State of the Electric World

Posted: February 16th, 2019 by: h2

Every so often I’ll post a quick review of current green (sic) technolgies. These items are sourced from a variety of places, including some of the better youtubers, along with more standard web e-stuff sites. So here it goes, in no particular order.

  • Audi and BMW and Mercedes, paid for the dismantling of the Tesla Model 3 recently, and concluded, much to their chagrine, that Tesla is way ahead TODAY of what they had developed to compete, particularly Audi/VW, to the tune of something like 4000 dollars more expense to produce the primary powertrain system than what Tesla is spending, a powertrain that is basically also inferior in most ways to what Tesla is producing now, today. This caused some dismay, but what do these morons expect? they outsourced their early e-stuff development, thus losing the ability to generate inhouse expertise, and as with GM, often had the power train supplied by people like, oh, Tesla (Mercedes City Car), or Rimac, whatever. Who piled up said expertise, and pulled away further and faster.
  • Some of the big Germans also, grudgingly, admitted they are making a big mistake by not controlling their own battery sourcing, dugh, I mean, I said a while back, ad nauseum, the battery is the primary component, like an engine in a fossil car, if you outsource that, your company is little more than a kit car assembler, if you are honest.
  • Rumors swirled last few weeks, we recall that GM was ‘thinking about’ making a lot of EVs. Not actually making them, note, particularly remembering that the Bolt, their single EV, runs a full LG power train/battery pack, ergo, GM knows nothing about EVs, like, literally nothing. So what was this thinking about referring to? Well it came out, GM was thinking about investing in Rivian. Apparently, that thinking was too tiring, and it came out this week that Amazon is the one that ended up dropping a cool 700 million into Rivian. Smart investment. With this said, it has struck me, you recall that GM went bankrupt in the 2008 crash, and the US gov ‘saved’ them. This probably should not have been done, sad to say, for what do we see now? we see a massive resurgence in the USA vehicle industry, but none, not one, of those companies are in any way connected to the big 3 fossil USA car companies, none of whom can make anything remotely resembling a good vehicle, particularly not a car anyone outside of the Americas wants to buy (except, of course, Tesla, who cannot meet global demand, and who employs some 45,000 American workers, while GM closes plants and lays off workers).
  • Rumors were also swirling about Ford partnering with VW on the VW sled, that is, VW produces the sled part, and Ford sells the assembled cars. Note the aggressive refusal to actually make their own e vehicle? Anyway, it turned out, this won’t work, because Ford has no interest in selling lower cost EVs, though they are testing an e-F150, but given Rivian’s lead, pardon me while I stifle a yawn.
  • Ok, ok, I lied, GM is in fact producing, or at least, putting their name on what is probably a Chinese produced, vehicle, fully e powered. Very reasonable pricing, about 3-4 thousand dollars. I see you react with surprise, what? 3 or 4 k? yep. Ok, it’s a bicycle, an e-bike. Yawn. I doubt they even make the motor and battery.
  • Real solid state batteries are here, as I noted, look for the weak spots, in the unspoken parts, and I have read enough solid state battery stuff, including a few now in real production, to find the fine print, which in some cases, had to be grudgingly put into the very fine print, it’s charge cycles. So, what happened, there is a new UK solar powered drone, weather satellite sort of, except flying in atmosphere, can stay up about 90 days. Why, do you ask, is it limited to 90 days? certainly running highest kwh/kg packs, since weight is a premium, and though they did not say this specifically, it is because they are using solid state batteries, that have only a 100 charge cycle life time, 100 days, that is. Also note, that means, you replace the battery pack cells every 90 days. Obviously a no go for phone or car, and this is why you still are not seeing this tech in phones or cars, which require a 1000 minimum charge cycle life for phones, and many thousand for cars.

    So solid state are initially here, limited to very high cost applications where weight outweighs, cough, all other considerations, including life expectancy.
  • Big news! Tesla bought the venerable ultra capacitor/ battery tech company Maxwell Technologies, at least, almost bought it, still needs to be approved by their boards, but given Tesla’s in kind stock offering yielded 50% over existing stock price for maxwell, I don’t see how they can turn this down.

    Ignore the part about ultracapacitors, those are nothing in ecar context, no, I watched a serious dude, a real freak, on EV TV, Jack Rickard, who I have added to my inventory of acceptable sources, this guys is doing his level best to kill himself by horrible health habits, but for now, he does amazing videos of real tech, in depth, and he fully explained why Tesla bought Maxwell, it’s for their coating tech for creating the rolled sheets, until now, li ion construction required high heat drying in very long machines to dry the coating on the metal sheets that make up the guts of the battery. Maxwell tech, which initially was called ‘solid state’ by those alleged journos who are too lazy to do more than do superficial googling, anyway, what it is is, instead of spreading a slurry of the highly toxic crap on the sheets, then running them through relatively slow dryers, they created a way to mix special polymers into the material, then heat it, and melting that onto the metal sheets of the battery, thus knocking out the slowest part of production, and also, yielding better battery capacities and better durability. Most of the very toxic fumes are removed, and the batery line length is radically shortened, thus, a very large, albeit incremental, change, in how Tesla will be making their Li-ion batteries if nothing goes wrong with this new tech.

    So with this basically free $218 million stock swap purchase, Tesla basically just jumped about 10 or 15% ahead of all existing battery tech in the world, though I’m sure the chinese will copy it soon, but, keep this in mind, Tesla will probably roll out (pardon the battery assembly pun) this tech over the coming year or so, and will, again, prove, that without your own battery company making your batteries, you will never be able to compete on batteries, since these types of incremental improvements keep making your batteries better than everyone elses. oh, and it knocks the need for cobalt out too I believe. Not solid state, but gets rid of a huge production bottleneck, and helps alleviate wear issues.

  • VW is still banking on solid state, which as noted, still does not exist in an EV usable form. This makes one suspect their alleged come to Jesus battery EV conversion moment is a bit less substantial than you might believe, since if they were serious, they would do what all the damned successful startups are doing, using what exists here and now. dugh.
    • As an example, kickstarter type funding, huge popularity, Onyx, a fast moped, people want this shit.
    • How about the spanish? Check out the NUUK electric motorcycle.
      That’s groovy!! The Spanish are really good designers, forget the French silliness, no, take spaniards any time.

      Want a cleaner design, like a vespa? Check out the Silence S01 scooter. Very cool.

    Now, note, these are all being made now, all real. To go the VW way, and keep in mind, Ducatti is owned by VW, Ducatti is now ‘thinking about’ making an e-moto. Ok, ok, it’s confirmed, they are, eventually, going to make one. I hope you notice the pattern here? One also notes, that when I think Lightening on their e-beast took the moto category on pikes peak some I think 5ish years ago, they beat… drumroll… yep, you got it, Ducatti, by about 20 seconds, which as you know, is a lot at that level. So, did Ducatti go, oh, crap, ok, we need to have an e-thing out in max 2 years? no, they did not, they waited. and waited. and waited…

  • As usual, I’m maintaining my standing suggestion to short GM, Ford, maybe Toyota, but Toyota is riskier, just don’t buy their stock.
  • Nissan’s new Leaf, which everyone was expecting to have active battery cooling, does not. So… Teslabjørn took one (ok, it was the van version, but it’s the same battery system as the Leaf) in one of his races he does with a friend of his, the race includes multiple charges along the way, so, he does this race in -12C, like, ok, that’s cold, and, the battery overheats and NEVER cools down, which slows the charging. To design a battery pack that cannot cool down in sub zero c weather is something you’d actually have to struggle to achieve, that’s beyond belief, I mean, the cooling at that stage is fucking free, you just need good air channels in the damned thing, yet, during the race, the battery never cooled down once it got too hot. And it’s sitting on the bottom of the fucking car, with a huge exposed area. that’s stunningly bad engineering. Note that overheating kills batteries. And being too cold kills them. So you need, dugh, active thermal management. Somehow Nissan decided that they would drop their industry lead and stop all development of the core technolgoy in the Leaf. Clearly something is going on with japanese car makers, this could lead to BIG problems for honday, toyota, and mazda, in the future. I mean, big.
  • Kia Soul hits similar range as Kia e-Niro, same platform, so should be similar. Note that Hyundai Kona gets close to 15, 20 more miles range than the Kia brethren, but is smaller, which is probably why. That’s the 2020 Kia Soul, the new one over doubles the existing range, and that’s the big drag with ecars today, the progress is rapid, and you MUST focus on all core competencies to truly compete, like, say, Tesla. but not only Tesla, also byd, they are serious too, but you just don’t see those here yet.
  • E-trucks, that’s blowing up. Components, like Meritor’s all in one transmission/motor/axle. Check that puppy out for a glimpse of the real future. note: rednecks will within 15 years be conservative about e stuff just like they are about fossil stuff now, just take a gander at that tech, that’s right up a gearhead’s alley, so this silly anti Tesla stuff fueled by the right is going to be just a stupid I fear change moment from those who, well, fear change. Which is the definition of the conservative mind, enhanced lizard brain fear controller.
  • Climate, the shit is hitting the fan. On the bright side, apparently as climate destabilizes, consequences will happen, one of which is increased deep sea storms, and so called rogue waves, that’s like, 100 foot high waves that can crack a… you got it, a huge fragile cargo container ship, oil tanker, etc, like a pencil. So hopefully this avenue will lead to a decrease in globalization, which is one of the only ways we can actually stop spewing so much damned co2 into the air. Note that PG&E declared bankruptcy, proving, as if it needed proving, that deregulation of monopoly social service industries does NOT work, particularly not when climate changes increase risk of catastrophic events like our recent big fire. In other words, you must have strong regulations to enforce high levels of spending on maintenance, which are costs, and if left to themselves, those are costs that will be cut by corporations, which is why they cannot be allowed to do that.
  • Big batteries, those work, ok, call me surprised, I truly did not see this coming, big batteries, now, today, are already cutting fossil consumption by dropping peaker plants, which are expensive to buy from. Coal consumption is also dropping, mainly for gas, but also for wind/solar plus big batteries. big as in grid scale. Note that I still think using expensive li-ion Tesla batteries for grid scale is stupid, but we’re learning, look for more specialized robust batteries to be used more, flow batteries, those in the big shipping containers, also, in dhubai, they just put in a gwh sodium battery, first large scale of its kind. complicated battery, coupled to huge solar installation, so that’s real. so battery tech is slowly morphing to meet existing requirements, and li-ion I think provided the real proof of concept there, kudos to Tesla again there, remember, a core mission statement of Tesla is to proactively push the world to sustainables, and let’s be real, who is doing more? it was the aussie large scale grid battery, first mocked, until it paid about 1/3 of its total cost in savings the FIRST YEAR IN OPERATION!, now serving as the example that proved to big power that grid scale batteries work, and work very very well.
  • Aussielandia, coal industry dominated, but, increasingly, climate global heating devasted, is moving really fast to solar energy, battery storage, interesting distributed model, they are going to install about 40k Tesla power walls in houses, and those will feed back into the grid, to help stabilize it, using some controllers, people get a big discount on them if they sign up for that.
  • Big wind, moving very fast, most big projects are now rolling in in gw, not mw project sizes.
  • Big solar, mideast, increasing, more and more, Florida, Nevada, and other states pursuing a feudalistic mode of governance, are finally moving to open the market to rooftop solar, finally.

And that’s the state of this epower report, february 16, 2019

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