7 years gasoline has increased an average of 10% per year.

However there have been dramatic swings in the prices, it hit a high of $4.11 in 2008, a low of $1.61 at the end of 2008, and then back to $3.97 in 2011.

So there are 2 questions:
When will the average price of gasoline over several months sustain $10 per gallon?
When will gasoline hit $10 per gallon for the first time – even if it dramatically falls again shortly after?

Here are my predictions:
I believe that gasoline will very likely sustain $10 per gallon by Jan 1, 2023
Based on the current trends the earliest likely time to hit $10 per gallon is August 2018
Since there are 1-3 years between gasoline price peaks, I would give even odds that gasoline will hit the $10 mark before the end of 2020.
Of course, since hitting $10 per gallon may throw the world economy into recession, the price could easily plunge down to $5 per gallon within months of hitting $10 the first time.

July electric bill

Just got the July 8th – August 8th electric bill.
The total bill is $49.35

We used 723 kWh from PSE, but we sold them back 225 via net metering, the difference is only 498 kWh. Thats 15.5 kWh per day.
Last years bill for the same period was 1204 kWh – about $120.
How much did we actually consume during the month? Well our panels produced a total of 446, we sold back 225 of those, so we used 221, that makes our total usage for the month 944.
What was the big change from last month? We used a bunch more electricity for air conditioning, and we weren’t out of town for any of the month.
We managed to use about 22% less electricity this year than last year due to conservation efforts – a large part of that has to be the better insulation keeping the air conditioning costs down because the history actually shows the same average temperature for the 2 periods ( hard to believe as this year has been so crummy )
So conservation saved us about $22 this month, while the solar panels saved about $48.

Note that even though our bill for this month is $49.75, we are going to get a payment of $240.84 for our energy production credit. ( The incentive program for putting on the solar panels pays us for every kWh we produce. ) So this month we will actually net $191.09 from PSE – that goes towards paying for our solar panels.

Should you buy an electric car?

People ask me if they should buy an electric car. Quite often they are concerned that the electric car won’t have enough range to suit their needs.
What is funny is that if the limited range is a problem – they really really need an EV.
Why is that?
The more you drive, the more you need an EV, because EV miles are so much less expensive than gasoline miles.

This chart shows how many years it takes to save $7500 comparing an EV to a 30mpg gas car.
The EV is assumed to get 3 miles per kWh, and kWh cost 11 cents ( national average ) and that increases at 4% per year ( average of last 10 years ).
The gasoline car gets 30mpg and gasoline starts at $3.73 ( national average ) and increases at 8.5% per year ( average of last 10 years ).

A Nissan Leaf is about $25000 after incentives. There are many comparable cars at around $17500 and get 30mpg.
This shows that if you don’t drive enough, less than 7000 miles per year, it will take over 7.7 years to recoup $7500 purely on gasoline savings.
However if you drive slightly above average: 15000 miles per year it takes less than 4.4 years to recoup $7500.
And if you drive a lot: 20000 miles per year, you can recoup that money in less than 3.5 years.
After 3.5 years you are ahead, after a total of 7 years you have saved $7500.
Can a Nissan Leaf carry you 20000 miles per year? Yes it can, thats an average of 55 miles per day.
If your driving is highly variable and you have some days over 100 miles it might be less convenient, but if you can manage it, you will save a lot of money.

If you’re looking for a slightly more upscale EV:
This chart shows how many years it takes to save $15000 comparing an EV to a 20mpg gas car.
The EV is assumed to get 3 miles per kWh, and kWh cost 11 cents ( national average ) and that increases at 4% per year ( average of last 10 years ).
The gasoline car gets 20mpg and premium gasoline starts at $4.00 ( national average ) and increases at 8.5% per year ( average of last 10 years ).

A Tesla Model S with 160 mile range is $50000 after incentives. Coming up with comparables is not obvious. You can find cars with similar utility for $35k, but to find them with similar acceleration they actually cost more and only get 20mpg and use premium gas. Suppose a hypothetical sedan exists that has similar performance, costs $35k and gets 20mpg.
If you drive a lot: 20000 miles per year, again it takes about 3.8 years to save $15000.
If you drive a ridiculous amount: 30000 miles per year it takes about 2.7 years to save that $15000
30000 miles per year is 82 miles per day. If you can make that work with a 160 mile range car, you can save a LOT of money.

Conclusion?
The more you drive the more you need an EV.
If you don’t drive enough you won’t be able to recoup the costs on gasoline alone.