Professor Vaclav Smil tells us that when it comes to energy storage, size matters. A small national electric grid — one handling 10 to 30 gigawatts — could rely entirely on intermittent renewable energy sources (like wind and solar) only if it had gigawatt-scale storage capable of working for many hours. The largest announced storage system, comprising more than 18,000 Li-ion batteries, is being constructed in Long Beach for Southern California Edison by AES Corp. When it’s completed, in 2021, it will be capable of running at 100 megawatts for 4 hours. But that energy total of 400 megawatt-hours is still much lower than what a large city would need if deprived of its energy supply. For example, just 2 gigawatts for two days comes to 96 gigawatt-hours. Not even today’s pumped hydro storage, the best mechanism we have found so far, could meet the needs of a large city that loses power. “The need for more compact, more flexible, larger-scale, less costly electricity storage is self-evident. But the miracle has been slow in coming.”

Automakers are moving to 48 volt “mild hybrids” as a quick-fix to spur the development of electric vehicles.  This adds some electric power to existing gasoline and diesel models without a costly redesign and are now being deployed in Europe without fanfare by brands from Volkswagen to Volvo. By quadrupling the 12-volt standard in conventional car electrics and allowing a more powerful starter motor to feed extra power to the drivetrain, complementing the combustion engine, automakers can transform petrol cars into mild hybrids without redesigning the vehicle’s architecture and factory tooling. “Our view is that 48 volts on a gasoline engine is an alternative to diesel,” said Karin Thorn, vice president at Volvo. “If and when the diesel market is dropping, something else needs to take its place.” PSA Group, which makes Peugeot, now plans to introduce them in response to diesel’s faster-than-expected decline. Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst thinks by 2020 48-volt cars will outsell full hybrids in Europe and by 2025 they will equip 55% percent of all cars sold. Volkswagen’s development chief Frank Welsch says:

“The technology has a lot of potential and will make hybrids more affordable for the masses. Despite incentives, neither battery technology nor charging infrastructure is ready for the mass electric-car uptake required to put a dent in average greenhouse gas emissions.”

Here is the Tesla solar-powered gigafactory in the US state of Nevada which produces electric vehicle and commercial storage batteries.



As the global market for electric and plug-in car grows, electric battery production will need to increase dramatically to match demand. It’s expected that EV batteries will become a $240 billion industry. In China alone, there are 140 electric-vehicle battery makers which last year produced 125 gigawatt-hours (GWh) worth of cells. Global cell production is expected to double from 125 GWh to 250 GWh by 2020. Yet many analysts believe total cell production will need to increase tenfold between 2020 and 2037 to match demand. That’s the equivalent of adding 60 new gigafactories. Volkswagen Group says it will need the equivalent of 40 new gigafactories for all the EVs it will be making by 2030. VW predicts a total of 1.5 terawatt-hours per year will be required within the global automotive industry to meet EV demand.

India will roll out nearly 100,000 battery-powered buses and rickshaws in the coming weeks as it starts on the road to making new vehicle sales all-electric by 2030. In addition to these vehicles, the Indian government has issued a tender to auto makers for 10,000 electric cars to replace existing petrol fleets at four government ministries. Given the daunting (if not impossible) task of electrifying and entire nation’s transportation infrastructure in just over a decade, the government is hoping the private sector will do most of the heavy lifting with minimum government subsidies. Local auto maker Mahindra is currently the only company selling electric cars in India. The company hopes to sell up to 5,000 units this year, including rickshaws. Foreign car makers are not yet ready to jump into the Indian market because their cars are too expensive for that market (Tesla, Mercedes) or their technology is not advanced enough to meet the road and weather conditions in the Asian country. Mahesh Babu, Mahindra CEO, says it is an exciting project but the 2030 government target is “idealistic and might lead to compromise on consumer needs and safety.”

Forbes has a two part series on the future of the electric car in the USPart 1: 65%-75% New Light-Duty Vehicle Sales By 2050 and Part 2: EV Price, Oil Cost, Fuel Economy Drive Adoption.

Japanese automakers Toyota, Mazda and parts supplier Denso are entering into a joint venture to develop electric vehicles. The new company will develop technology for a range of electric cars, including minivehicles, passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks. Neither Toyota nor Mazda market fully electric passenger cars at the moment.  Mazda has plans to launch EVs in 2020. Toyota is pursuing the Chinese market which is pushing hard for non-fossil fuel vehicles to reduce air pollution.

Toyota subsidiary Lexus say it is moving in Europe from hybrids to hydrogen fuel cell cars and fully electric cars over the next few years. It plans to introduce a hydrogen vehicle in 2020 to be followed by SUVs and smaller electric cars. The company’s strategy is being shaped by European auto emission standards which will require CO2 emissions to be 95 grams/kilometer or less by 2021.

MIT Technology Review tells us China’s New Electric Car Rules Are Amazingly Aggressive. China has announced that any automaker producing or importing more than 30,000 cars in China must ensure 10% of them are all-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen-powered by 2019. That number will rise to 12% in 2020.

Dubai is offering incentives to have 42,000 electric vehicles on its streets by 2030. The incentives include free public parking and EV charging, toll-fee exemptions, and discounts on the plug-in car’s registration. Saeed Al Tayer,  managing director and chief executive of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, said while it is difficult to put an exact figure on how much the government will spend to provide these offers, the free public electricity alone will be in the “millions” of dirhams. (1 dirham = 27 cents US and 0.23 Euros).

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