Monday, July 12, 2010

Economics 12/7/10: Toyota on electric vehicles

An interesting set of revelations from Toyota (hat tip to Seeking alpha post on this) – the most advanced electric and hybrid vehicles producer in the world and one of the largest producers of car batteries (post-acquisition of 80.5% stake in Panasonic EV Energy). See their site (here).

The range of the plug-in electric vehicle motor: Toyota is preparing to test PHV-13 for its delivery to the markets in 2012. PHV-13 will have a 13 miles-range electric drive. Why so little? Toyota explains: "… the smaller the battery in a PHV the better, both from a total lifecycle assessment (carbon footprint) point of view, as well as a cost point of view."

You’d think that electric vehicles are supposed to provide a meaningful replacement for hybrids, according to Irish Government-ESB plans? Think again. Don’t even try to reach Dublin Airport from your Foxrock house in one of these.

Certainty of success in deploying electric plug in vehicles: recall that Toyota already has 2 million hybrid-electric vehicles running around the world. Yet, Toyota, with all its experience, doesn't believe it knows enough about electric vehicles: "The [electric plug in] Prius PHV will come to market in 2012. The PHV demonstration program [starting in 2010] is designed to gather real world driving data and customer feedback on plug-in hybrid technology. In addition, the program will confirm the overall performance of the first-generation lithium-ion battery technology ..." So Toyota wants to make sure it can meet customers’ demands and satisfy their needs. No such caution for the Irish Government that is putting all its faith and a hell of a lot of taxpayers’ cash into electric vehicles and ESB.

extent of plug in vehicles usability: here’s another interesting bit from Toyota – emphasis is mine: “Toyota believes that PHVs can be part of a solution to climate change and for energy security, for certain customers, in certain geographic areas, with certain grid-mixes, with certain drive-cycles, and with access to charging. There will be an important role for PHVs, but it will not be in high volume until there are significant improvements in overall battery performance…and battery cost reduction.”

Err… what was that? But what about Irish Government plans for large-scale switch to electric vehicles in Ireland? Have Toyota heard Minister Ryan speaking on Prime Time about his dreams? May be the Japanese manufacturer can do with a dose of our Green Optimism? Ironically, Richard Tol from the ESRI appearing on the aforementioned programme clearly warned that Minister’s plans for electric car fleets in Dublin will require massive breakthroughs in battery technology.

Cost of technology: Lastly, we are being told that Ireland’s electric vehicles fleets of the future will be powered cheaply (by ESB’s second highest cost electricity in Europe, one presumes). But Toyota guys are not so sure. Again from the Prius PHV site: "During [2009] testimony [at the National Academy of Science in Washington, D.C.] …Toyota said …that the very rough estimate was approximately $1200 per KWH for a complete pack ... Significant reductions in cost will require major technological breakthroughs."

Hmm… so are we going to get cheap and clean electric vehicles in Ireland? According to the world leader in this technology, the 2012 generation of electric vehicles is likely to be about 2-3 times more expensive than running a mid-range Beemer or a Merc. And that’s before we factor in our ESB’s tariffs and the cost of infrastructure to deliver their electricity to the cars’ batteries… dream on, man, of those Green pastures…
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