free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 385. ELECTRIC CAR UPDATE

Monday, December 15, 2008

385. ELECTRIC CAR UPDATE

It's amazing how quickly electric cars have gathered momentum. When I first got involved with peak oil in the summer of 2004, they weren't even on the radar screen. And when my blogging partner Roland wrote a couple of pieces on the subject for POD three years ago in 2005 (171. ELECTRIC CARS, PART 1 and 172. ELECTRIC CARS, PART 2), they were still an exotic niche topic. Now, three years later, the field is exploding, and there's a major scramble for position by carmakers all over the world, large and small. Indeed, it reminds me a lot of the early "wild west" days of the personal computer industry.

This is a key part of the shift away from oil, but I've found the coverage of it pretty spotty and inconsistent at sites like the Oil Drum. (Apparently, they're too busy posting Malthusian fruitcakery, like this piece by some university egghead demonstrating that agriculture itself is unsustainable. LOL.) So I've decided to produce some newsfeeds myself to balance the pessimistic slant at the Oil Drum and peakoil.com etc. These feeds will be a regular feature of POD, and will focus on different aspects of how people are actually SOLVING the peak oil problem. Today's topic: Electric cars. (Note: If you need a few laughs, compare the current news with Savinar's utterly bogus "proof" of why electric cars won't help, here.)

BYD to Introduce China's First Electric Car
A Chinese auto maker plans to unveil the country's first homegrown electric vehicle for the mass market, at least a year ahead of similar efforts around the world.

On Monday, BYD Co. plans to show reporters in Shenzhen the new F3DM, which runs off batteries that can be charged from a regular electrical outlet. BYD began marketing the F3DM this month to cab operators and other potential fleet customers, and plans to have it in showrooms by the end of this month, said Henry Li, a senior company executive. BYD plans to sell the car in the U.S. market as early as the second half of 2010.
(Note: BYD is partly owned by Warren Buffett.)

Ex-Chief Says Intel Should Power Cars
Former Intel Corp. chairman Andrew Grove is pushing the world's biggest maker of microprocessors to consider a new venture -- becoming a manufacturer of advanced batteries for plug-in electric cars.
Evonik, Daimler to make batteries for electric cars
German industrial conglomerate Evonik and carmaker Daimler have joined forces to develop and build advanced batteries for electric cars, the partners said on Monday.
SAIC to develop electric cars
Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) Group and its subsidiary SAIC Motor plan to invest 2 billion yuan ($292 million) to develop electric-gasoline and electric cars. [...]

SAIC Group is China's largest automobile manufacturer in terms of sales.
Maui to test electric vehicles
Maui Electric will test electric vehicles through a new agreement with a California company.

Gov. Linda Lingle, Maui Electric Co. and Phoenix Motorcars announced Tuesday the plan to test all-electric vehicles and an electric vehicle infrastructure on Maui.
Japan taps Better Place for electric car charging
Japan's Ministry of the Environment announced a program on Tuesday to test electric vehicles and a network of charging stations, some supplied by auto start-up Better Place.
San Francisco plans to be electric car capital
San Francisco Bay Area cities promise to build the electric car capital of the United States, announcing a plan to put battery-powered automobiles on the road in 2012.
Electric car venture unveils charge stations in Israel
California-based electric car operator Better Place unveiled in Israel on Monday its first charging stations as part of a network it hopes will replace gasoline-powered engines worldwide.
Mini E Electric Car Arrives in NYC
The fanatical Mini groupies at MotoringFile have confirmed that the first Mini Es have arrived from Europe for distribution in the U.S.
REVA Electric Cars May Soon Be For Sale in Israel
BDO-I2I is looking to bring Indian-made electric cars onto the Israeli market. REVA Electric Car Company and consulting firm BDO-I2I are still finalizing the details, but there are reports imports could start before the end of January.
FedEx Delving Into the World of Electric Cars. Chooses UK-Based Modec for Initial Order of 10 Delivery Vans
Adding to its green fleet of more than 170 hybrid electric delivery vans worldwide, FedEx has decided to try out fully electric vehicles as well with a small group of 10 London-based test trucks.
Ford accelerates electric-vehicle plans
Ford Motor made electric vehicles a centerpiece of a turnaround plan presented to Congress on Tuesday, saying that it will introduce an all-electric van for fleet use in 2010 and a sedan in 2011.
Daimler plans serial production of electric cars: report
Daimler AG has decided to start the full serial production of several electric cars, weekly WirtschaftsWoche reports Sunday, citing people from within Daimler.
In an advance copy of a report from Monday's magazine, WirtschaftsWoche says that according to internal planning documents, the carmaker aims to deliver an electric version of the Smart to dealers in 2012, followed by electric versions of the Mercedes Benz A- and B-class models several months later.
Electric Cars for Military Bases in USA
Environmental Leader relays a Gannett’s Army Time article, which states that the US Army plans to order 400 electric vehicles from sources like Columbia ParCar Corp., Native American Biofuels International, and other manufacturers in 2009. Quantities are expected to rise to 4,000 in FY 2010, and may total 10,000 by the time the program ends.
Electric car maker seeks to fire up assembly line
Porteon seeks $15 million, bristles at the attention given to Asian automakers
After three years of quietly designing prototypes, Porteon Electric Vehicles Inc. wants to raise $15 million to begin production of a lineup of electric cars.
Michelin Develops Revolutionary Active Wheel for Electric Cars
Is this tire really the "Holy Grail of Eco-Transportation," as Treehugger believes? Maybe. Time will tell if the electric engine inside the Active Wheel from Michelin will catch on and further drive down the cost of electric vehicles.
Electric Car Conversions See Increase
Despite gas prices creeping down, a local man who converts cars from gasoline engines to electric motors says he's seen a spike in business.
Tesla Schooled By Tango In Electric Car Drag Race
[Highly recommended. The video is hilarious.]
In what may be the first ever drag race between production electric cars, the geeky Tango electric cruiser edged out the trendy Tesla Roadster electric sports car.
Companies in Europe plan electric car infrastructure
Automakers in Europe plan new business models for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids before 2011.

The business models will eliminate the need for gasoline stations. Energy will be supplied by utility companies. The automakers also will need to take into account the life span of batteries, which will depreciate and wear out quicker than the cars themselves.

Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler, Renault-Nissan, Volvo, and General Motors are among the carmakers that plan to bring plug-in hybrids and full-electric cars to market in 2011.

When that happens, carmakers, utility companies, and battery suppliers will need to be ready to take over the role of energy suppliers from oil companies. This will require a restructuring of energy supply arrangements and infrastructure.
Enel, smart launch electric vehicle initiative in Italy
Italian utility Enel and smart, a Daimler Group brand, have launched the e-mobility Italy initiative aimed at spreading the use of electric vehicles supported by a specially tailored infrastructure providing intelligent and safe service.
Fuji Heavy Shows off Spacious Electric Vehicle
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd exhibited "Plug-in Stella Concept," a new electric vehicle, at the G8 Hokkaido-Toyako Summit (See related article).

Fuji Heavy Industries brought five of the vehicles to the site of the summit and showcased them to government officials and journalists from all over the world. The company plans to commercialize an electric car in 2009.
Mitsubishi to start electric car production
While many car companies are still trying to perfect their electric cars, Mitsubishi Motors Corp has forged ahead with its i MiEV electric car that is set to enter production next year [2009].

Unveiled to the media yesterday ahead of this week’s International Petroleum Technology Conference, the i MiEV electric car does not look much different from the 660cc petrol-powered “i” car on which it was based.

The original “i” car’s engine and fuel tank have been replaced by an electric motor drive system and lithium-ion battery pack.

Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Keizo Ono said the i MiEV was not a concept car but one ready for mass production.

The electric car will go on sale in Japan next year with launches planned in the US and Europe markets in 2010.
Chrysler's plan to beat the Chevy Volt
Chrysler is pinning a huge part of its future on a plan to produce a full line of electric vehicles, at a reasonable cost to both the carmaker and the consumer.

While General Motors is moving ahead with its Volt electric midsized car, Chrysler says it already has plans in place, not just for electric cars, but also for minivans and even off-road vehicles.
by JD

43 Comments:

At Monday, December 15, 2008 at 11:54:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

As always, please use the Name/URL option (you don't have to register, just enter a screen-name) or sign your anonymous post at the bottom. The conversation is better without multiple anons.
Thank you!
JD

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 12:08:00 AM PST, Blogger JD Walters said...

Great stuff, JD. Leanan's "Drumbeat" over at TOD is a great source of news stories but it's invariably biased towards gloom and doom. I vote that you host an (at least weekly) anti-Drumbeat like this one for the electric car, but on a greater variety of PO-related subjects. Pretty please with a cherry on top:)

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 6:01:00 AM PST, Blogger Barba Rija said...

Only the sheer number of recent news about electric cars that you gathered is quite amazing.

TOD worried last day or two about some hidden electric car report in france that wasn't shared to the public due to its pessimistic content.

Isn't it something, when these crackpot thinkers resort to no more than rumors to belittle a growing industry that may solve peak oil for good, while you actually are able to make a list of this sheer size of actual concrete news about the industry making huge steps towards the electric car?

I think it speaks volumes to where we are really going to be in the next decade.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 6:57:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

First off, let's note that Mr. Salonius, the author of the "all agriculture is doooooomed!" piece is NOT a university egghead. He's a soil guy over at the Canadian Forestry Service:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=3&q=http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/directory/psaloniu&ei=ObpHSY7ZE4mIecCYlJcB&usg=AFQjCNE7VXdBqrzMkVcw3x-fzMbLpYRw9Q

If you want a feel for his views on humanity, then go to:

http://www.relocalize.net/blog/peter_salonius

Mr. Salonius makes some very interesting statements throughout his little misanthropy piece, but never tells us, outside of the apparently HIGHLY EXHAUSTABLE ENERGY SOURCES, why we can't continue agriculture for long. Those who dispute his "facts" about soil dynamics are quickly discounted and ignored. I noticed one person managed to bring up serious issues with his soil arguments and he was quickly dismissed.

Note his sources: Abernathy, Pimenttel, Mollison, etc. He's another mouthpiece for the "permaculture" community. He might as well have put Ehrlich on there and be done with it.

Quick aside:

Good God the comments in that thread are disgusting. People doom upwards of all but 300 million people to starvation. Unbelievable. Now I remember why I don't go to that site anymore: it's not about energy, it's about misanthropy.

----

JD, I'd be glad to help you in your affair, by the way. E-mail me if you'd like another blog partner.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 7:34:00 AM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

Ari: I like the first person's comment to Salonius's article on POD: "Why don't you lead the way and test out this hunter-gathering lifestyle so the rest of us can watch and see if we want to join you." LOL.

Hell, and even look at the 2nd comment: "Basically, what I want to hear from Peter is: why write this article? What do you expect to accomplish by telling people to abandon all hope?"

Looks like not everyone over there is salivating over a malthusian prophecy. It's good to see at least some people over there interested in actually solving problems.

As for the Electric cars, I'm glad you included both the article explaining San Fran's plan to go electric....soon, as well as Chrysler's plan to 1-up Chevy's Volt. As much as I'm not a fan of the pending auto-bailout, I am happy that the government will mandate fuel efficient vehicles and actual innovation with their bailout money train going to the Big 3.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 7:45:00 AM PST, Blogger El-Visitador said...

Indepedently of the economic merits that electric vehicles may or may not have, much of the current electric vehicle fad comes from people drinking the environmentalist kool-aid.

Witness Tesla: founded and funded by dot com well-offs from the SF Bay Area, and currently in financial dire straits.

These people have put their money where their mouths/beliefs/fads/religions are, and good for them; but as a financial investment it seems to be a premature/ill conceived idea.

Then you have executives at major companies doing similar exercises: witness Mitsubishi. How can we know if they are doing it out of well-grounded business plans or because it is fashionable or public-relations-wise?

Listen, I would love for the electric car to become our prevalent means of transport, and some day hopefully soon maybe it will be.

I am just not sure that the current bloom is being driven by technological opportunity and economic potential, or by faddish eco-religion.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 7:52:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Andrew Ryan,

I did a quick google of Salonius. It seems his rants are fairly well distributed amongst the "permaculture" people. Most of the time the sites all do the same song and dance and circle jerk of referencing the same people.

Abernathy
Pimenttel
Mollison
Diamond
etc.

The funny thing is how many of them don't even really get Diamond right. They go through Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, cherry-pick what they want, and leave out the rest of what he has to say.

Oh well.

I do enjoy the strong anti-immigration stance the whole lot of them take. Modern day "Know Nothings." So funny.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:01:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

El-Visitador,

It's certainly possible that there is a certain degree of eco-fad-think involved, but I think a lot does have to do with long-term strategy.

The first company to start selling a functional and affordable electric vehicle will be in "blue ocean" territory from a business perspective.

---
Explanation storytime!

"Blue ocean" and "red seas" are a silly business term that refer to the difference between open, unsaturated markets with many competitors, and markets with few (if any) competitors and an open playing field. Blue oceans are where your company sails free and unfettered, and the red seas are stained with the blood of competition and fierce battles over choppy and difficult waters.

Stupid, but it has its use.

Storytime over!
-----

If Tesla had done right with their roadster, they would have been in blue seas for sure. I tend to believe that someone will get it right, and part of the reason why I think JD's post is interesting is that it demonstrates how much interest there is in electric cars outside of the oft-celebrated Tesla.

It will happen, eventually. And whoever does it right (be it one or two or more companies) will be in the same position that Ford was in when it first unleashed the Model T upon the world.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:10:00 AM PST, Anonymous Thomas Paine said...

"Leanan's "Drumbeat" over at TOD is a great source of news stories but it's invariably biased towards gloom and doom. I vote that you host an (at least weekly) anti-Drumbeat like this one for the electric car, but on a greater variety of PO-related subjects."

Someone I know has access to some private TOD newsgroup for the staff and swears this is a true story. Robert Rapier apparently suggested on April Fool's Day that they publish a completely positive news Drumbeat to put the whole news slant in perspective. Nate Hagens liked the idea. Then Leanan threw a hissy and said she would not put her name on a positive Drumbeat because they might lose the trust of their readers. Priceless.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:14:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Then Leanan threw a hissy and said she would not put her name on a positive Drumbeat because they might lose the trust of their readers. Priceless.

Because trust is based on bias?

-_-?

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:19:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Excellent idea, JD. I have a lot of respect of Leanan's Drumbeat, and I don't know that the news items themselves are overly pessimistic (though the comments from the peanut gallery are, of course, an entirely different story). But electric cars need to get more attention, and this is a good attempt at it.

Andrew:

I've actually found a lot of the regular commentators over the Oil Drum to be considered, realistic thinkers. Robert Rapier, for instance, is a regular contributor, and, as I mentioned above, I have a good deal of respect of Leanan. There are plenty of peak oil believers there who would bristle at being called doomers, and are interested, first and foremost, in looking for solutions. But the subject matter of the site ensures that it has more than its fair share of misanthropes, and they frequently manage to dominate the conversation.

I noticed the Salonius piece when it first appeared, and it was a bit of an embarrassment. There's a kernel of a good (even great) story in there, but Salonius ran off the deep end with it in service of your typical doomer porn. It was bad enough that, as you noticed, he got called out by a number of people.

El-Visitador:

Tesla's in bad shape financially, but who isn't in today's economic climate? There's no reason an "eco-fad" can't translate to economic success, anyway. Although, honestly, I think much of the recent interest in electric cars has less to do with environmentalism and more to do with the recent volatility in gasoline prices. Even now that prices are down, a lot of people remain nervous about future run-ups, and see electric cars as a less dicey option than they once were.

Not, of course, that that means that any and every startup will find success in the business. But you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, after all: the failures of companies like Tesla will, in the worst case scenario, serve as lessons for future companies.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:36:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Sean,

Exactly. People are treating Tesla's problems as the failure of the electric car itself. What? How many companies sprouted up during the early days of the ICE automobile, only to vaporize shortly thereafter?


On TOD's biases
----

My biggest issue with the Drumbeat is its clear editorial bias tends toward more "gloomy" news. I think that, in part, has to do with the peanut gallery itself. TOD is, of course, much better than PO.com or the real pea-nutty types, but it tends toward sturm und drang. I think part of the problem, as JD has pointed out, is that we tend to assimilate the biases of those around us. Leanan seems, by nature, to be a pessimistic person. And I don't mean "realistic." I mean pessimistic. She's further reinforced by the approving nods and comments of the TOD peanut gallery that feeds off of her doomer porn.

That's not to say that all of TOD follows that mindset, but that if you read TOD from its early days until now, you may notice a "downward trend" in terms of the mood. The audience seems to have played a role in that, in my mind. After all, we tend to cater to our audience.

I don't think that TOD should be dismissed off-hand, but I'll be honest: I don't really care about any of the energy doom anymore. I get my occasional doom 'n gloom report from the NYT or WSJ and read whatever JD posts. Yes, my news is just as filtered, but so what? At least I still haven't seen fit to buy ammo and nitro-packs yet. I've long since come to realize that the worst case scenario is that a comet crashes into the Earth and we all die.

Oh, I mean that we build a bunch of nuclear plants.

And a comet.

By the way, aren't we way past the "due date" that was originally proposed by the oil doom people?

WHERE ARE MY PIRATES IN SEATTLE? (Kunstler said we'd have pirates in Seattle soon. I can't wait.)

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 9:33:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

The PHEV is a marvelous concept, and if oil ever goes back over $100 again on a sustained basis (a dubious proposition for the next 10 years) the PHEV will become the standard car sold.
Like JD, I am astounded at the rapid advances made in PHEVs, all during that small window when oil was expensive (thanks largely to speculators). One can only imagine what progress would be made if oil becomes permanently expensive.
We are looking at first-gen PHEVs that can go 60 miles on a charge, and there is promising research that might double that figure. Amazing.
Actually, I look forwrd to the PHEV, as an urbanite, and resident of Los Angeles. While our air now is light years cleaner than it used to be, I can only dream about how clean the air would be if the primary mode was PHEVs. The streets would be quieter too. It would be a better world.
Our nation would recycle rather than export dollars if we adopted PHEVs, and our foreign policy could be free of oil-itis.
However, with gasoline headed to $1 a gallon again (with taxes!) I fear the PHEV's successful mass commercial introduction will be delayed for years, maybe even a decade.
I hope the Unied States adopts much, much higher gasoline taxes, phased in over eight years. But I doubt it.
In the meantime, the PHEV remains a time-bomb for OPEC and speculators. If it is introduced (as it will be if prices stay high) it will crush OPEC, and long speculators.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 9:37:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Benny,

LA, huh? I'm originally from the SF Valley (Like, OMIGOD!), and am a UCLA grad. Nice to see fellow Angelenos who hate the car culture.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 12:09:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Ari-
I am always surprised by the number of Angelenos infesting energy blogs. I think it has something to with our car culture, and also the anois of the city. No one in Los Angeles wants to discuss anything but Hollywood, so us energy-junkies must resort to blogs to get anyone to talk to us.
By the way, I am not against car culture. I am "against" the ICE.
I love PHEVs, and I hope someday there are red-hot and stylish PHEVs low-riding around L.A.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 12:13:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Benny,

Ah, gotcha. I'm actually not a fan of car culture, to be honest. I'm part of JD's "post-car society," I suppose. Living in NYC and Tokyo and DC has made me into a transit junky!

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 1:09:00 PM PST, Anonymous Phil said...

For those who did not know "Fuji Heavy" is the parent company for mass-producer "Subaru".

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 2:38:00 PM PST, Anonymous The Urban Lenny said...

'Lectric cars are a last ditch grab at maintaining a 'Happy Motoring" culture.

Anyone got $16,000 for a replacement Volt battery pack?

"Agriculture: Unsustainable Resource Depletion Began 10,000 Years Ago"

Actually makes sense. As as we topped the food chain and became predatorless by conquering fire, we embarked on a journey towards exceeding the carrying capacity of our ecosystem.

The reality of overshoot is well documented in animal species. To think humas are exempt is hubris to the most extreme degree.

At least lemmings know enough to know when to hurl mass amounts of themselves in to the sea.

Learn from the lemmings you pseudo intellectuals here at POD.

PS - I work in the doomed electric car industry.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 2:43:00 PM PST, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Matt Savinar's assessment of renewable/alternative energy is a few years out of date. Matt is no doubt a smart guy, he attended law school; but unless you have a hard engineering or science background, it's better that one avoids making shaky predictions about future technologies.

Remember what the peakers were saying about U.S. gas production? It was going to fall off a cliff in the near future, shale gas would only make marginal contributions. And yet, technology has proven that shale gas extraction is a viable undertaking, it is contributing handsomely to U.S. production (though better care will need to be implemented to the clean polluted water that is a waste byproduct). JD pointed this out before most of the media caught on.

As always, JD, good job

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 2:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous The Urban Lenny said...

Oops - I forgot a few things.

1) The cash incentive for affordable high energy density batteries has existed for over 100 years. In the interim we have developed nuclear technology, lasers and $10 8 gig memory sticks. As much as we want it, mother physics may not allow it.

2) Henry Ford collaborated with Thomas Edison to make an electrified tin lizzy in an effort to spark preparations for the inevitable day that oil runs out. They both admitted they had no idea where the power to generate the requisite energy was going to come from.

3) Otto Von Diesel used biodiesel to power his inaugurational diesel vehicle to underscore the point that oil would eventually run out.

Any of you PODtards got some spare SOMA, I'd like some.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 2:55:00 PM PST, Anonymous The Urban Lenny said...

Andrew,

Where exactly does Salonius say:

"Basically, what I want to hear from Peter is: why write this article? What do you expect to accomplish by telling people to abandon all hope?"

Salonius presents his hypothesis, not admonitions to abandon all hope.

We all know that a high payload nuke delivered over NYC would kill at least ten million people.

Should we start a website with the title "Nuclear Weapons Debunked" with the "Disclaimer for Idiots: This site officially accepts that nuclear weapons are real, and will go off someday."

Before you go get all twitterpated about how nukes will never go off, remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Split hairs on atomic vs. nuclear if you want. Waste of brainspace though.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 2:56:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

The Urban Lenny,

Anyone got $16,000 for a replacement Volt battery pack?

You're telling me that there is no hope for economies of scale bringing down the cost of the battery packs in the future?

Also, one can imagine a future plan where people amortize the cost of the battery pack over the course of so many years.

At least lemmings know enough to know when to hurl mass amounts of themselves in to the sea.

Complete myth.

http://www.wildlifenews.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlife_news.view_article&issue_id=6&articles_id=56

Actually makes sense. As as we topped the food chain and became predatorless by conquering fire, we embarked on a journey towards exceeding the carrying capacity of our ecosystem.

The reality of overshoot is well documented in animal species. To think humas are exempt is hubris to the most extreme degree.


The limiting factor for any one species is always nebulous and hard to pin down. We know from biology that species with distinct niches-- specialists, that is-- are much more constrained by resource limitations. A good example is the giant panda, which is absolutely hosed if bamboo goes away.

Humans, on the other hand, are generalists. Our strength as a species lies in the fact that we are omnivorous, can live practically anywhere, and are far less limited by any specific resource than any other species. Kind of like the Norwegian rat, I suppose!

The reality of overshoot is well documented in animal species. To think humas are exempt is hubris to the most extreme degree.

Yes and no. Remember that even in species, what we tend to find more often are steady states (which is what Malthus was actually talking about.)

"In the Malthusian steady state, the birth rate (β) and the death rate (δ) are equal, i.e. β = δ, so that population growth is zero at the subsistence wage. The subsistence wage, w*, is just sufficient to sustain the steady state labor-land ratio, l*."

http://people.brandeis.edu/~jefferso/Malthus,%20the%20IR,%20and%20the%20Tech%20Mult,%20Feb%2005.doc,pdf.pdf

Note that Malthus was not discussing the "overshoot and dieoff" as much as he discussed the steady state.

PS - I work in the doomed electric car industry.

An appeal to authority is a fallacious argument. So what?

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 3:02:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

We all know that a high payload nuke delivered over NYC would kill at least ten million people.

Should we start a website with the title "Nuclear Weapons Debunked" with the "Disclaimer for Idiots: This site officially accepts that nuclear weapons are real, and will go off someday."

Before you go get all twitterpated about how nukes will never go off, remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Split hairs on atomic vs. nuclear if you want. Waste of brainspace though.


This is a red herring, but I think it's important to note that while it's true that the odds of a nuclear weapon being deposited on top of NYC are higher today than they were in 1941 (when the odds were of course zero), it's hard to argue what the odds are now.

What the Cuban Missile Crisis demonstrated, at least from a game theoretical perspective, is that the two main nuclear powers, the US and the USSR, were extremely cautious about using their arsenals-- after all, they recognized the short- and long-term costs associated with using them.

I tend to identify more heavily with the disarmament camp (Dyson et. al), but there's an interesting game theoretical argument to be made that full out nuclear warfare (ICBMs and all that) is highly unlikely-- even more so today.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 3:15:00 PM PST, Blogger Carl said...

"You're telling me that there is no hope for economies of scale bringing down the cost of the battery packs in the future?"

Y'all like to harp on hope. GM pegs the replacement cost of the Volt battery pack at $16,000. Tesla says $10,000.

Believe me I love both cars but I can't afford that on a pretty comfy salary.

As I said before, the economic and technical incentive batteries has been around for 80 years longer than computers. Where is the cheap "gigabit" electron storage device we seek.

Moore's law does not seem to apply to batteries.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 3:18:00 PM PST, Blogger Carl said...

Ari,

There actually is no such thing as a Norwegian Rat. They are simple brown rats.

BTW - surprise, I'm a Swede.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 3:31:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Carl,

You miss the point. Batteries, at least the big car- sized ones, have not yet benefitted from any economies of scale. Compare, for example, the price difference, on the margin ($/watt), for laptop batteries ten years ago and today. Especially the li-ion batteries. That's an example of economies of scale in action.

And no, I don't have $16k handy. Who says I can't have the cost amortized, however?

Oh, and yes, it IS the brown rat. However, it is still taxonomically the "Norwegian rat", for better or for worse.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 8:59:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Believe me I love both cars but I can't afford that on a pretty comfy salary."

if you save $1700 or more a year it could make more sense. of course you're assuming we even need batteries for electric cars in the future. we don't know. it could be ultracapacitors.


"As I said before, the economic and technical incentive batteries has been around for 80 years longer than computers."

wrong, it was cheap gas that made the economic incentive to produce batteries disappear.

doomer rule #1.

blame everything on cheap and abundant oil.

 
At Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 9:24:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Anon,

Actually, it can be argued that it WAS cheap and abundant oil that made batteries develop slowly. To be honest, if not for the proliferation of high-need gadgets, I doubt we would have gone far past the alkaline battery even today. Why bother with batteries and new logistics for nearly a century when oil is cheap, abundant, and not seemingly going anywhere?

Markets aren't perfect, but they're not completely stupid, either.

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 12:09:00 AM PST, Anonymous Roger M. said...

Holy shit. That's a ton of news! Quite amazing. Thanks for keeping this blog going, you are doing a great service for my mental state. After enough mental trauma from stumbling across gems like LATOC, your blog is a breath of fresh air.

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 4:51:00 AM PST, Blogger Yogi said...

Battery technology actually seems to be advancing so rapidly that it is difficult to predict what prices will be 5 or 10 years from now, but it is likely to be considerably less than $10,000 for a PEHV battery pack. Here are a couple of examples, just for illustrative purposes:


http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9780680-7.html

“EnerDel says it will come out with a lithium-ion battery for plug-in hybrids that will cost $1,500, a development that could go a long way to making these cars palatable in terms of price.

The Indianapolis-based company, which recently received a $6.5 million grant from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), hopes to deliver the battery to car manufacturers for their 2010 lineups, according to Charles Gassenheimer, vice chairman of the company. The 2010 model cars will start coming out in September 2009, he said.

By then, there will probably be 65 hybrid cars on the market, he estimated. Right now, there are 15, he said. No major manufacturers currently make plug-in hybrids. Plug-ins have larger batteries than conventional hybrids, can be charged through a socket and get better gas mileage. However, they cost a lot at the moment. Converting a hybrid to a plug-in costs about $15,000, money that even plug-in hybrid proponents admit is nearly impossible to make up for with better fuel economy.

"You're not going to spend thousands of dollars to save $600 to $700 at the pump a year," Gassenheimer said. "Until you make this a positive return on investment, you won't see these (plug-ins) at 50 to 80 percent penetration."

EnerDel will mostly aim at selling batteries to manufacturers to incorporate into cars coming off the line and not aftermarket modifiers.

How much cheaper will an EnerDel-energized plug-in hybrid be compared to a regular one? It's hard to say. Gassenheimer, though, asserts that the company's batteries will cost half as much or less as nickel-metal hydride batteries, which are used in some plug-in retrofits these days. The price the company is quoting is fairly cheap. The National Renewable Energy Lab has put out reports estimating that the battery price should be able to come down to $2,500 or more. So if EnerDel could hit its goal--and it's an if--it could help. The grant will be used to drive costs down further.”


http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=21141&channel=specialsections&section=batteries

“A new way to make advanced lithium-ion battery materials addresses one of their chief remaining problems: cost. Arumugam Manthiram, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, has demonstrated that a microwave-based method for making lithium iron phosphate takes less time and uses lower temperatures than conventional methods, which could translate into lower costs.”

“It's still too early to say how much the new approach will reduce costs in the manufacturing of lithium iron phosphate batteries. The method's low temperatures can reduce energy demands, and the fact that it is fast can lead to higher production from the same amount of equipment--both of which can make manufacturing more economical. But the cost of the conductive polymer and manufacturing equipment also needs to be figured in, and the process must be demonstrated at large scales. The process will also need to compete with other promising experimental manufacturing methods, says Stanley Whittingham, a professor of chemistry, materials science, and engineering at the State University of New York, at Binghamton.”

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 9:13:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Ari:
I also like mass transit and TOD (transit oriented development). But, hey, wouldn't you like a cool PHEV?

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 10:19:00 AM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

anon:
doomer rule #1.

blame everything on cheap and abundant oil.


Good point! May I add: doomer rule #2 - set the absolute of oil = food.

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 2:48:00 PM PST, Blogger OptimisticDoomer said...

I have to ask, how are they going to make these batteries when oil supplies dwindle? When oil spikes to $200, won't that increase the cost to get the materials & manufacture the batteries?

Trying not to become a doomer again, but with oil penetrating every aspect of our lives, it's a monumental task to say the least.

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 3:05:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

To think humans are exempt is hubris to the most extreme degree.


No other animal has the awareness of what overshoot even means, so it is not surprising if they fail.

However, we have both the awareness, and the knowledge of how to harness resources in ways unavailable to any other animal. In this respect, we are orders of magnitudes different to any other animal.

To compare us with lemmings therefore is not just a terrible analogy but downright dumb.

If you can give examples of other intelligent species that have gone under that would be more useful, but currently we have a sample of one to analyse.

"Lemming suicide" is one of many myths popular with doomers, as is the "we are in overshoot" myth.

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 3:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous Peak Silly said...

I'd love to have an electric car once they've got one that handles snow. A really quiet Subaru. Regardless of the financial status of any particular electric car company - if they produce something worthwhile the technology will find its way into a product from a larger company with the resources to make it happen.

Making better batteries has not been a priority in the US for a long time, certainly not in terms of basic science funding. Supposedly Honda is light-years ahead of the pack in research in the area. I guess it's one of those areas where doomers think it is impossible for anyone to make a breakthrough. And those luddites will be so wrong.

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 7:15:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

I have to ask, how are they going to make these batteries when oil supplies dwindle? When oil spikes to $200, won't that increase the cost to get the materials & manufacture the batteries?

Trying not to become a doomer again, but with oil penetrating every aspect of our lives, it's a monumental task to say the least.


How much oil is used in making those batteries currently? I don't have any idea, but it might not be much at all. Just like the amount of oil used to mine, transport, and enrich uranium is miniscule compared to the amount of energy and money it is worth. I'd bet the batteries are the same.

DoctorJJ

 
At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 10:27:00 PM PST, Blogger iskanda said...

Fascinating post on peak oil and the doom mentality over on climate resistance

http://www.climate-resistance.org/

 
At Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 12:28:00 AM PST, Blogger Alex said...

All nice and everything, but what about the additional electricity generation capacity PLUS charging infrastructure? Am I the only one thinking about the ENTIRE solution, geez!

 
At Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 12:08:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Alex,

Yes, you're the only one with any sort of insight into the broader problems. Totally.

In fact, I've never called for the construction of greater capacity, particularly in the form of nuclear and renewables. Never.

Your forward-thinking views shame us all.

:)

 
At Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 5:01:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All nice and everything, but what about the additional electricity generation capacity PLUS charging infrastructure? Am I the only one thinking about the ENTIRE solution, geez!"

A whole 24% of what we currently generate. Wow that's an insurmountable goal.

 
At Monday, December 22, 2008 at 1:35:00 AM PST, Anonymous soylent said...

"A whole 24% of what we currently generate. Wow that's an insurmountable goal."

It's even better than that; if you can coax people into charging off-peak you can make do with cheap baseload generation instead of expensive gas turbines or hydropower(which is a rather limited resource). If you can coax demand into soaking up intermittent generation or drop their demand in a grid emergency you can harness some of that wind power which is simply discarded in todays grid and get rid of some of that spinning reserve requirement.

 
At Monday, December 22, 2008 at 1:37:00 AM PST, Anonymous Soylent said...

"...expensive gas turbines..."

That came out wrong. The gas turbines themselves are cheap, especially the simple cycle ones.

Rather, it's the natural gas that's expensive and if you live in Europe it will make you beholden to Gazprom which is a rather unsavoury reality.

 
At Saturday, August 8, 2009 at 8:32:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ian807 said...

There are many solutions to water transportation fuel decline. Or most resource declines, for that matter.

Any failures will be human. The Mayans and Sumerians both could have saved themselves by changing food sources and irrigation practices. The Romans didn't have to base their culture on permanent expansion (sound familiar?) and conquest. They could have consolidated what they had and prospered.

There are solutions. There are always solutions. We have them too as so many who post here have described in detail.

The problem is that in the USA, at least, we have a complex society of interrelated systems with a dysfunctional body politic. We are unlikely to implement any solutions to real problems in time to avoid serious difficulties.

The most recent evidence of this sort of cognitive failure of otherwise smart people is the financial crisis. Bubble economy. Who knew? Well, *lots* of people did, for over 20 years (Liar's Poker was written in the 80s). It made no difference. No difference at all.

Ian

 

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