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Is Tesla Really the EV King?

by Neal Dikeman, chief blogger, Cleantech Blog

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been the electric vehicle darling since almost the day it launched.  I’d argue there are some really neat aspects to its product and strategy, but it is far from a resounding market leader in EVs.

The Range and Battery Scale Advantage

There are a couple of really exciting things to like.  Pulling a quick summary of the prices of all the pure electric vehicles currently selling in North America, I ranked them by EV Price/ Range.  Tesla is and always has been the leader here.  Down in the <$300/mile range, half of the  i3.  Quite frankly it’s been the only game in town for a 200 mi electric car.

And as lithium batteries are the big ticket item in an EV, and Tesla loads up on them, that confers some advantage to go with that high ticket price.   It drives up its price and its range, and puts it still in a class by itself on range. But as you see when graph range vs price, packing all those batteries in also gives Tesla a huge nominal advantage over its competitors compared to where one would project it to be on price.  Tesla talks like this is all technology and battery management that is hard for competitors to match, I think it may be just as much a combination of purchasing scale and simply an illustration of relative cost absorption in a high range EV (at the lower 70-90 mi range of everyone else, the car cost swamps the battery cost, and differential cost of a few mi in range is much less important than the luxury premium).  You can see this illustrated in flatness of the PHEV version of the curve, and the wide differential between the i3 and LEAF, both very close in range.  Of course, as we are largely comparing prices not costs, some dirt in the numbers is also certainly present.

EV $ per Mileage

EV Price vs Range

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHEV $ per eMileage

Plug in hybrids as you’d expect show a much less dramatic differential and flatter curve, with most of the differential driven by luxury vs mass consumer car class than range.  The game in PHEV’s appears to be minimize battery for maximum consumer taste and performance output.

 

 

 

Future Impacts of Scale?

The interesting bet however, is what happens in the future.  Lithium ion batteries are one of the few fast falling cost items in a car, Tesla ought to be able to ride that curve down faster than the others, since it has both more purchasing power than its competitors (several x more battery kwh per car and one of the volume leaders in cars adds up), as well as a larger exposure in its vehicle unit cost structure in batteries than any of its competitors as the batteries make up such a major portion of its vehicle cost.

However, its attempt to vertically integrate upstream into  batteries with the gigafactory might well work against it here, as it gains leverage on the materials in the value chain, but loses leverage against the manufacturing cost, locks in on a single battery design, and has to recover significant capital outlays its competitors do not.

If the rest of the lithium ion industry can cost down as fast or faster than Tesla, it loses out quickly.  Alternately, when another car company rolls out a high range vehicle, Tesla’s advantage can erode fast.  And finally, it is unclear whether either the PHEV or short range EV strategies, requiring fewer costly batteries, simply continue to outpunch Tesla with consumers.  Like its zero emission credit advantage supporting profits when it first launched, this battery scale advantage may also be more short term than sustainable.

North American Market

But possibly most disturbing is trying to tie out this advantage to how Tesla is actually doing with this strategy in its core North American market.  It’s now been hot and heavy in North America for a couple of years.  Should be delivering results, but  things are not quite that rosy for a $20 billion market cap “market leader”.

It was not first, Nissan with the LEAF and GM with the Chevy Volt beat it to the market.

Its core initial US market has seen basically flattish sales growth YoY going on 2 consecutive years now, ostensibly as it scrambled to open new markets overseas, including its struggling Asian market.  But struggling to drive high growth in your first core market is never a good sign.  One wonders how much excess demand per month actually exists for an $80K electric sports car, and if some of Tesla’s shift of production to seed overseas markets is simply a strategy to keep its domestic demand levels pent up, out of concern that there is not adequate growth possible at this price point in one market to satisfy Wall Street’s valuation.  Not a bad idea, but does have implications.  In counter point, while GM and Toyota also struggled for growth, Ford and Nissan delivered strong double digit growth in Tesla’s home market while it stayed flat, and BMW has started to chew the mid luxury market in between.  One wonders if the strategy of twinning a low range low cost EV with PHEVs doesn’t simply deliver better product line punch than the high mileage high cost strategy.

Tesla is not the largest, and has never worn the crown of most EVs sold for a year, coming in 3rd and slipping to 4th in 2013 and 2014, and only barely edging out Ford so far for 2 months of 2015 and helped by weak Chevy sales months so far. Also probably helped as Tesla apparently had to shift about a month’s worth of car production into Q1 from production issues according to its annual letter.

NA EV Company Ranking

NA EV Company Ranking EVobsession.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Insideevs.com tracker 

Also pictured is the results from a second tracker with slightly different estimates claiming Tesla is actually ahead so far this year.

But almost as interesting to me has been the rise of the BMW.  That i3 which is almost double Tesla’s price/mile is doing rather well.  By some trackers has edged Tesla in sales of its i3 and i8 EV and PHEV in North America in 3 of the last 7 months, with less than a year under its belt.  Arguably the i3 was aimed more at the Volt and LEAF than the Model S, but getting even remotely close to caught by an upstart short range BMW product this early in its cycle was I am sure never part of Tesla’s plan.

BMW vs Tesla

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do note that all Tesla monthly numbers are somewhat suspect, as the company does not publish anywhere near the detail that other automakers do. Charitably it is just playing cards close to the vest?  Not just making it harder to analyze hidden growth misses?

All in all, a quite decent performance for a new auto maker, but far from the dominance you’d expect from a $20 billion market cap brand name.

The author does not own a securities position in TSLA.  Any opinion expressed herein is the opinion of the author, not Cleantech Blog nor any employer or company affiliated with the author.

EV King Tesla – Where Did the Cash Go?

by Neal Dikeman, chief blogger Cleantechblog.com

Since it’s launch, cleantech darling Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has delivered huge revenue growth in the electric vehicle market.  With a market cap of over $20 billion, it’s more than a 1/3rd of that of the massively higher volume GM or Ford.  Largely the market cap has been driven by phenomenal growth numbers, 60% YoY revenues last in 2014, and the company forecasts 70% increase in unit sales YoY in 2015.

But let’s take a deeper look.

The Company trades at 7.5x enterprise value/revenues, and 26x price/book.  At the current market cap, it needs to deliver the same revenue growth for another 4-5 years before normal auto net profit margins would bring it’s PE into line with the the other top automakers.  Of course, that assumes no stock price growth during that time either!  Our quick and dirty assessment test:

Take 2014 revenues, roll forward at the YoY growth rate of 60%.  Take the average net profit margins and P/Es of the major autos (we used two groupings, 2-3% and 20-25, and 7-8% and 12-17), roll forward until the PEs align, see what year it is (2018-2020).   That’s our crude measure of how many years of growth are priced in.  And it puts Tesla at between a $20-$50 Billion/year company (7-15 current levels) before it justifies it’s current market cap.  Or c. 300,000-1.5 mm cars per year depending on price assumptions.  Up from 35,000 last year.

Does it have the wherewhithal to do that?

Tesla Financials

 Well, looks awfully tight.  The numbers technically work, continued growth will cure a lot of ills.  But while nominally EBITDA positive now, the company has been chewing cash in order to sustain future grow.  2014 burned nearly $1 billon in cash in losses, working capital and capex to anchor that growth, almost as much in cash burn as the company delivered in revenue growth.

Positive progress on working capital in 2013 disappeared into huge inventory and receivables expansion at the end of 2014, and interest on the new debt for the capital expansions alone chewed up 10% of gross margin, while both R&D and SG&A continue to accelerate, doubling in 2014 to outpace revenue growth by more than 50%.

The cash needs this time around were fueled by debt, which rose over $1.8 bil to 75% of revenues.  Overall liabilities rose even more.  Current net cash on hand at YE was a negative half a billion dollars, seven hundred million worse than this time last year.

The company will argue it is investing in growth, and you can see why it better be.  With almost every cost and balance sheet line currently outpacing revenue growth, at some point a company needs to start doing more making and less spending.

So yes, continued growth outlook is still exhilarating (depending on your views of the competition and oil price impact), but the cost to drive it is still extremely high.  I think we will look back and see that 2014 and 2015 were crucial set up years for Tesla, and the really proof in the pudding is still probably 24 months in front of us.  And my guess is Tesla will be back hitting the market for equity and debt again and again to keep the growth engine going before it’s done.

 The author does not own a securities position in TSLA.  Any opinion expressed herein is the opinion of the author, not Cleantech Blog nor any employer or company affiliated with the author.

Plugin Electrics vs All Electric Battery EVs, Epic Throwdown?

I get this every time I discuss EVs.  Something along the lines of oh, you shouldn’t be including PHEVs in with EVs, they don’t count, or are not real EVs, just a stopgap etc.

I tend to think PHEVs may be better product.  At least for now.  And I follow the GM’s Chevy Volt vs the Nissan Leaf with interest.

The main arguments on each:

Plug in Hybrids

  • No range anxiety
  • Still need gasoline
  • Can fuel up at either electric charging station, your home or gas station
  • Depending on driving patterns, may not need MUCH gasoline at all
  • Expensive because:  need both gasoline and electric systems, and batteries are still pretty expensive, even with a fraction of the amount that’s in an EV
  • Get all the torque and quiet and acceleration punch of an EV without the short range hassle
  • But not really an EV, after a few miles it’s “just a hybrid”
  • Future is just a stop gap until EV batteries get cheap? Or just a better car with all the benes and no cons?

 

Electric Vehicles

  • No gasoline at all (fueled by a mix of 50% coal,20% gas, and the rest nuke and hydro with a little wind :) )
  • Amazing torque and acceleration
  • Dead quiet no emissions
  • Fairly slow to charge compared to gas
  • Lack of charging stations is getting solved, but still somewhat an issue
  • Switching one fuel for another, no extra flexibility on fuel
  • Expensive because lithium ion batteries are still pricey and way a lot
  • Future is cheaper better batteries?  Or they never get there and the future never arrives?

I tend to think the combination of plugins and EVs has actually worked together solved range anxiety.  As a consumer, I get to pick from a full basket when I buy, Leaf, Volt, Prius, Model S, lots of pricey batteries to deal with range anxiety, a plug in that gets me almost there with zero range issues, or a Leaf in between.  Whatever range anxiety I had disappears into consumer choice, just like it should.  I don’t think pure EV is any better or worse than a plugin, just a different choice.  They work together in the fleet, too, plug ins help drive demand for EV charging stations that are critical to electric car success, and EVs drive the cost down on the batteries that brings the plugin costs into line.  Unlike with the Prius over a decade ago, it’s not a single car changing the world, it’s the combination that’s working well for us.

Tesla Motors – I Love You, But What the Hell?

I do like the Model S.  I think Tesla is doing terrific things to the car industry, direct to consumer, aggressive EV range, great looking car.  My friends who have one love it.  The company is proving it has legs.  But, as to the recent market run-up, not to be catty, but are you SERIOUS?

Tesla $20 Bil market capitalization

Nissan $42 Bil market capitalization

GM $46 Bil market capitalization

2013 Electric Vehicle total unit sales
GM Volt 9,855
Nissan Leaf 9,839
Tesla Model S 10,650

June Sales
Volt 2,698
Leaf 2,225
Model S 1,800

GM non EV revenues $150+ Billion
Nissan non EV revenues $120+ Billion
Tesla non EV revenues $0

There is something very, very wrong here.  Unfortunately this looks like the best short since 2001.  It is outselling the Leaf and Volt in some months, but just barely.  Let alone the $100 Billion plus in other revenues for GM and and Nissan.  How does that warrant Tesla trading at almost half their market cap?  I could buy Nissan, sell everything but the Leaf, and have a car business the same size as Tesla and $40 Billion + in the bank.

Going With The Flow

In recent months, I’ve come across more work being done in flow batteries than I’ve seen in the prior decade.

I’ve been known in the past to say that fuel cells are kinda like fueled batteries.  Well, flow batteries really are fueled-batteries.  A traditional chemical battery is one sealed system that charges and discharges chemical elements through a set of electrodes, and the amount of charge/discharge is dictated by the type and volume of chemistry within the battery.  In contrast, a flow battery separates the electrodes from the chemistry, which is stored externally from the electrodes in tanks.  In so doing, a flow battery delinks the relationship between power (an instantaneous concept) and energy (power over time) that is essentially hard-wired within a chemical battery.  In a flow battery, it’s straightforward to expand the energy of a system by adding more to the storage tanks.  And, it’s straightforward to add more “fuel” by injecting more of the reactants into the storage tanks.

Because of this, it is natural to think about how flow batteries can improve the range of electric vehicles, which is the focus of this 2009 article from The Economist.  However, energy density remains a challenge that could limit the utility of flow batteries for vehicular purposes. 

Several flow battery concepts involving different chemistries are being worked on by a number of academic researchers.  DOE’s advanced energy R&D shop ARPA-E awarded a team from Lawrence Berkeley Labs to pursue flow batteries.  Commercially, perhaps the three most well-known flow battery technology development companies are ZBB (NYSE MKT: ZBB), RedFlow and Primus Power.

Most of these efforts are targeting to apply flow batteries in grid-scale electricity storage at the substation level.  This could be an even more impactful role for flow batteries than their use in vehicles:  if flow batteries can provide an economic solution for grid-storage, the implications for expanded renewable energy deployment — enabling intermittent wind and solar energy to achieve more than 15% share of power generation — are possibly massive.

California Gains 10,000 EV Charge Points in NRG Agreement

from original post at Clean Fleet Report

California already has over 10,000 of the new electric vehicles on the road and 2,000 public charge points. Over 10,000 new electric charge points will be added to give EV drivers added range. The charge stations will be built by NRG with private money, not public funds.

This will be the world’s largest electric car charging network and include smart grid technological advancements to level grid load, and energy storage and vehicle-to-grid (V2G).

California needs electric cars. Compared to nations, only two countries use more petroleum than California – the United States and China. The Los Angeles Basin and Central Valley historically had such severe health problems that Governor Ronald Reagan established the California Air Resources Board, which continues to encourage cleaner cars and fuel-efficiency.

California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy

The California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) have entered into an agreement where NRG will build a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) charging network in California, investing approximately $100 million over the next four years.

This fee-based charging network will consist of at least 200 publicly available fast –charging stations—installed in the San Francisco Bay area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County—which can add 50 miles of range in less than 15 minutes of charging.

The DC-Fast Charging will especially be helpful for drivers of pure battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i, many which were purchased with DC-Fast Charge Ports. Currently many of these electric car drivers are limited to ranges of 60 to 120 miles without access to fast charging.

Additionally, NRG’s EV infrastructure commitment will include the wiring for at least 10,000 individual charging stations located at homes, offices, multifamily communities, schools and hospitals located across the State. The charging locations will be easy for drivers to find with Google Maps, smartphone apps, and electric car navigation systems.

NRG California EV Charging includes Smart Grid and V2G

  • A minimum of 200 direct current (DC) fast chargers to the state.
  • A minimum of 10,000 parking spaces retrofitted with wiring necessary to charge EVs at multifamily buildings, large worksites and civic sites such as universities and hospitals.
  • Training and jobs for the installation and maintenance of these charging stations in
  • California.
  • Smart grid and grid storage services that increase the speed and power of DC fast charging, store electricity to minimize peak-period demand, and enable EV drivers to support electrical grid reliability with needed energy services through vehicle to grid (V2G).
  • Significant additional investment in California’s clean technology economy and hundreds of jobs in construction and EV infrastructure manufacturing, maintenance and management.
  • Approximately $100 million in infrastructure investment over four years, and $20 million in cash to go to the California Public Utility Commission.

Dynegy and Enron were famously accused of manipulating California’s energy markets leading to a crisis 12 years ago. The agreement, pending approvals and finalization, resolves outstanding litigation arising out of a long-term electricity contract entered into over a decade ago by a subsidiary of Dynegy, then a co-owner with NRG of the portfolio of power generating plants currently owned by NRG in California. NRG assumed full responsibility for resolving this matter in 2006 when NRG acquired Dynegy’s 50% interest in the assets.

“California already leads the way in the development of an alternative energy transportation sector and, with the price of gasoline above $4 per gallon and rising, all Americans need to be giving serious consideration to the increasingly attractive electric vehicle alternative to what former President Bush called ‘our national addiction to foreign oil’,” stated NRG CEO Crane. “This network will be built with private funds on a sustainable business model that will allow NRG to maintain and grow the network as EV adoption grows.”

NRG has been making major investments in utility-scale solar and wind. AeroVironment has been one of its charge station suppliers in Texas.

Over 7 Million Charge Points by 2017

California is often the first point of sale for new electric cars, which are then offered in other states, then all 50 states. Other states gaining momentum in electric car sales and public charge points include Oregon, Washington, Florida, Michigan, and Texas where NRG is also developing a charge point network for subscribers.

Clean Fleet Report forecasts 60,000 to 100,000 electric car sales and leases in the United States in 2012 and 200,000 in 2013. Pike Research forecasts 7.7 million charge points installed globally by 2017.

Report from Energy Innovation Summit

Last week, many of the leading minds of the cleantech world congregated in suburban Washington DC for the 2012 Energy Innovation Summit.

The Summit is mainly oriented as a showcase of some of the most interesting and promising technologies that have surfaced directly or indirectly as a result of ARPA-E:  the Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy, a subgroup of the U.S. Department of Energy that was launched in 2009.

Of all the cleantech conferences I’ve attended in the past 12 years, and there have been far too many, this was one of the best, for several reasons.

First, most of the speakers were excellent (= interesting + informed).  Often at these kinds of events, the roster is populated by some combination of bureaucrats that in actuality are mid-level paper-pushers and geeks that speak in such granular detail about science or engineering topics that no-one can understand.  Either way, the comments are usually delivered in monotone, to overeager junior audience members busily taking notes they’ll never read and dozing or smartphone-checking senior audience members that have heard most of the same boring nonsense before.  (Cynical, much?  Yeah, I know.)

In contrast, we got to hear from Dr. Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy, who is arguably the most brilliant cabinet member of all time (having won the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for the cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light).  Dr. Chu reiterated some of his recent stump speech on the need for technological leadership to maintain/enhance U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, and the risks encountered from the need to stay on the frontier (Solyndra, anyone?)

We got to hear from Dr. Arun Majumdar, the Director of ARPA-E, who is just about as smart and knowledgeable, and perhaps more passionate and dynamic, than Dr. Chu.  Just one nugget from Dr. Majumdar:  the design life of a utility transformer is 40 years, yet the average in-service age of transformers on the U.S. utility grid is 42 years.  (Yet another factor in the drive for the “smart grid”.)

We got to hear from Bill Gates – yes, that Bill Gates – who revealed a depth of insight and concern that one would only expect of someone who had been playing in the cleantech game and fighting the good fight for decades.  Sample observation from Gates:  “Energy innovation in the U.S. is underfunded by at least a factor of 2.”  Gates talked at considerable length about the need for more research in carbon sequestration and in nuclear – noting his interest in TerraPower.

We got to hear from the Fred Smith and Ursula Burns, CEO’s of Fortune 100 companies FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and Xerox (NYSE: XRX), along with Lee Scott, the former CEO of WalMart (NYSE: WMT), talking about how energy technology innovation is critical to these goliaths of business.

I couldn’t attend all of the sessions because of various other commitments, and I purposely avoided sitting in on the remarks of the politicos – including Bill Clinton, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – because (a) I’m disgusted with the state of the political environment and discourse in the U.S. these days,  (b) I’m confident that these speakers have arbitrarily-close-to-zero to say that would be useful or relevant to someone trying to actually create value with new cleantech innovations entering the commercial marketplace, and (c) I had better things to do when they were talking.  But, what I did hear from the keynotes and panels I did attend was generally pretty interesting and informative.

The networking at the event was impressive.  Many of the leading cleantech venture capitalists were milling around, along with actually-empowered senior executives of leading industrial corporations sponsoring truly novel stuff in energy technologies.  I only wished the name tags were of a larger font, so I could better see the identities of some of the people I was passing by, knowing that I was missing connecting with someone I really wanted to get to know.

But perhaps the most important reason that the Summit was such a positive event for me was the quality of the technology innovations and innovators that exhibited at the show – spanning from university research projects to start-up ventures to large corporations such as General Electric (NYSE: GE), Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Cree (NASDAQ: CREE).

At times over the years, I feel like I’ve seen or heard pretty much everything in cleantech, which sometimes makes me wonder if everything that could be invented or needed to be invented was already being worked on.  An event like this put lie to this misbelief.  People were talking about exotic/crazy stuff like wireless electric vehicle recharging while roaming.

After just the first day, I could see that there were lots of promising technologies being worked on really big opportunities beyond the set I kept seeing over and over again.  Moreover, most of these initiatives were led by entrepreneurs that were not only committed but also much more competent and capable than the tinkerers that represented most of the cleantech innovation realm a decade or so ago.

My overall impressions of the Summit gave me good hope that we are making real progress in the cleantech world, and that there’s a lot more for me to do and be excited about in the decades to come.  I myself was recharged on the fly.

Hertz Expands Electric Car Rental in United States and China

Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) expands its Global EV initiative to China, making it the first global rental car company to offer electric cars on three continents. Hertz now offers the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Smart ED, Tesla Roadster and other electric cars in U.S. cities including New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hertz is expanding the availability of pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids at airports, downtown hotels, university campuses, condos and co-ops and fleets. Hertz operates in over 8,500 locations in 146 countries.

In London, you can rent the Mitsubishi iMiEV. Mitsubishi will soon start deliveries of the U.S. version of this popular electric city car. In other European cities, Renault electric cars are offered. Now Hertz is expanding into the world’s biggest EV market.

In China, Hertz established a partnership with GE Industrial Solutions China to advance the rollout of EVs and charging stations that includes the co-location of electric vehicles and GE EV Infrastructure as a combined offering. Bundled lease offers of EVs and chargers will make it easy for corporations and government agencies to expand use of electric cars.

“China has committed to rapidly expand electric vehicle travel and Hertz is committed to supporting the ambitious EV Pilot City program,” said Mark Frissora, Hertz Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Working with our existing rental car network in China and partners such as GE, we are dedicated to helping build the necessary EV infrastructure in China and to create a new transportation solution that employs the latest technology and harnesses innovations being launched in China today.”

China’s 100 Million EV Owners

Over one hundred million in China ride e-bikes, e-scooters, and light electric vehicles. A growing middle class and major employers are interested in full-function freeway-speed electric cars. In Shanghai, Hertz will be part of the International EV Pilot City, a program to accelerate EV rentals by building out the infrastructure across the Jiading district of Shanghai. Other EV Pilot City partners include auto manufactures, energy suppliers, and insurance companies. Hertz is the first rental car company to sign an agreement to become a partner of the China (Shanghai) International Electric Vehicle Pilot City.

A few weeks ago, Hertz also reached an understanding with BYD for a rental trial of its electric car the e6 in Shenzhen. BYD is years late in bringing its electric cars to the U.S.

The partnership supports the Twelfth Five-Year Plan objective for the promotion of EVs in China and will serve as a foundation for further innovation and development of the infrastructure.  The current five-year plan identifies EVs as one of the seven strategic initiatives for China in the next few years and calls for a significant ramp up in both EV charging station deployment and EV manufacturing.   The Chinese central government is currently offering 60,000 RMB (about $9,400 USD) rebates for EV purchases and a number of leading cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are offering additional rebates.

“At the Clinton Global Initiative last September, we announced a commitment to provide electric vehicle access on a global scale – an ambitious goal,” commented Frissora. “In less than one year, Hertz is now the leading provider of EV mobility solutions, offering an unparalleled selection of EVs and PHEVs in cities worldwide. We are firmly committed to adding new retail and business to business EV car rental locations internationally as auto manufacturers ramp up EV and PHEV production over the next few years.”

Hertz plans to increase its global EV presence by deploying vehicles in other countries in the coming months. Hertz Global EV will continue to leverage the company’s rental and car sharing locations as bases for vehicles and charging stations, and tap into its technology – including sophisticated fleet management tools to help form an EV grid.

Car Sharing – Hertz On Demand Competes with Zipcar

Some only think of Hertz as a rental car company. Hertz is also aggressively expanding with its car sharing service Hertz On Demand (formerly Connect by Hertz). Competing with Zipcar, Enterprise, and others, Hertz On Demand eliminated membership fees, expanded one way service to 175 locations, guaranteed availability Monday through Thursday in New York City, added electric cars at select locations, simplified the reservation, and enhanced 24/7 in-car assistance. Hertz On Demand has approximately 40,000 members in six countries and on approximately 60 university campuses.

Electric car sales and charging are off to a good start in the United States with drivers who have single family homes with garages to install chargers, but in multi-tenant dwellings costly utility meters must be added, upgraded transformers, EVSE located near meter rooms, new bylaws, and tenant agreement about preferred parking spaces. Shared electric cars charged in shared spaces provide a wonderful multi-tenant solution. Hertz on Demand has Nissan LEAFs available at Seward Park Co-op is one of the largest free market co-ops in Manhattan with more than 1700 apartments, approximately 50 commercial tenants, 13 acres of land and more than 4000 residents.

Hertz is showing smarts and agility with its electric car programs from San Francisco to Shanghai and for everyone from fleet managers, to people living in large apartment buildings, to new university students. If you’re a business traveler, you know what its like to be late to catch a plan and have a corporate requirement to bring back the car with the gas tank fuel. When renting electric cars, there is no added cost with Hertz if you bring back the EV with the battery mostly empty.

Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

Volt IIHS Front Test Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf earn the highest safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the first-ever U.S. crash test evaluations of plug-in electric cars. The milestone demonstrates that automakers are using the same safety engineering in new electric cars as they do in gasoline-powered vehicles.

The Volt and Leaf earn the top rating of good for front, side, rear, and rollover crash protection. With standard electronic stability control, they qualify as winners of Top Safety Pick, the Institute’s award for state-of-the-art crash protection. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

The addition of the 2 electric cars brings to 80 the number of award winners so far for 2011, including 7 hybrid models. That lifts General Motors’ current model tally to 12 and Nissan’s to 3.

“What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s chief administrative officer.

The dual-power Volt and all-electric Leaf not only surpass benchmarks for protecting occupants in crashes but also exceed current fuel efficiency andLEAF IIHS Side Test Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings emissions standards. Both models are brand new for 2011. The Volt is a plug-in battery/gasoline hybrid that can run in electric-only mode with a range of about 35 miles on a single charge. A gasoline engine kicks in to power the electric motor when the battery is spent. The Leaf runs on battery power alone and has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated average range of about 73 miles on a single charge

“The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does,” Nolan says. “Its structure must manage crash damage so the occupant compartment stays intact and the safety belts and airbags keep people from hitting hard surfaces in and out of the vehicle.”

The Volt and Leaf are the first mainstream electric cars the Institute has tested. Last year engineers put 2 low-speed electric vehicles through side barrier tests for research purposes. Results for the GEM e2 and Wheego Whip were starkly different from results for the Volt and Leaf. Crash test dummies in the GEM and Wheego recorded data suggesting severe or fatal injuries to real drivers. The GEM and Whip belong to a class of golf cart-like vehicles that aren’t required to meet the same federal safety standards as passenger vehicles. Although growing in popularity, these tiny electrics aren’t designed to mix with regular traffic.

“Eco-minded drivers keen on switching to electric would do well to buy a Leaf or Volt for highway driving instead of a low-speed vehicle if they’re at all concerned about being protected in a crash,” Nolan said about the electric cars.

Small but safe: The Volt and Leaf are classified as small cars, with their overall length, width, and passenger capacity in line with their peers. But their hefty battery packs put their curb weights closer to midsize and larger cars. The Leaf weighs about 3,370 pounds and the Volt about 3,760 pounds. This compares to about 3,200 pounds for Nissan’s Altima, a midsize car, and about 3,580 pounds for Chevrolet’s Impala, a large family car. Larger, heavier vehicles generally do a better job of protecting people in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones because both size and weight influence crashworthiness.

For years the debate over fuel economy has been about making cars smaller and lighter, changes that could put people at greater risk of dying or being injured in crashes. The Institute long has maintained that advanced technology is key to improving fuel efficiency without downgrading safety.

“The Leaf and Volt’s extra mass gives them a safety advantage over other small cars,” Nolan says. “These electric models are a win-win for fuel economy and safety.”

About the award: The IIHS awarded the first Top Safety Pick to 2006 models with good ratings for front and side protection and acceptable for rear protection. The bar was raised the next year by requiring a good rear rating and electronic stability control as standard or optional equipment. Last year, the Institute added a requirement that all qualifiers earn a good rating in a roof strength test to assess rollover crash protection. The ratings now cover the 4 most common kinds of injury crashes.

Electric Car Reports

EV economics updated and a Catch-22

After posting my December 6 article about EVs Economics are getting interesting I’ve received numerous comments and I’ve had discussions with utility executives and board members.   Based on this input I’ve refined the economic analysis of the Leaf vs. Camry and I’ve addressed a potential regulatory Catch-22 concern that utilities might run up against if they aggressively go after the EV market.

Refinements

The more I discuss EV usage, and considering how I would use an EV, I’m increasingly convinced the 100 mile class of EV will be used like a cell phone.   At the start of the day, the EV is unplugged and driven.  At night, the car is parked in or near its home garage and charged up.  The whole discussion about public charging, or changing out batteries, will be irrelevant.  These vehicles will be short range around town cars.  For drivers that go on long trips the EV won’t be used, the owner’s other, gas power car, will be.    Range anxiety can be addressed when necessary with a little high cost topping off from a 120 VAC outlet at the destination.

Since the car will be charged at night this represents an opportunity for utilities to market power in a new way.  Namely the utility can offer to sell electricity via a 220 VAC outlet at very low cost during the night off-peak power block period.   During the rest of the day, power would be unavailable from the 220 VAC outlet and a customer would have to rely on 120 VAC charging.  This avoids potential overloading of distribution transformers and aligns a cheap tariff with cheap power while placing no cost burden on other utility customers.

As part of updating the economics I double checked wholesale market outlook (thanks to www.weccterm.com) and found the outlook continues for very low off-peak prices that easily allow provision of electricity to the EV at 5 cents/kWh and allows for some utility margin:

Quarterly forecast prepared 1/18/2010, Off-peak prices

period        NP15 (Northern California)
2011-1      2.9 cents/kWh
2011-2      2.5 cents/kWh
2011-3      3.6 cents/kWh
2011-4      3.7 cents/kWh

Previously I used 15,000 miles per year as the average annual mileage driven by Americans in a year.  While the DOE/EPA Model Year 2011 Fuel Economy Guide bases its annual fuel costs on 15,000 mile per year, EPA’s transportation and air quality group  peg the average miles driven at 12,000 miles per year.  And the Federal Highway Administration shows drivers in the 20 – 54 age range averaging over 15,000 per year.  Taking this all in I’ve decided to conservatively base the average analysis on 12,000 miles per year.

Some comments noted that EV will have lower maintenance costs than gas power cars.  I think it’s fair to credit the EV with avoided oil changes.  This isn’t a big factor but does improve the EV economics a bit.

I also used an estimated 10 cents/kWh for a nationwide average for retail electric prices.   For the average charging analysis I’m now using 11.5 cents/ kWh which according to the EIA is the actual August 2010 nationwide average.

In my first analysis I included 10% losses in the charging equipment because I was in a hurry.  This is probably a little high and I revised the loss figure to 5% consistent with losses in a couple of thyristors.

Previously I based my analysis on $3.50 gasoline.  This still seems a fair estimate and I’ve continued to use it.   Of course, if gasoline prices spike EVs will get a boost.

All these changes taken together erode the EV economics a bit but not enough to change my previous conclusion that EVs can be a hit given some creative utility rates.  But at my current rates, I’ll wait on the EV, sigh.

Scenario                 Break-even years      IRR at 96,000 miles (8 years)
1  (5 cent/kWh)                 4.6                                14 %
2  (11.5 cent/kWh)            5.6                                  9%
3  (17.6* cent/kWh)          6.9                                 4%

* this is what I pay today to SMUD for each incremental kWh

 
 

The Catch-22

Many utilities, and certainly those in California, are facing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements.  So if a utility added significant new load, say 50,000 EVs charging at 3kW at night, the utility would need to provide an additional 150 MW of power.  In all likelihood this power would come from fossil sources, at least for some period of time.   In the western US the marginal generating resource at night is almost always very efficient natural gas fired combined-cycle power (thank you again www.weccterm.com) .  Essentially we would be running domestic natural gas through a high efficiency conversion and displacing imported crude or gasoline.  But a utility may be penalized by RPS requirements for this very sensible activity – the Catch-22.

The RPS standards have been enacted in large part to address climate change resulting from burning fossil fuels.  To test whether the RPS standards are counter productive to their own purpose in the case of EV charging, I dove into carbon calculating.

I first calculated the annual pounds of CO2 the Camry would produce.  Using EPA mileage, 12,000 miles per year, and the EPA’s CO2/gallon of gasoline figure, I computed the Camry would produce 9,502 lb/CO2 per year.

Next, to calculate the Leaf’s CO2 production, I adjusted the Leaf’s kWh consumption back to the generation level by adding back transmission system losses.   Then I determined the amount of natural gas consumed using night time combined cycle heat rates of 7,500 Btu/kWh.  Finally I applied EPA’s latest C-factors (including the 2 oxygens) for natural gas to compute the CO2 produced. The result: 4,049 lb/CO2 produced per year, less then one-half that produced by a gasoline engine.

This result makes sense: (1) combined cycle power plants, even after transmission and charging losses are really efficient, and (2) natural gas produces a lot less CO2 than an equivalent amount of gasoline.

The conclusion is straightforward, EV charging should be exempt from RPS requirements and the EPA should be gung-ho for EV charging.   And at the end of the day I don’t see any way a utility will ultimately be penalized for encouraging EVs.

Ford Focus Electric takes on Nissan LEAF

Ford Focus ELectricFord’s Newest EV is Official

Ford has officially announced the Ford Focus Electric, a new aerodynamic 5-door hatchback with an expected range of 100 miles per charge. This 5-seat car matches the specs that I published after my test drive of the Focus Electric in May 2010. First consumer deliveries of the all-new Focus Electric will start towards the end of this year. At that point Ford will have solid EV experience and probably have delivered thousands of Ford Transit Connect Electric Vans to delivery and service fleets.

The Ford Focus Electric has a Magna drive system and a 23 kWh Ford designed battery pack using LG Chem Compact Power lithium-ion tri-metal cells with over 17 kWh available in the charge-discharge cycle. The battery pack is actively liquid cooled and heated battery pack allowing for stable battery operation over a wide range of temperatures and lower temperature-related swings in driving range. The all-electric powertrain and single-speed transmission provide immediate responsiveness and smooth acceleration when the driver pushes down the accelerator, up to a top speed of 84 mph.

The first markets selected to receive the Ford Focus Electric are Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Richmond, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Ford is starting with these cities to insure that their will be charging stations at work and public spaces, as well as city and utility support for fast track approval of home chargers. This will also allow Ford to train dealers and service teams.

MyFord Mobile App

MyFord Mobile is an app for your web browser, iPhone, Droid, and other mobile devices, to monitor and schedule the chargingmyford mobile app Ford Focus Electric Car Review of your Focus Electric from anywhere, to help you maximize your range. It gives you remote charging status updates, so you can check existing charge levels and available range, while keeping track of your charge schedule. It also provides you with the location of your vehicle, where you can find the nearest charging stations and the most efficient route to get there. The app also estimates the amount of CO2 emissions and money you save based on your driving style – to help you manage costs and improve your efficiency.

  • Receive instant vehicle status information
  • Perform key functions remotely
  • Monitor the car’s state of charge and current range
  • Get alerts when it requires charging or has finished charging
  • Remotely program charge settings and download vehicle data for analysis
  • Get map routing to the nearest available charge stations

The feature also allows the owner to program the vehicle to use electricity from the grid to heat or cool the battery and cabin while plugged in – called preconditioning. For example, during hot summer months, owners can preprogram the car the evening before to be fully charged – and fully cooled to a particular temperature – by a certain time the following morning. Users can also locate the vehicle with GPS, remotely start the vehicle and remotely lock and unlock the car doors.

Test Driving the Ford Focus Electric

focus ev screen Ford Focus Electric Car ReviewLast May, I made my second test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. It felt just like driving a regular gasoline Focus 4-door sedan, except it was more quiet and accelerated faster due to the torque of the electric motor. The Focus Electric accelerated faster than when I test drove the Nissan LEAF. Both allow me to accelerate on to a freeway with my power than I really need.

The handling was smooth while driving the Focus EV. Unlike some electric car prototypes, when I hit the brakes, it stopped evenly and quickly. The coordination between regeneration and disc braking was effective. The car felt ready for serious driving 8 months ago.

Charge Twice as Fast

Ford is making a big deal of the fact that the 2012 Ford Focus Electric charges twice as fast as the 2011 Nissan LEAF. Ford is 6.6 kW/h; Nissan is 3.3 kW/h. The comparison is unfair. The 2012 Nissan LEAF, available at the same time as the 2012 Focus Electric, will also charge at the faster 6.6 kW/h. Nissan, like most automakers, have been waiting for SAE to finalize certain charging standards. In 2012, both cars can be recharged after typical driving in less than 3 hours.

If you are a pioneer buyer of the 2011 LEAF, then you will either be content to charge at 3.3 kW/h, or you will pay to upgrade to 6.6 kW/h. Clean Fleet Report speculates that Nissan will charge $1,000 to $2,000 for the upgrade. Most chargers being installed are ready for 6.6 kW/h and are smart enough to charge at the vehicle’s rate, be it 3.3 or 6.6.

Ford and Microsoft are partnering to implement the Microsoft Hohm energy management application for Ford’s electric vehicles and Synch for entertainment. The Ford Focus EV will be the first electric car to use Hohm, an Internet app built on top of Azure, Microsoft’s new cloud-computing operating system. Four utilities are piloting this smart-grid application: Xcel Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Seattle City Light, and Puget Sound Energy.

Competition with the Nissan LEAF and Other Electric Cars

Ford has yet to announce the price of the Ford Focus Electric. Ford could select a price less than the Nissan LEAF’s $32,780. We expect both the Honda Fit EV and the Mitsubishi I to be priced in the U.S. at $29,990 or less. Will Ford underprice Honda or focus on making the Focus Electric profitable?

Price depends on the cost of the lithium battery packs. Three years ago, prices were close to $1,000/kWh. By next year, they may be under $500/kWh. Cell makers keep refining battery chemistry. Pack makers look at design and volume manufacturing. Ford, Nissan, and GM are in a race to see who will be the first to sell 100,000 cars with lithium battery packs in one year. Ford is the likely winner, because next year all Ford hybrids and electric vehicles will use lithium battery packs. Ford will buy cells from competing battery giants, but Ford will make its own packs. Within 24 months Ford will be offering 3 battery-electric vehicles and 2 plug-in hybrids.

The battery pack for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric weighs 500 pounds. Ford has a roadmap that envisions the battery eventually being reduced to a size of the current Focus gas tank and a weight of only 125 pounds using new battery chemistry. Although some express concern about the long-term availability of lithium, Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, said that Ford’s analysis is that there will be no shortage through 2050. Battery makers expect to recycle 98 percent of the lithium in batteries.

Ford is also reducing car costs by giving customers a wide choice from one assembly line. This year we expect Ford to officially announce that customers will be able to order the new Focus with their preferred drive system including gasoline engine, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric. The Ford Focus Plug-in Hybrid is likely to price for less than the Chevrolet Volt.

The Focus Electric and the LEAF are beautiful compact cars. What do you do when you need to carry lots of stuff? Both include 60/40 reclining rear seats. In both cases, however, the placement of the battery pack precludes a completely flat cargo platform.

The Focus EV will be made in America – Warren, Michigan. Ford is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. Ford is planning on a Global C platform for 12 to 14 different vehicles with a volume of 2 million units per year. Such volume, common chassis and many common components, can give Ford improved profit margins and room to price hybrid and electric cars competitively.

Announcing the new Ford Focus Electric is a proud moment for CEO Alan Mulally and the entire Ford team. Back when Ford refused to take part in the $70 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler, big investors were writing off Ford. If you had invested $100,000 in Ford at that crisis point less than 2.5 years ago, it would be worth $1,800,000 now.

EV Economics are getting interesting

EVs are getting interesting.  With the Nissan Leaf this year, Ford planning to release its Focus EV in 2011, and the Honda Fit EV scheduled for 2012, the 100 mile range EV class will provide consumers with several choices within a couple of years.

So it’s time to take a look at whether EVs are a good deal for consumers.   It took a bit work to analyze but the results were worth it.  The initial step is to review the key drivers affecting consumer economics.

First is upfront cost for the EV, the charging station, and the incentives being offered.  The EV costs more, even after vehicle and charging station incentives.  I estimate the additional cost at $7,334 for a Nissan Leaf versus a basic Toyota Camry.

Second is annual cost.  A Camry gets 24.5 EPA miles per gallon.  A Nissan Leaf, by my estimate, will get about 3 miles per kWh.  So what matters is how much a driver drives and the cost of electricity.  The average driver drives 15,000 miles per year, or 41 miles per day, which should be reasonably feasible in an EV.

Electric costs are a big factor.  Retail rates nationwide are something like 11 cents/kWh.  In high cost states like California, without time-of-use metering, costs are 15 cents/kWh and higher.  I’m a SMUD customer with an old meter.  I’m into Tier 2 consumption and if I charged up tonight it would cost me 17.55 cent per kWh.   But wholesale, nighttime rates are dramatically lower.   One wholesale electric price forecasting company that serves electric traders shared their outlook for the next 12 months with me:

Quarterly forecast prepared 12/3/2010, Off-peak prices

period        NP15 (Northern California)
2010-4      3.3 cents/kWh
2011-1      2.7 cents/kWh
2011-2      2.2 cents/kWh
2011-3      3.3 cents/kWh

These prices may seem amazingly low but they are, in fact, realistic.  Thanks to the shale boom natural gas is being delivered to  power plants for $4.40 per mmBtu.  And the power plants setting prices throughout the western US are modern combined cycle units with heatrates around 7,200 Btu/kWh. (4.40 * 7200 / 1000 = 3.2 cent/kWh).  In Northern California alone on Dec 3 there are over 4,000 unload MW of these plants.  That’s enough to charge 1.3 million EVs consuming 3 kW each.

Tying the analysis together I computed the IRR of owning an EV under three scenarios.

  • In scenario 1 my utility is serious about promoting EVs and they flow cheap nighttime power to me at a 5 cent/kWh rate.  They can do this with their new smart meters; at night they have plenty of distribution capacity; and they would make some money.
  • In Scenario 2 I pay roughly the national average for power, say 11 cents/kWh.
  • In Scenario 3 my utility does nothing and I have to pay Tier 2 rates — 17.55 cents/kWh.

I computed when I break-even, or when my fuel savings equal the extra cost of the EV, and my IRR, or the return on my initial investment after I’ve driven 105,000 miles (this is 7 years at 15,000 miles per year).  The results are presented below:

Scenario                 Break-even years      IRR at 105,000 miles
1  (5 cent/kWh)                 3.9                                17 %
2  (11 cent/kWh)              4.8                                 11%
3  (17.6 cent/kWh)          6.2                                 3%

At a 17% return the EV option is pretty compelling and my local utility can make it happen, if they really want clean energy technology.

At the national average rate 11% isn’t bad, and early adopters may find EVs attactive.

And under my current personal rate schedule, EVs aren’t interesting.

That said, with a bit of creative utility rates, and leveraging the big smart meter investments being made, EV can be a hit.  And if they are a hit car companies with early products, like Nissan, GM, and Ford can pick up market share.

At the national level this makes great sense.  Every EV driven will displace over 600 gallons of gasoline per year, virtually all of which is produced from imported oil.  This reduces our balance of payments and trade deficits and improves our security situation.  Maybe a higher federal incentive would be cost effective and should be pursued?

Disclosures: none
Credits:  Price forecast and electric data courtesy of Plexos Solutions LLC and its weccterm forcast.

What’s Beyond Zero Emissions Vehicles?

by Paul Hirsch

The automotive industry has invested billions in alternative fuel technology since that first Prius rolled off its assembly line. And these days a growing portion of that investment has been focused on zero emission technologies, such as battery electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen fuel cells.

Yet as a professional tasked with commercializing the next generation of alternative fuel vehicles, I can’t help but feel like zero just isn’t good enough. Pushing emissions off board and upstream to a dirty power plant may solve the automaker’s problems, but it doesn’t solve the Earth’s.

Which is why I was truly excited when, last week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda introduced their “total energy management system.” The system consists of an EV, like the electric Fit they debuted at the show, as well as a Honda-developed solar charging station. An experimental solar hydrogen station is already being used to power the company’s FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle. Honda is not only thinking about how many EVs they can put on the streets, but how to guarantee their customers a clean energy commute day after day.

This is not the first attempt by an automaker to offer its customers a clean energy solution. Tesla Motors has promoted a Solar City charging station for its electric Roadster, demonstrating Elon Musk’s strategic interest in providing the clean electrons to power his clean car (Musk is CEO of Tesla and led the initial funding of Solar City). The Tesla-Solar City project and Honda’s recent announcement highlight a new opportunity for the auto industry – end-to-end sustainable personal mobility.

Where the industry goes from here is anyone’s guess, but the possibilities are promising. Toyota already operates a housing development subsidiary in Japan that offers homes equipped with solar panels and rainwater recycling systems. Imagine the experience if this business were integrated with Toyota’s automotive operations: when you buy into an “ecommunity” of carbon-neutral dwellings, selecting the battery range of your plug-in vehicle could become as routine as picking out your home’s paint color or bathroom tile. Or better yet, you could select to participate in a community car share program to accommodate a less frequent need for your own car.

This vertical integration of energy generation stations with the vehicles that demand their energy would go a long way toward aligning auto industry objectives with the needs of the planet. If automakers were also fueling their vehicles, they would have a strong incentive to make cars as efficient as possible. And that vertical integration would bring us much closer to a future of sustainable personal mobility.

Paul Hirsch is a Senior Product Planner at Toyota.

Will Google Charge your Electric Cars?

By John Addison – original article at Clean Fleet Report

Google Energy could be a Smart Charging and V2G Provider

Google finally won approval from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be an electric utility. Now that they are making billions delivering web ads, do they want to make added billions selling electricity? Quite possibly. Google already offers a smart meter app that allows smart grid customers to manage their home electricity use. With their new approval to be a utility, Google could be a smart grid / smart charge service provider.

Auto makers and utilities have already agreed on smart charging standards that allow you to plug-in using a J1772 connection, but not have charging start immediately. A service provider is needed to look at your preferences, take action, and provide information. Your preference might be to not charge until 9 p.m. when rates fall to a fraction of peak electricity demand hours. You might want to receive a text message when your charging is complete. You might want Google Maps to show you the nearest public charging stations that are available and display their cost per kilowatt hour. It looks like a natural for companies like Google. They story gets better in the year’s ahead when cars are V2G enabled.

Electric car sales will get a boost when the utility meter spins backward and customers make money by plugging-in. University of Delaware, AutoPort, and partners are planning to put 100 electric cars on the road in the next 18 months that will plug-in and sell power back to the utility using vehicle-to-grid (v2G) technology. AutoPort plans to secure local fleets that fund conversion of their vehicles. The University of Delaware currently has six Scion eBoxs, converted by AC Propulsion, to be electric cars with V2G.

I just got to hear from the V2G experts while I attend the American Association for Advancing Science (AAAS) Conference. I am posting this report from the conference.

A solar home might have 3 to 5 kW of solar PV. An electric car might have 24 kWh stored in its lithium batteries. Vehicles can be charged at night when excess wind and other forms of electricity are generated. The electricity can be sold back at premium rates during peak hours.
By the end of the decade, some electric cars will be less expensive to purchase than gasoline powered cars; most will be much cheaper to fuel. Monthly electric utility bills will be small for some; others will get paid to plug-in. The concept is not new. Solar power grew rapidly whenever feed-in tariffs created an incentive by having utilities purchase power from homes and businesses.

V2G will initially be promoted by agile businesses that can make things happen much faster than cautious utilities or automakers. When V2G becomes a billion dollar business, look for hundreds of players including auto makers and utilities.

The V2G cars in Delaware will get Big Bucks to sell electricity back to the grid. Electric utilities are becoming desperate for stored energy. Utilities are willing to pay serious money for some contracted delivery of electricity. Dr. Jasna Tomic of CALSTART reports that utilities will pay $15 to 55 MWh for electricity supplied for frequency regulation, but the utility does not want to deal with 100,000 car drivers. The utility wants one aggregator in the middle to provide the power. This could eventually be a billion dollar opportuntity for a Google, GE, IBM, EnerNOC, Better Place, or a new start-up.

Spinning reserves is another major opportunity. If a GW coal or nuclear plant goes down, a utility needs to find a new GW of power online in ten minutes. If you are an energy aggregator who can guarantee that GW 24/7 year-round you can make money every day of the year, even if reserves are rarely needed. A utility might pay $20 MWh for spinning reserves.

Ken Huber, Manager Advanced Technology for PJM, an independent systems operator (ISO) PJM, told me that they had 30 incidents last year that required the use of spinning reserves. On average, the reserves were only needed for about ten minutes. PJM is an energy wholesaler with over 550 member companies that serve 51 million people services in 13 states. On a typical day they are providing 100 GW of electricity. They can handle a 144 GW peak load.

These premium ancillary services can cost-justify early adoption of V2G. A decade from now, less valuable peak and base-load delivery of electricity from electric car batteries may add to the economic value of V2G.

Utilities and their air quality regulators would like to get rid of dirty peaker plants that may only be fired up a few hundred hours per year, when temperatures soar and air conditioning blasts cold air. Dr. Tomic estimates a peak power value of 5 to 80 cents per kWh. For those afternoon peak hours, utilities might offer 2 to10 cents per kWh.

100 V2G cars in Delaware is only a beginning. Fleets will be early adopters of V2G. In the United States, fleets currently have over 20,000 light-electric vehicles in operation. These same fleets will be candidates for new freeway-speed electric vehicles with V2G. Early adopters will include other universities, corporate leaders, and government organizations. The U.S. Post Office, if it secures funding support, may convert part of its 220,000 fleet to electric delivery vehicles with V2G. Utilities with thousands of cars and heavy-duty trucks are perfect candidates for early adoption of V2G.

A New Breed of Energy Service Providers

Electric cars, smart grids, and needed grid available storage will attract a agile innovators, many with deep pockets. Ken Huber of PJM identified a number of potential aggregators that include energy storage providers such as CAES which currently provides PJM with one MW of lithium-ion battery storage; smart grid providers such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco; vehicle service providers such as GM OnStar, Grid Point, and Better Place; and demand-response providers such as Comverge and EnerNOC.

Some energy providers will fight to be first to market with smart charging and V2G services. Others will be fast followers. Most utilities will leave the investments of capital and creating new business models to others. Some innovative utilities may directly offer their own V2G services – Duke, Edison, Sempra, Austin Energy, and Xcel come to mind. Electric car customers will benefit from the convenience, smart charging cost savings, and ability to make money with V2G.
The Grid is Ready for Millions of Electric Cars

“Electricity is the new vehicle fuel,” explains Dr. Will Kempton, Director, Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, University of Delaware. He is confident that the U.S. electric grid can support millions of electric cars that are likely to be added in the next decades. He observes that the U.S. total grid load is about 417 GW. If all U.S. cars will converted to V2G plug-ins with an average of 15 kWh per vehicle, they would provide 2,865 GW. A U.S. fleet of electric vehicles could provide 7X entire electricity needed in U.S.

The average U.S. car is parked 23 hours per day. If most charge off-peak and only 20 percent are available for V2G at any given time, V2G will be a major contributor in energy security and more affordable electricity. A brighter future will be created by early adopters of electric vehicles, utilities with renewable energy portfolios, and a new breed of smart grid and V2G service providers.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Electric Cars Facilitate Smart Grid 2.0

By John Addison (original post Clean Fleet Report)

The electric car will facilitate the smart grid and a renewable energy charging infrastructure. The electric car will help make the smart grid relevant to consumers. Right now most cars use inefficient engines fueled with gasoline or diesel. In the coming decades, many cars will use electricity. With a smart grid, renewable energy will do much of the charging.

New electric cars from Nissan, Toyota, GM, Ford and others will use a charging standard J1772. The new charging units at home and work will include a smart meter chip. When a driver plugs-in, charging will follow preferences pre-established by the car owner. Many will prefer to save money and charge at night when rates are cheaper.

States with the earliest adopters of electric cars are also states where utilities face big renewable portfolio standards (RPS). The lowest cost renewable per megawatt is wind, but much of the wind turbine power is delivered at night when winds are most constant. With a smart grid and price incentives, electric cars will be charged off-peak using renewables.

The promise of smart grid electric vehicle charging was discussed at the GreenBeat 2009 conference last week by technology leaders such as Google and Cisco, and utility leaders such as Duke Energy and Southern California Edison. Al Gore presented smart grid and super grid findings from his comprehensive new book about climate solutions – Our Choice.

The current Smart Grid 1.0 is frankly boring. Smart Grid 2.0 promises to make our life better with less use of damaging coal power emissions.

With Smart Grid 1.0, new electric meters are being installed. Utilities save because they no longer need to send people out to read meters. Services can start and stop without rolling trucks to make manual connects and disconnects. Utilities are saving while the consumers pay for the new meters with rate hikes.

Electric utility industry has shifted from years of falling costs to rising costs. Utilities need to shift energy use and vehicle charging off-peak to avoid unnecessary investments in expensive peaking power plants. A smart grid is needed to fully utilize renewable energy and moderate fossil fuel emissions.

Smart Grid 2.0 could help some people over $1,000 per year by automating their preferences in heating, cooling, running smart appliances, and even doing jobs like running the dishwasher when excess renewable energy is available. Energy efficiency and demand management is already saving some enterprises millions per year. Most state public utility commissions (PUC) are afraid of implementing consumer time-of-use (TOU) pricing to give people the incentive to use energy when it is plentiful not scarce. The latest class action lawsuit hardly encourages PUCs to act more boldly.

Public utility commissions are more willing to allow pricing incentives for vehicle charging. Electric cars will help move us to Smart Grid 2.0. Through web browsers, smartphones, and vehicle displays, drivers will select smart charging preferences and get feedback on how to use less electricity and save money. Early electric cars will cost more than their gasoline counterparts, but their electric charging will cost a fraction of the cost of gasoline fill-ups.

Currently, there are only 40,000 electric cars running in the United States. As exciting new offerings are being tested and sold, 1.5 million electric cars are expected in the U.S. by 2015 presented Sharon Allan, the Senior Executive, North American Smart Grid Practice, for Accenture.

Charging these electric cars will help transform the promise of a smart grid into a convenient cost-saving reality.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.