By Garry Golden
Most of us have read about peak oil production in which the ability to extract oil reaches a growth plateau and fails to keep pace with accelerating demand. The result could be managing a ‘peak and plateau’ scenario as we gradually shift away from oil, or a ‘peak and collapse’ scenario as the world economy stumbles and cannot adjust to a more rapid decline in production.
But what about the implications of ‘peak oil demand’ from energy consumers? And how might it change the future of the transportation industry?
This notion of ‘peak demand’ is supported by a new report from leading energy-sector forecast firm CERA titled ‘Dawn of a New Age: Global Energy Scenarios for Strategic Decision Making- The Energy Future to 2030’.
CERA suggests that because of high energy costs the US could reach ‘peak gasoline demand’ in the next ten to fifteen years, and possibly plateau as early as 2010. As our vehicles become more efficient and we change behavior, our demand for gasoline will plateau.
CERA’s forecast of ‘peak demand’ is a game changing concept because it shows the transportation industry the ceiling of its growth opportunities in the world’s largest economy. It also forces drastic changes to enable more growth around a new platform as we electrify the world’s transportation sector.
If peak production is our biggest challenge, ‘peak demand’ might be our best incentive for innovation! (Continued)
Imagine standing in front of global auto executives in 1999 and presenting a forecast that within ten years an Indian Automaker would be planning to build and sell electric vehicles in Europe. You might have walked away with that negative ‘futurist’ stereotype of a fringe corporate strategic thinker thinking way too far ahead!
Now India’s Tata Motors has announced plans to build an electric vehicle for European markets in 2009.
The company’s UK subsidiary has acquired a 50.3% holding in Miljø Grenland/Innovasjon of Norway to advance solutions for electric vehicles. The move brings Tata closer to realizing its vision of building affordable, clean electric motor vehicles powered by a combination of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
The first generation of Miljø produced electric vehicles will use Electrovaya Lithium Ion SuperPolymer® batteries. Tata plans to launch Indica EV in Europe during 2009 as a 4 person vehicle with a predicted battery charge range of up to 200 km (125 miles) with an acceleration of 0-60 kmph (40 mph) in under 10 seconds.
Recent stories on electric vehicles:
- Could China help the world move beyond the combustion engine?
- Start up Better Place planning to build out Hawaii’s electric vehicle infrastructure
- Warren Buffet invests in Chinese battery & electric car maker
- Detroit to World: Nobody has Killed the Electric Car
- GM plans to kill Combustion Engine
December 16 2008 / by joelg
Category: Energy Year: 2008 Rating: 6 Hot
By Joel Greenberg and the Staff of The Energy Roadmap
2008 was a big year in energy and one that we could very well look back upon as the platform to the not so distant future of energy. Much has happened. To help you make sense of it all, we here at The Energy Roadmap have sifted through our bookmarks, Google Notebooks, back of the napkin lists, Twitter searches, interview transcripts, and RSS feeds to come up with the top 10 energy stories that will have an impact on our culture, society, and lives.
Top Energy Stories of 2008
#1 Story of the Year:
Electrification of the Passenger Car
#2 The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs
#3 The Obama Election
#4 From $147 to $50: The Price of Oil
#5 The Dying Gasp of Corn Ethanol
#6 The Clean Coal Lobby Breaks Through the Clutter...and Gets a Response
#7 Geeks Go Green
#8 The Rise of Local Initiatives
#9 Infrastructure Gains Attention
#10 Emerging Energy Missionaries & Visionaries
General Motors and Segway unveiled a new type of small electric motor vehicle with advanced software that could shift how we look at mobility as a service.
In an effort to appeal to digitally connected urban audiences, GM describes Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) as a low-cost mobility platform that 'enables design creativity, fashion, fun and social networking.' This protoype model travels up to 35 miles per hour (56 kph), with a range up to 35 miles (56 km) between recharges (though it's not clear how urban residents will access wall sockets!)
'Smart' is the Real Revolution
The greatest opportunities to transform the human mobility experience in the next century are likely to emerge from ‘smarter software’, not cleaner energy systems. It seems clear that the combustion engine will eventually struggle to keep cost and design competitive against the lowering 'manufacturing footprint' of electric motors powered by the integration of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors. The real question is: Can human drivers keep up with changes ahead in software of 'smart cars'.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication systems that relay alerts and information to drivers to reduce congestion and prevent collisions are already being integrated into luxury vehicles. But within a decade or two we can expect low cost vehicles embedded with sensors and ‘situation awareness’ detection systems that make cars 'smarter' than drivers.
Access and Ownership (and Potential Chaos)
A compelling vision of Personal Urban Vehicles is the emergence of personal 'mobility as service' companies that connect outer hubs with urban destination points (offices, retail, recreation, et al). In addition to owning personal vehicles, we can imagine paying for 'access' to fleets of vehicles that we don't have to park. (Of course, adding fleets of small vehicles could mean chaos in urban areas for pedestrians! Not to mention pushback from the Cabbies in New York!)
More Images and Related Posts on The Future of Auto Industry
Hawaii might be the perfect market environment for transforming its vehicle fleet from liquid fueled combustion engine vehicles to electric cars powered by batteries and fuels cells. There is strong support for ‘green’ policies, most vehicles trips are over short distances, and the islands’ fixed boundaries make it easy to plan out the cost of infrastructure. There are a number of strong cleantech startups and state has aggressive plans to expand its own local renewable energy production from solar, wind, geothermal and bio energy so it could tap this locally produced energy into electricity or hydrogen to fuel electric vehicles. Now it appears to be planning new fueling infrastructure for the coming wave of electric vehicles.
Today, the Honolulu Advertiser is reporting that electric vehicle infrastructure builder Better Place (Palo Alto, CA) has plans to build a network of electric recharge units and battery ‘swap out’ stations to service Hawaii’s first wave of battery powered electric vehicles.
Is this good news? Yes.
Will it be easy? No.
The Good News
We appear to have taken the first step – getting the auto industry on board. Every major automobile company has announced plans to release its first generation electric vehicles between 2010-12 around lithium ion batteries. Automobile companies appear ready to leverage the manufacturing cost benefits of killing of the combustion engine and adopting more modular electric motors powered by lithium ion batteries, capacitors and hydrogen fuel cells. Auto engineers are now taking the next step towards integrating all systems- to make a viable electric propulsion platform for the 21st century. With this commitment we can expect other companies to start developing infrastructure. The problem? Overcoming the politics of utility power generation.
Forcing Change on Big Utilities
While this news might feel good, the saying “It’s not a revolution if nobody loses” is certainly relevant. Transforming how we fuel our vehicle fleets is not going to be easy or conflict free. But where might we anticipate pushback?
Common sense says ‘Big Oil’, but the real challenge in accelerating this shift towards electric vehicle infrastructure might be ‘Big Utilities’ who are now struggling to imagine their place in a world of fueling homes and vehicles.
October 18 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2009 Rating: 5 Hot
BMW will unveil its electric version of the Mini Cooper at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19 and 20, 2008. The company is claiming to be the world’s first manufacturer of premium automobiles to deploy a fleet of some 500 all-electric vehicles for private use in daily traffic. The MINI E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels without a sound. The MINI E is expected to accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds. With its top speed electronically limited to 152 km/h (95 mph).
The battery technology will have a range of more than 240 kilometers, or 150 miles. Sales are expected to focus on private and corporate customers in pilot projects in California, New York and New Jersey.
Electric Motors vs Combustion Engine
BMW’s announcement follows along with recent industry plans to electrify the world’s auto fleet. We might interpret these announcements as a response to the ‘oil problem’ or ‘climate change’ regulations. But what if the real reason is based on a desire to abandon the design and manufacturing complexities of the combustion engine? Forward looking industry insiders hope that a new low cost manufacturing platform could emerge around the combination of wheel based electric motors, drive by wire systems, and the tight integration of batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors.
We have highlighted recent electric vehicle commitments of production vehicles (2009-2011) from automakers GM, Nissan, Tata Motors-, BYD, and Chevrolet.
We believe there is something happening in the auto industry that goes beyond oil and climate change The end game might be to change how we build and sell cars, not how we fuel them. If the real problem really is the combustion engine, and not oil, BMW’s plans might really be an effort to accelerate its shift to a new vehicle platform.
Need more evidence that the electric vehicle industry is going global, quickly?!
Bloomberg is reporting on plans that General Motors is expanding its investment and partnership with China’s SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. It is unclear whether this investment is simply to secure GM’s position in China’s growing market, or if GM might tap China as the manufacturing hub for electric vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
Big bets are being made by automakers and many of them tap Asia as a manufacturing hub for energy storage. Last month GM selected a Korean maker for its Chevy Volt, and VW is now openly seeking Chinese partnerships to produce batteries. Meanwhile Korea and China are looking to build their own homegrown electric vehicle brands.
Why this is important to the future of energy?
The fastest way to move beyond the combustion engine is to tap the power of global markets. But it requires us to rethink our assumptions about the future. Namely, if Asia does leap ahead, the US and Europe will have to rethink their aspirations of being ‘energy independent’. Instead they will trade ‘foreign’ oil, for ‘foreign’ batteries!
The Good news
Electric cars can help to clean up air pollution around the world, expand opportunities for renewables to compete in transportation fuels, and could help us better manage the flow and storage of electrons currently limited to a one-way electrical grid.
Electric vehicles can change the world, but they are likely to do so in ways that we cannot currently imagine by mere extrapolation.
The Bad news?
By Ami Sampat
Continental Airlines and Boeing are preparing for the first flight of a plane run partially on next generation biofuels, which will leave on January 7 from Houston, Texas. Continental and Boeing's joint venture will be the first American plane to use jatropha as a biofuel. This biofuels milestone follows Virgin Atlantic's earlier test run, using coconut oil and babassu oil.
Why is this important?
Biofuels would not only help reduce the airline industry's carbon emissions but it could also be a more stable source of fuel.
The January 7th flight is going to be fueled by a 50/50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuels derived from algae and jatropha fuel. Jatropha is a shrub (non-food crop) grown on marginal lands. Its oil-rich seeds can be used to make biofuels. The first commercial scale Jatropha operations are now being tested in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and West Africa.
Provided the test run goes well next month, this could open doors for the airline business and biofuel producers looking to capture a part of the aviation biofuel market.
We might be closer to reframing the public conversation about the future of the auto industry.
The real problem for the auto industry is its manufacturing footprint, not its carbon footprint.
Of course we must build more efficient vehicles.
But the industry's problems have nothing to with small cars vs big cars, or fuel efficiency.
The real problem is the manufacturing intensity of building mechanical engines, and their inability to produce multiple chassis on one factory floor. The other problem is that they build new cars then have them sit on dealership lots until someone buys it.
Yes, we must reduce the eco-impact of vehicles, but to get there we must recognize that the real revolution is changing how we build cars, not how we fuel them. Need more evidence?
Fiat exchanges Access for Equity
Fiat is negotiating a 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for access to its small vehicle manufacturing capacity and revival of its European brands in the US.
But we should not be confused. The future is not 'small cars', but leaner manufacturing.
Does Chrysler need small vehicles to meet current market demand? Probably.
But the real takeaway is Chrysler's inabilty to build different types of vehicles (small or large) without major retooling investments.
So the company exchanges access to manufacturing for equity.
The future is modular manufacturing
The future is a factory floor that can build multiple chassis using modular electric motors and energy storage devices (batteries, fuel cells and capacitors).
What does the auto industry need to do?
The smart money on electric vehicles might be placed on companies building two-wheeled vehicles, not four.
Electric motorcycles and scooters could be cheaper to manufacture given their size and design simplicity. And they are perfect for emerging economies where two-wheeled vehicles are much more common than full sized cars.
A number of well known motorcycle brands like Honda have electric two-wheeled models in development, but this could be a category for new brands to emerge and carve our their niche around early adopters.
ZeroX Motorcycles (Santa Cruz, CA) has announced that its 2008 Zero X electric motorcycle has sold out and the company is hoping to generate a lot of buzz at the Alt Car Expo in Santa Cruz – September 26-27th.
The Zero X Electric Motorcycle is targeted at the early adopter market for dirt bikes, but if their core electric propulsion system and lithium-ion battery is solid and flexible enough, it might find a much bigger market abroad in Asia on street bikes.
Two-wheeled electric chassis might have the price point and performance to surprise us!
Add Warren Buffet’s latest investment to the list of major news indicators that fuel forecasts saying that the dominant days of the combustion engine are coming to an end. (Read GM to Combustion Engine-R.I.P.)
Through his Berkshire controlled MidAmerican Energy, The Oracle of Omaha has invested $230 million for a 10% stake in China’s car and battery maker BYD. BYD could soon become a global leader in electric propulsion auto systems and a mainstream vehicle brand.
Following the growth in electric propulsion systems
While there are reports
that BYD plans to ‘roll out fully electric cars before the end of next year’ and sell within the US, BYD does not have to displace GM or Toyota to return on Buffet’s investment.
Think of Shenzhen-based BYD as an advanced electric propulsion and electron storage device maker for Li-ion, Nickel batteries, capacitors and fuel cells. Rather than fight for market share against Toyota and GM in vehicle sales, BYD’s growth could be as an energy systems manufacturer.
Why MidAmerican might love BYD’s batteries more than its cars
Buffet’s other (or main) intention could be to expand the role of the electrical grid in fueling automobiles. He might also see promise in BYD’s battery systems for utility scale storage to improve the electrical grid.
Electric cars are coming in 2010-12 but we need to innovate energy storage solutions.
Recharging electric vehicles is not as simple as ‘plugging in at night.’ Our aging electrical grid and home wall sockets are not a suitable foundation for mainstream growth in battery vehicles- and automakers understand this.
Watch in the weeks and months ahead as electrical grid startups and electron storage companies like Shai Agassi’s Better Place gain more media attention and venture backing.
But what other innovative business models might emerge around electron-based transportation fleets? How about ‘swapping’ boxes?
December 15 2008 / by joelg
Category: Energy Year: 2008 Rating: 4 Hot
By the fall of 2008, every major automanufacturer from GM to Nissan to Tata--and a few startups such as Tesla and Aptera--had announced production model plans for all manner of electric vehicles, from all electrc vehicles, to plug-in hybrid electrics, to fuel cell vehicles, with deliveries to consumers starting in 2010. 2008 could well be known as the nail in the coffin for the bulky combustion engine which has plagued the auto industry with its manufacturing and design liabilities, and association with volatile oil markets.
How quickly might the world re-tool the global auto industry to build new vehicle chassis based on electric motors and advanced energy storage systems?
Continue Reading other Top Energy Stories from 2008
#2 The Year of Scientific Breakthroughs