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I have to laugh when I read things like "If you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer, which is what has happened to the people who did this study." No offense, Davemart, because I've read many of your comments through the years and I know you're a very smart person. But what is the question? In my opinion, it should have something to do with real change. Today, there are hundreds of millions of vehicles in the US fleet. Thus, how many years does it take to replace the current fleet? Furthermore, in how many years will big battery plug-ins dominate even just yearly sales? According to the DoE, a 100 mile range EV might be cost-effective with a gas equivalent vehicle without any tax credits by around 2025. That's a long time from now and, potentially, a lot of big tax credits. Even if all cars are large battery plug-ins in 2025 -- whether EV or REEVs -- how long to replace just half the entire US fleet? At some point the question has to include something about the legacy effect of the current fleet and how long it takes to replace. In that context, I think this study demonstrates that, if you really care, it's really important to achieve as much as possible today. Yes, a major battery breakthrough could change everything, but Harvey's modularization idea could take advantage of such breakthroughs. Thus, both the legacy effect can be countered, while still embracing battery progress. Even with a breakthrough; however, there are still massive infrastructure obstacles, for instance. Not to mention plain old consumer ignorance -- which is an extremely relevant FACT. BEV fans can talk until they are blue-in-the-face about the obvious superiority of pure electric car, but consumers don't give a crap. Chasing large batteries today makes a lot of sense in many ways. But most of the science suggests that without a massive change in consumer psychology, current battery technologies will still not be enough to make large battery vehicles the mainstream solution for more than a decade, maybe even two. Hence, my question is how long do wait before we starting taking the legacy effect of our collection automotive purchases more seriously? We already know starting today, it will take at least 20+ years to replace the current fleet. Therefore, I believe the topic of the most battery bang for the buck is a very relevant and great question.
Dave R- But if you read that report carefully the authors suggest the reason for the price reduction is because there were far more supplies than demand.
Also ironic that the Environmental Defense Fund was a key contributor. But they're completely unbiased, of course. They certainly have no agenda.
How convenient Harvey? Any question of plug-in viability and you suggest big oil conspiracy. Here, the culprit in question is, essentially, a usable fuel. Why not just harness that fuel? Would methanol fuel cell hybrids really be so bad? Yes, instead, nat gas powered power plants and plug-ins would be more efficient, but if the auto industry isn't building them and consumers don't want to buy them, how much is your greater efficiency-potential worth in the real world? This isn't communist America. Maybe it should be, but unless you can pass that via the ballot, consumers are much more willing to embrace CNG vehicles than plug-in ones until there is a major battery breakthrough that makes plug-ins equivalent to guzzlers -- in EVERY way. I'm sorry, but it really bothers me how utopian dreams, despite a plethora of evidence, are consistently an argument against rational energy policy. Plug-ins have become the modern day fuel cell.
And what if he's simply telling the truth, Anne? Last Friday, Autoweek interviewed the CEO of Coda and his estimates were only 1 to 2 percent EV marketshare for the foreseeable future. Actually, that's what's he's hoping penetration will eventually be, as most industry forecasts are even lower. The heads of most automakers -- the ones talking to their boards and making long term financial decisions -- have claimed similar numbers. And you don't change the direction of the auto industry over night. Have you really any idea of the scope of the supply chains involved in the auto industry? The time it takes to retool an assembly line, or to move a vehicle from concept to reality? I'm sorry, but I don't see how simply denying every dissenter, especially ones from the auto industry, is very productive. A lot of eggs are being put in the EV basket, and if they do fail to live up to the hype, we might, 10 years from now, ask why more wasn't done in the past. I've been following this game for every 10 years now, and the pace of change has been frustratingly slow. Yet all the while, much more could have been done, if constant, reasonable steps had been taken. Thus, perhaps instead of attacking the bulk of automotive CEOs that disagree with you, it would be more productive to engage them. Ultimately, governments don't build cars, at least not cost-effectively, businesses do. Governments can run studies, and estimate costs, but even expert contractors seldom nail real world costs. It almost always costs more, and doesn't the government have a poor record in such affairs? Much more can be achieved today than is being achieved, but moving forward will take well coordinated interaction between government and business. Then there is the pitiful consumer whom refuses to take proactive responsibility for their impact upon the world.
Bob- What about Volt sales before the battery incident was reported? Both before the production line upgrade this summer and after -- but still before the fire story -- GM still seemed as if it was going to come up short of its 10,000 car forecast. HOV access in California will help this year, as would a point of sale tax credit, but ultimately, costs have to come down for most consumers. As that happens the Volt will sell in greater numbers regardless of what the press claims. Also, isn't electricity in the US created by the fossil fuel industry? Or do coal and natural gas get a pass?
Sean- Is his argument really so disingenuous? Toyota has made the same argument regarding China based on their studies. GCC has posted numerous studies suggesting similar findings in China as well -- some suggesting that electrification would increase CO2 emissions compared to just gasoline. Certainly, there are well-to-wheel arguments, but I find it a little hard to believe that Toyota, VW and numerous scientists in China are so obtuse and ignorant that they perpetually forget to take these factors into account. Consequently, considering that every automaker believes the future of the automarket is China, India and other emerging countries, maybe such statements are made with this reality in mind. That if you reduce emissions 15 percent in the US and Europe thanks to EVs, but increase them 15 percent in China, India, et al -- what have you gained? Again, maybe Toyota, VW et al are just employing self-serving propaganda, but there are studies that seem to come from reasonable sources that do question EV emissions in the developing markets. Considering that scale is the most critical element to mainstream automotive success, then the balance of worldwide emissions becomes a focus. The future will not tolerate separate supply chains for China and the US. Thus product ever more needs to be developed in a way that serves both markets. Thus, if it comes down to the status quo until electrification can fully mainstream, or a 15 percent reduction -- worldwide -- until the kinks are worked out of the EV supply chains, etc., I'll take the 15 percent.
And you're the debater crowd Lucas. In the 70's the heavy duty trucking industry moved from gasoline to diesel in about 6 years. There is no reason that a conversion to natural gas couldn't be achieved in the same amount of time -- that's a huge chunk of US fuel consumption, around 20 - 25 percent if I'm not mistaken. The electric drive is no where near offering a solution like that today. As SJC said, it's about AND. Using natural gas wisely in the short term could significantly reduce OPEC dependence faster than any other option. That will fire up the economy and strengthen consumer confidence -- which is needed to support a big push towards electrification in the general population -- based on the latest Pike data posted on GCC just yesterday. The idea that the electric drive can save us is pure nonsense. Just because electrification is the long term solution doesn't make it the smart interim solution. Just ask First Solar or the rest of the solar companies that have lost 75 percent of their value over practically over night. Green tech will eventually win, but not before its ripe. Didn't we learn that during the Internet bubble? Rushing to be first doesn't automatically make one a winner. In the interim -- which is still a few decades -- we'll need more than just electrification. We need "And" solutions. BTW -- The idea that physics precludes the possibility of cost-effective hydrogen is pure science fiction. Battery-powered electrification might prove more cost-effective but hydrogen will give it a run for the money, especially when distance is required.
I don't know, Harvey. Compare the current Ford Fusion hybrid to the 2011 Toyota Camry hybrid. The Fusion hybrid offers better fuel economy, but at a pretty significant price premium. Additionally, when Consumer Reports tesed the Fusion hybrid in real world driving, they achieved fuel economy similar to that of the Camry hybrid -- making that premium seem even bigger. The 2012 Camry hybrid, based on early world from Ford regarding Fusion pricing, will probably again be significantly cheaper than the 2013 Fusion hybrid. Plus, even though the Fusion hybrid will be more fuel efficient according to the EPA, will it be in the real world? Besides, I don't think fuel economy is really the bar, it's cost-effectiveness. Thus far the Camry hybrid has been more cost-effective in the real world. So until Ford starts selling more cost-effective hybrids than Toyota, I don't think Toyota has much to worry about. Only cost-effectiveness can really drive sales.
Also, the Prius C is a 53 mpg hybrid that will start below $19,000, and doesn't have the range limitations of an EV, nor does it need 12 years to recover its costs compared to a pure gas-guzzler. Based on essentially every consumer study i've seen, i think most consumers will eventually start there -- if sustained gasoline prices finally force them to take action. but a 12 year payback? please. also, i look forward to the day that the fuel cell industry makes many a fuel cell hater look a fool, something i guarantee will happen. fuel cells aren't the solution. instead, it will be fuel cells and batteries that ultimately kill off gasoline. if you can't accept that possibility, you just aren't paying attention to the science.
I'm sorry, Bob, but it's complete nonsense to speculate what real world battery costs are today. Commodities markets are driven by supply and demand. Today we're producing enough batteries to supply less than a percent of world auto demand. That simply isn't enough to extrapolate future prices. Supply chains just aren't that simple. Likewise, VW claims the EPA battery numbers have no basis in the real world. Maybe that's just because VW et al is anti-hybrid, but their opinion is more relevant than yours -- no offense. Furthermore, there are more in the battery game -- researchers, analysts and the companies themselves -- such as Continental AG -- that claim any battery profit is at least a decade away, compared to those claiming the future is here, especially ones that don't work for the government. Ultimately,, until the industry is producing millions of EVs per year, minimally, talking about costs is just plain silly. Case in point rare earths. Just like China, Chile, Bolivia, etc. could make lithium prices much higher through various policies, such as ones aimed to push more battery manufacturing in-country. And the above still doesn't include automaker costs. Pretending that today's EV prices mean anything moving forward is equally ridiculous. Today's EVs are subsidized not just by the government, but automakers themselves. Take away pickup truck sales and the profit margins needed from EV sales to sustain a US-based automaker need to grow immensely, especially if you add in past R&D costs and future ones.
OK. Lets be open-mined and honest. Most watching the State of the Union address were probably fans or relatively open to the President and his ideas. Most hardcore Republicans, I'm sure, didn't bother watching. Minimally, there were significantly more Democrats than Republicans watching. So, I think the CBS polls are completely irrelevant. But in terms of the issues: The President called for an end to oil subsidies, something he also called for when Democrats controlled Congress, but he couldn't accomplish. So, what was the point? In my opinion it was politics, which is why Henry consistently blames Republicans, even though the Democratic party has also fallen short of Henry's expectations. Maybe this problem is bigger than party politics...if we're going to be open-minded. Likewise, I think most economists would reject the idea that the US is going to dominate the advanced battery industry, especially if the UAW is in the mix. The numbers just don't add up. China can crush the US industry the same way it did with solar. Moreover, countries with large lithium supplies want more of the manufacturing done locally in exchange for access to lithium, and most of the large South American ones aren't very impressed with US companies. We'll be the innovators and hopefully we'll do a chunk of the manufacturing, but our potential is limited. Moreover, nothing Obama did brought more oil on online. If anything his administration has limited capabilities, yet he suggested that this uptick was the result of his term. Please. You can't argue on one hand that it takes many years to bring new oil and gas resources on line, then take credit for it when you haven't been around long enough. More political BS. Then there is KeyStone, a case where the President could have shown real leadership, but he didn't. instead, he again played politics. Real leadership would have found a work-around, especially when it would put into real world action what his speech was about last night. There was plenty of time for the President to develop his own plan instead of looking for a way to blame Republican and wait until AFTER the election, so he wouldn't lose some of the environmental vote. The President can talk a good game, he's proven that, and might be able to put into action if he could hand pick the members of Congress, but he can't. Thus, what the President hasn't proven is that he can achieve real change, and ultimately that real change is going to require working with Republicans. That is the reality of today's political world in America. That doesn't mean you have to like Republicans, but it does mean that if they control a enough of Congress, as they probably will continue to do so after 2012, you have to work with them. Otherwise, it's just more political blame without any results, as it has been for decades. I for one am tired of all the political gamesmanship (http://apnews.myway.com/article/20120125/D9SFO48G0.html). In my opinion, it's pretty sad the lack of productivity in today's government because of the amount of time spent politicking -- not to mention the money spent campaigning.
A bit ironic reading point #1 regarding natural resources and pipelines from the President's own council on the same day the White House has laid out its strategy for stopping Keystone. To me it seems the President is missing a great opportunity for compromise. The President's OWN council suggests such pipelines are essentially absolutely necessary for American economic viability, so why not use the pipeline as a way to get Republicans to commit to greater efficiency standards and more money into renewable R&D projects? Maybe just blaming Republicans for forcing a decision will work for the President, but I'd bet that if the President could negotiate a big energy deal with Republicans around keystone, jobs and more renewable R&D -- helped by tax rev from keystone-like jobs -- he might lose a few environmentalists, but he'd pick up a lot more independents. I know we all hate either Republicans or Democrats, but at some point someone is going to have to bring the parties together on a game-changing energy policy. The country is just too split for 1 party to have complete control, and that means someone like the President is going to have to be a uniting leader.
Additionally, I think there is a bit of a flaw in this study. In particular, the Nissan Leaf is not representative of the average vehicle in the US. Consequently, its range capabilities are therefore questionable. For instance, typically around 50 percent or more of US sales are light duty trucks. Saying Nissan Leaf range meets the capabilities of a Ford F150 or a Chevy Silverado seems hardly accurate. The extra weight of the vehicles, aerodynamics and payloads would require a massive upgrade to the size of the Leaf's battery pack, otherwise, potential range would decrease significantly.
I don't know where you live Chris, but in my LA neighborhood there are 4 gasoline stations just blocks from my house. Likewise, according to a recent study, less than half of all Californians have off-street parking. Thus, for the majority in the Golden state charging is definitely the inconvenience. Moreover, just because an EV provides generally acceptable range doesn't mean Americans find value in them. They're still significantly more expensive compared to conventional cars without tax incentives -- both to consumers and automakers/suppliers. Finally, for now automakers can subsidize EV costs through PR, etc. If they were suddenly forced to survive off EV profits, I bet EV prices would have to rise significantly. Think about American automakers, for instance, and the massive percentage of profit driven by the pickup truck segment. Having to replace that profit with EV profit would be extremely difficult. Why do think the President essentially gave pickup trucks a pass in new CAFE requirements through the next decade? Because if we got tough on trucks today we'd crush the Big 3. In theory, EVs make a ton of sense, in the real world; however, they still have massive obstacles to overcome.
Harvey- There is no doubt that energy companies have taken the quick route many times in past shale plays, and they'll continue to do so until regulations/public perception force their hand. Nevertheless, there have been numerous independent studies now that have suggested that fracking natural gas, for instance, can be environmentally safe while reducing CO2 emissions. Of course, this requires extra costs in the development of these resources -- perhaps making them less enticing compared to alternatives. However, the implication -- which you seem to be making -- that natural gas and shale are simply forever more environmentally dangerous compared to petroleum resources, for instance, seems impossible to prove based upon today's available science. Moreover, if lithium, for instance, were judged by the historical pollution caused by its development thus far as a resource, one could use your same logic and claim that lithium is an environmentally dangerous resource, as there has been well documented cases of extreme pollution thus far. Fortunately, both of these resources can be developed in much cleaner ways. In my opinion, fracking is inevitable. Eventually, even if only just for a short while, Iran is going to make travel through the Straits of Hormuz difficult, if not impossible. And once gas prices double permanently, I'm quite confident voters will demand that cheaper and domestic natural gas be utilized. Besides, today cheap energy easily trumps pollution as an American concern. Consequently, in my opinion, the anti-fracking/natural gas crowd isn't just fighting a losing battle, they are making the situation far worse than it needs to be. Fracking should be seen as the impetus to compromise. Fracking today in exchange for a greater focus on fuel economy and the development of more sustainable resources as we head into the future. The goal of the sustainable crowd should be to ensure that nat gas is simply a step to greater sustainability.
That would be nice Bob, but i think your projections don't hold much water. First there is the legacy effect. At today's rate of vehicle replacement in the US, it takes almost two decades to replace the fleet. Then think about the rest of the world and the economic interconnectedness. Second, supply chain management is not built or upgraded over night. The idea that the majority of our vehicles will be EV in 15 years is completely illogical. The auto industry isn't even close to ramping up towards such an output, and to achieve such an output much more would have to be done almost immediately. It will take countless new factories for every element of automotive production and supply chain procurement. Unfortunately, that alone will take decades. The auto industry simply doesn't change over night as the scale is unbelievably large and complex. Third, your battery assumptions are not in line with almost all of the research. There are studies that have studied the economics of batteries broken down to just commodity costs -- about 75 percent cheaper than batteries in 2009 -- and they still aren't expected to be even close to being able to replace conventional vehicles. Maybe a surprise breakthrough could change that, but implementing that on a wide scale -- 100+ million vehicles every year and growing -- takes a very long time. And, again, automakers are not moving that aggressively in such a direction. In 15 years, almost every major automaker is planning, building and investing in more advanced ICE vehicles, while concurrently planning about 5 - 10 percent EV production. Until they drastically change course -- via the necessary planning, investing and building -- rosy predictions aren't worth the paper or the digital space they are printed upon. Think like an investor, scour the financials of the major automakers and their suppliers and the story basically tells itself. Changing this 15 year+ road map will take a monumental political effort or an almost unimaginable revolutionary battery breakthrough -- and automakers and their suppliers are OBVIOUSLY betting against both -- with their wallets, and that is ultimately the only metric that matters. I wish that were not the case, but we have to at least accept the truth before we have any hopes of moving forward or alternating our current automotive trajectory.
I'm sorry, but it's just silly to blame Republicans for the lack of BEVs. European automakers aren't morons and petro fuels cost significantly more there than in the US, so their market is naturally more supportive than the US. If batteries made cost-effective sense, VW would have every incentive to build them regardless of what US consumers or Republicans demand. The bulk of today's lithium technologies have been around for 30 years now. Yes, materials science is upgrading many aspects of these batteries, but almost assuredly next gen batteries, such as the lithium-air mentioned in a previous comment, will be required to achieve real mainstreaming. But, again, it took 30 years for lithium to make its ways into the auto sector and many prominent battery researchers have suggested that it won't be surprising if it takes 30 years for next gen battery technologies to cost-effectively scale into auto production either. Hopefully, battery science takes an unexpected leap forward, as science sometimes does, but any honest, open-minded person HAS to accept that their is plenty of science to suggest that the battery revolution is going to take decades -- and much of that science has been studied and accepted by the Obama Admin, the EPA, essentially every automotive forecaster, and the bulk of automakers. 2017? Get real. Check out Deloitte's latest BEV consumer study for a dose of reality. Consumers want 300+ miles, full charges in less than 2 hours, and they don't want to pay a premium. That means a Volt needs to cost about the same as a Cruze, and outside of a miracle that is not going to happen by 2017. I'm a huge plug-in fan and will make a plug-in my next car, but if one is serious about global warming or foreign oil dependence, then it has to be accepted that plug-ins are not yet the critical technology and waiting for plug-ins to become the critical technology is counter-productive. Much can be, and should be, done until batteries hit their sweet spot in the market. The legacy effect of the billion + and growing fleet of vehicles already on the world's roads demands it.
Roy- GM's sales are up big on SUV and truck sales last month....I"m sure the cost-effective BEV versions of those vehicles are just around the corner. Major automakers, the government, every forecast -- none of them agree with you. But let's bet the farm. Certainly, it would be great if such an outcome is achieved, but the US needs an energy policy that is much more prepared for the very real reality that such an outcome will not happen. Moreover, there are very few whom believe that today's battery technologies can achieve your desired outcome based upon commodity costs alone. The bulk of today's lithium technologies have been around 30 years now and are pretty well understood. We need to be realistic about that and plan forward intelligently. Rosy assumptions are dangerous, not productive.
ummm, that's how science progresses ejj. unless you're a world renowned chemist, I'd say your comment is YAWN! BORING! the artificial photosynthesis story sounded more like science fiction only a few years ago, but now it is really starting to appear viable. better and cheaper batteries, better and cheaper fuel cells, better and cheaper solar panels -- the chemical convergences being developed right really are leading to game changing synergies. hopefully we stay open-minded enough to realize the full potential of these technologies rather the believing we can predict the future of energy.
ChrisL- Huh? Where do government policy makers come from? The ivory towers of academia, right? So, those from ivory towers that work for Congress or the White House are somehow better than those that stayed in academia? Why? Because they get to spend more money? Because they're indebted to lobbyists and campaign contributors. Give me a break. This isn't the first scientific study to question the federal plug-in tax credit, and there were experts arguing this point to Congress during inception and since. Likewise, there have been multiple studies over the last few years, in Europe as well as the US, that have questioned the science, or lack thereof, behind this tax credit. But, hey, the ivory tower policy makers of the government have a proven track record of cost-effective policies don't they? No politics, no pork, no $16 coffee or $200 hammers are every a result of public policy, never.
I think Toyota picked almost exactly the perfect EV range. According to the latest IBM transportation study, the average 1 way commute is about 12 miles. So shouldn't plug-in architecture be built around this reality to start? Besides, workplaces can better amortize plug-in/smart grid investments. Likewise, according to a recent Cost of Ownership study cited here on GCC, the ideal EV range for plug-in cost-effectiveness through 2030 will probably be about 17 miles, and cost-effectiveness will be the key driver of plug-in adoption, not EV range. That puts Toyota in the sweet spot. Ultimately, mainstreaming requires cost-effectiveness, ease of refueling, and reliability. It seems to me the Prius plug-in nailed those 3 requirements much better than any other automaker thus far.
I agree in part Reel$$, but this study also shows that those incentives should be spent wisely. While Harvey can argue that plug-in technologies will develop faster than predicted, that's a big assumption to make. There are many lithium researchers that disagree, including several that have spent the last 30 years developing lithium battery technologies. Nevertheless, today, Japan is 14 percent hybrid, the US isn't even 3 percent. We can do better right now. Waiting for plug-ins doesn't make economic sense, and the plethora of studies claiming this is becoming overwhelming. Sometimes you have to walk before you run, and it's obvious that bridge solutions need to be a bigger focus right now. Certainly, surprises are possible, but we shouldn't bet the farm when there is still so much low hanging fruit available right now, particularly when you consider the legacy effect's impact on foreign oil dependence.
I think that's overly presumptive, Harvey. Without doubt we should embrace solar and wind, but such a plan seems shortsighted to me if that's the only goal. The legacy effect of the billion+ vehicles already on the world's roads, for instance, aren't easily overcome by solar and wind, and its going to take decades to build out massive plug-in fleets, during which time another billion cars could be added to the world's fleet based on current consumption patterns. And it takes decades to replace those old fleets. Liquid fuel solutions -- not oil-based -- have a role to play, and this research doesn't suggest that is a problem. It merely asks for honesty, objectivity and transparency so that our solutions are actually improvements. If not, then we move on or figure out ways of mitigating the problems.
Yeah, this is scary. "Estimated CO2 storage capacity of up to 3.5 trillion short tons." Why waste the money, especially on a project related to fricken corn ethanol? Keep the CO2 investments focused on fuel uses. Illinois, ethanol, 260 jobs from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This is bad politics. Not as bad as the Bush era, but still bad.