Monday Nov. 16 saw The Electrification Coalition in Washington D.C. to persuade the government to pull the financial levers for an electric car revolution.  The coalition seeks a goal made with 75% of light duty vehicles to be electric powered by 2040.  The group’s forecast is their goal would essentially end imported oil and improve the environment.  Those points can be added to energy security, greatly improve the balance of trade deficit, the great drag on the U.S. economy, and add a huge economic boom if handled correctly.

The coalition is made of a varied list of companies. The standouts are some big utilities, Nissan, the Japanese car manufacturer, Johnson Controls who makes batteries and control systems, venture capitalists, FedEx, and several names not easily recognized.  One would look for a tabulation of employees and other relevant data, but that’s not on the coalition web site.

As its first official act, the coalition released the Electrification Roadmap (a large pdf file, the print version is the easiest to read on screen)¸ a sweeping report detailing the dangers of oil dependence, explaining the benefits of electrification, describing the challenges facing electric cars, and providing specific policy proposals to overcome those challenges. PRTM, a global management consulting firm, provided market analysis and technical input for the “Roadmap,” including detailed modeling on vehicle costs.

The report is a very well written piece.  For those seeking to be informed in a better than basic way with easy and common terms, the opening pages are wonderful reviews with simple detail descriptions and information.  The report condenses a vast base of information into a thoughtful and informative work that still runs over 140 pages before the addendums.  Mass vehicle electrification is in a global view simple, but the execution isn’t going to be simple at all.  This idea the report makes clear, and does offer a plan to get to the no imported oil goal.

The report comes in four parts.  The first is the case for electrifying light transport, the second is an exploration of the challenges and opportunities, the third is a cold analysis of their goal and fourth, a strategy for deploying the plan.  Noteworthy is the bulk of the text and explanation takes place in the 46 pagers exploring the challenges and opportunities.  Making the case for electrification consumes 35 pages with lots of graphics.  The report uses only 12 pages in the analysis of the goal and just 10 for the deployment strategy.  The resources and effort seem balanced to those of us with a technical sense of the goal.

As for the goal, thinking outside of the report from this writer’s perspective, the goal has strong merits, worthy of pursuit.  The coalition is sensible to realize that liquid fueled transport is going to be needed for high mass, long distances, remote locations and speeds such as aircraft.  The report seems quite honest.

On the other hand, the report acknowledges that the buying public will need to come to grasp the idea of “total cost of ownership” of light transport vehicles.  This is a very tall mountain to climb.  Lots of individual people are quite intelligent and adaptable, but populations are not.  The total cost of ownership idea never made it to the home buying market, a failing that is suggested to have as much as 27% of the U.S. home mortgage market of the late bubble in the subprime class.  Regulations by the government may have forced the matter, but ill informed buyers made those horrid deals with many unscrupulous brokers and mortgagers providing the energy.  To think electrification based on an informed populace is not a goal, it’s a massive job that will not get past 75% success.

The second other hand issue is the storage of electrons in batteries or capacitors.  The technology is not there, yet.  The report does cover the matter over 19 pages, so we know the coalition is aware of the barrier and offers some interesting reality checks on what lithium based batteries in particular can do.  There are good reasons to expect that competing technologies will keep pricing fair, but just how that pricing comes back to the total cost of ownership is an unknown, and the share of a vehicle’s price for storage is going to be a major factor.  The economics must simply get closer to pricing the storage share on the low cost side for consumer’s commitments to take hold or even start education.

Lithium Battery Recyclable Content. Click image for a larger view.

Lithium Battery Recyclable Content. Click image for a larger view.

With those two cautions in mind one other point from the report must be addressed.  The coalition suggests with its recommendations that more tax credits be employed to drive acceptance.  That’s a great psychological ploy, but the tax code is already loaded to the top leaving few incomes at the level where the credit has strong motivation.  For many car buyers, a $7500 tax credit is a multiyear project, and limits the application to the potential upper income segment of the populace.  To get the big numbers something more practical needs created.

Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President & CEO of FedEx Corporation said in the press release, “It is time for business leaders and policymakers alike to step up. Our unrelenting dependence on oil has threatened our nation for too long. Up to now, electrification seemed like a pipe dream. But we are offering a realistic, practical, achievable plan to build a transportation system that will enhance our national security, propel economic growth, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

The coalition’s report is an excellent work that will help everyone whose interests are leaning to cleaner, lower operating costs, higher standards of living, national competitiveness, security and all the other issues.  For any citizen of any industrialized or oncoming industrial economy the report is well worth understanding.  If, and the “ifs” are still out there in a major way on the storage and consumer education front, there can be huge opportunities for getting out from under the oil market for light transport.

Gas Prices vs Purchasing Power By Nation. Click image for the largest view.

Gas Prices vs Purchasing Power By Nation. Click image for the largest view.

The coalition’s report is just chock full of interesting and well thought through graphics.  I have saved it in the print version offered by the coalition and suggest a fast scan, save and study over the coming months.  Much of the information will stand for judging the usefulness of many ideas, political positions, media and pundit views and other inputs we’re going to get over the coming years.

Electrification of light transport offers a lot of potential.  Many nations have a glimmer or better idea of the payoff available.  The risk is only in the storage.  Should Eestor, metal air, ionic liquid or other technology come to market with s cost advantage to lead acid, the consumer will catch on very fast.

This can be done.  The Electrification Coalition gave us a great report that shows a general way.


2 Comments so far

  1. Matt on November 18, 2009 7:32 AM

    The early adopters of hybrid cars did it either as a patriotic strike against oil imports or as a ‘look how green I am’ statement. Practicality and cost were not major factors.

    If you introduce a practical quick-charge electric car at a reasonable price, I would be happy to switch.

    Also, I would love to have a low cost electric motor bike for commuting.

  2. forex robot on November 19, 2009 2:33 AM

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.

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