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Is a $25k EV With a 350 Mile Range Possible By 2017?

Posted in Car Tech, Electric Vehicles, Electronics by Kurt Ernst | May 21st, 2011 | 5 Responses |

Assembled Volt battery packs. Image: Alan Holmes

As you get older, you begin to realize that some things just aren’t possible, no matter how badly you want them. Part of becoming an adult is drawing that line in the sand between fantasy and reality, and accepting that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and honest politicians simply don’t exist. Break from that reality often enough and you’ll wind up heavily medicated, living in a padded cell without a view, holding in-depth conversations with the voices in your head. The United States Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, appears to be going down the path to three-hots-and-a-cot himself, based on a a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

Chu, it seems, believes that an EV with a 350 mile range, at a price point of $25,000, is possible in the next six years. His belief is based on the research funded by the DOE, which seeks to reduce battery cost by 50% over the next four years while doubling or tripling their energy density in six years. Six years isn’t much time to make a quantum leap in science that hasn’t occurred, despite billions of dollars spent in research and development, over the past 100 years. It’s like the old “Far Side” cartoon, where the scientist is feverishly working on a massively complex equation on a chalkboard. Stumped, he writes in “And then a miracle occurs” to solve the problem.

That’s funny when Gary Larson draws it, but it’s frightening when the head of a federal agency makes public comments based on the same scenario. I’m not anti-EV, but I am realistic about where we are in their development today. I’m not a research scientist, nor do I play one on TV, but I see the evolution of the EV as an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. In six years, I’d expect to see EVs with a legitimate, 150 mile “worst case” range at a price point of $30k or so, which will make them a viable solution for more drivers than the EVs available today. Serial hybrids, like the Chevy Volt or the Fisker Karma, are likely to be the best interim solution until battery technology improves in both price and energy density. I seriously doubt that anyone can point to a timeline on that, because it requires several break-throughs in materials science.

You can feel free to ask Santa Claus for a quantum leap in battery technology over the next few years, but I’m pretty sure I know what the result will be.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

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5 Responses

  1. PFULMTL says:

    I see a way it could work to squeeze out more, and all we have to do is look back at history when we started testing out solar powered cars, even the little science fair ones.
    Why would you not have an EV without a solar panel roof/trunk? This not only allows you to squeeze out more reserve MPG at moderate speeds, but also it would mean you would charge less because the car would charge simply sitting still in the parking lot while you are at work or what not.

    Companies are finally realizing that to get more MPG, you should have better power to weight ratio, with a lighter car being easier to get into motion than a heavier one.
    Once more and more cars start becoming lighter (under 2500lbs) and not performance oriented (like the Honda CRZ, or Hyundai small sedans), then we will start to see the MPG averages creep up every time. There will eventually come a point where the car can’t get any lighter for safety reasons and then you just have to focus on the efficiency of the rest of the parts.

    The old word that companies are now tossing around is “aerodynamics”…Now they just relize a boxy car has very unfriendly streamlined aerodynamics? For the longest time they thought fancy aerodynmaic were for the more expensive sport cars and now they start to see that cars don’t have to be expensive to look good and people will buy it, but not at first.
    Brands like Hyundai are probably going to become more dominant as they start to release better looking cheaper cars with higher MPG than the competition, while the competition continues to rebrand foreign cars.

    • PFULMTL says:

      err I meant “Why would you not have an EV with a solar panel roof/trunk?” as they seem to go hand in hand. Large 3′ solar panels can be had for under $1000 now. They could just add that as an option to their cars at first and then once they becomon common place, they can come standard.

  2. Kurt Ernst says:

    The big problem? Trunk and roof mounted solar cells can only supply supplemental charge. The Leaf has an available solar cell panel for the roof, but it’s used to supplement the environmental controls IIRC.

    Cars used to be a lot lighter, which is why fuel economy really hasn’t gone up over the past 30 years. What’s made them heavier is safety systems (like airbags and door beams) and luxury touches like power windows, power locks, leather interiors, etc.

  3. 350 is an amazing range for an EV. Current EV models only have a 100 range or so. I drive a lot, I live in OC and when I drive to L.A that’s at least 50 miles there and then 50 miles back. I think car companies should make cars lighter to improve mpg but safety (air bags etc) shouldn’t be sacrificed. I think some consumers are willing to sacrifice leather seats and luxury accessories for the sake of better mpg.

  4. J D Stadler says:

    Can I get a Fisker Karma for $25k??! =)