Wednesday, February 06, 2019

EV’s:  Crucial to Reducing CO2 Emissions

 Tesla battery pack price is outperforming the BNEF outlook and sets the benchmark for competing Lithium-ion battery producers.  (Source Credit: Cleantechnica) Click to Enlarge.
If we are to avoid catastrophic climate events which could threaten our survival as a species on this planet, it is imperative that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions be rapidly and immediately reduced.  Efforts to achieve this are being taken by reducing use of fossil fuels (1) for electricity generation, (2) for transport propulsion, and (3) by adopting mitigating practices such as reduction of energy consumption and protection of carbon sinks.

These measures will not avert dangers posed by global warming unless both developed and emerging economies are decarbonised by mid-century.  Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity accounts for ~30% of present-day global emissions and that percentage is declining as more economies transition to cheaper renewable energy, mostly wind and solar.   Market forces demand cheaper electricity 24/7 and this requires improved ability to store it.

The cheapest form of generating and supplying electricity will capture a growing market as new technologies emerge demanding its availability for an increasing range of applications.  The race is well and truly on to capture this emerging demand. 

Globally the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, probably exceeding 40%, is the internal combustion engine (ICE), widely used by the transport sector for propulsion and operation of other equipment in agriculture, extractive industries, and manufacturing.  Replacement of these engines by electric motors is dependent on development and commercialization of new technology making it possible to store sufficient electricity to do the work now done by oil based products – and, importantly, do it more cheaply.

The transport sector is the most dependent on and the largest user of the internal combustion engine.  Particulates released into the atmosphere by these engines, especially those fueled by diesel, are the cause of air pollution which pose a serious, developing health problem in larger cities.  Particulate emissions may also be contributing to soot deposits on the Greenland Ice Sheet, reducing its albedo and accelerating surface melting and Arctic warming.

By far the greatest damage is caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses, which are the largest single contributor to increasingly dangerous global warming and climate change.  Yet there is an alternative to using the internal combustion engine which so seriously damages the environment and that is to use emission-free electric motors to propel all transport vehicles.  So why are EV’s not replacing those fueled by polluting fossil fuels?

In fact the transition from fossil fueled vehicles to EV’s has begun, but it is a slow process and one which at present has little impact because the number of fossil fueled vehicles in use continues to rise as the global economy and population expand.

Four reasons why EV uptake is not occurring more rapidly are:
  1. The purchase price of EV’s is higher than fossil fueled vehicles:
  2. Concern that EV’s do not have the range or
  3. the ease of refueling of fossil fueled vehicles and
  4. Reluctance to invest in existing EV technology when much improved technology might be available in 2-3 years.
Rapid uptake of EV’s will not occur until they achieve price parity with fossil fueled vehicles.  Although building an EV is more readily achieved by automated processes – and should therefore be cheaper – this efficiency is offset by the cost of batteries needed to store the electricity which powers the motors in an EV.  Batteries make up around 40% of the cost of building an EV and parity of vehicle cost with mid-range fossil fueled vehicles will not be achieved until the cost of a battery pack falls to $100/kWh.  Cost parity with the cheapest fossil fueled vehicles is unlikely to be achieved until battery pack price falls to ~$60/kWh.

Because of stiff competition among battery producers a high degree of secrecy is maintained by them where advances in battery technology and production costs are concerned.  However we do know that in 2017 Audi purchased batteries for its new line of EV’s at a cost of ~$114/kWh, though it is unclear if this was a cell or pack price.  What is clear is that Tesla’s Gigafactory produced batteries for its range of EV’s at a cell price of $100/kWh in 2018.  With improved automation processes it expects to achieve a pack price of less than $100/kWh by 2020.

As a result of ongoing battery price decline, price parity with fossil fueled mid-range vehicles is likely to be achieved by 2020 and with the cheapest fossil fueled vehicles by 2023. 
Global sales of EV’s in 2018 are estimated to be 1.6 million, and Bloomberg estimate that sales in 2020 could be 2.9 million EV’s and considerably higher when solid state battery technology is commercialized.

Read more at EV’s:  Crucial to Reducing CO2 Emissions

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