How Big A Battery?

Automotive, Energy
Posted on: 03/03/09

The debate on the most economical all electric range for plug in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) continues.

The debate on the most economical all electric range for plug in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) continues. The battery is the most expensive part of an electric car today, so the size=price of the battery is an equally important decision for makers and buyers of such cars.

Engineers from Carnegie Mellon University have concluded that PHEVs like the GM Volt, using large, high-capacity battery packs to enable propulsion for comparatively long distances solely on electric power are not the most economically viable path to higher-efficiency vehicles. They say that more modest and less-costly battery capacity are the optimum approach. This would be in line with the plans of Toyota to who seem to plan only a 10-20 mile electric range of its Prius PHEV.

GM executives fight back here saying that the researchers are “ill-informed about the cost of new-age hybrid batteries” and don´t count into the equation a $7,500 tax incentive expected for Volt buyers.

At FTO we personally believe a 30-50 km all electric range of a PHEV would be a game-changer, but everything less is fine too. Driving patterns in USA and Iceland alike indicate that 80-90% of daily commutes are within 40-50 km. This means that 80-90% of all driving could be done on electricity if everyone had a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a 50 km range.

Now, that would save a lot of gas. But it will have to save the driver money too if this solution is going to take off. If 5-10years savings on fuel costs exceed the price of the battery we’ll be in good shape. The price of oil will rise according to most forecasts and battery cost is going down every year, so the question about a cost-effective plug-in hybrid seems to be not if they’ll come, but when.



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