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Why Tesla Really Needs a Gigafactory

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the if-only-there-were-fast-swap-stations-everywhere dept.

Power 193

Hodejo1 (1252120) writes "Tesla has already put over 25,000 cars on the road with more to come and, presumably, most will still be running well past the 8-year battery warranty. What would happen if it is time to replace the battery pack on an old Model S or X and the cost is $25K? Simple, it would destroy the resale value of said cars, which would negatively affect the lease value of new Tesla automobiles. That's a big part of the real reason why Tesla is building its own battery factory. They not only need to ensure enough supply for new cars, but they have to dramatically bring down the price of the replacement batteries low enough so owners of otherwise perfectly running old Teslas don't just junk them. The Tesla Roadster was not a mass produced vehicle, so the cost of replacing its battery is $40K. The economies of scale of a gigafactory alone will drop battery costs dramatically. Heavy research could drop it further over the next decade or so."

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Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook (-1, Offtopic)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 5 months ago | (#46799347)

Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

No!!!

Re:Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook (-1, Offtopic)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about 5 months ago | (#46799607)

+1 Likes this

Does the math work out? (1)

cripkd (709136) | about 5 months ago | (#46799375)

I mean if Tesla (and I'm a fan) needs to built its own ecosystem from scratch inside which their cars make sense economically for their customers, doesn't that mean that they need to put in more money than they make>
Is this viable? Something sounds like the old fable of pulling yourself up by your own hair.

Re:Does the math work out? (5, Insightful)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | about 5 months ago | (#46799391)

Expanding to related industries to lower internal costs is known as vertical integration and has been making industrialists rich for over a century.

Re:Does the math work out? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#46799823)

Your savings will amount to the supplier's profit margin; effectively you're cutting out the middle-man by becoming the middle-man.

On the other hand, you could lose an amount approximately equal to the value of actually knowing what you're doing.

There's a reason most bakers don't grow their own wheat and mill their own flour.

Re:Does the math work out? (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#46799911)

Your savings will amount to the supplier's profit margin

You also avoid transaction costs, and guarantee availability.

There's a reason most bakers don't grow their own wheat and mill their own flour.

Wheat and flour and widely available commodities. Car batteries are not (yet) commodities, and are often sole sourced. If all the wheat in the world was grown by a single giant ag-corp, then it might make sense for a baker to grown his own.

Re:Does the math work out? (1)

cahuenga (3493791) | about 5 months ago | (#46800721)

There's a reason most bakers don't grow their own wheat and mill their own flour.

The new mythology: Unicorns, griffins and vertical integration

Re:Does the math work out? (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 5 months ago | (#46799445)

I would take a guess that they will make deals with other companies to sell batteries, hell tesla could in theory sell the car side of things to someone and simply focus on the batteries. I dont see them giving up on the cars, but a shif tin focus on batteries might be best for the industry on a whole

Random thoughts... (0, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#46800039)

I think more than a few of the "big" car companies have shifted focus (back?) to hydrogen fuel cells. In the near future at least, the whole recharging "issue" is what bothers the big guys.

Very few Tesla owners are going to drive their $70 - 100,000 car across the country, take it to the Grand Tetons, do a tour or great Civil War historical sites in the South.

But people that buy cars from Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota... They use their cars for things other than tooling around town from wine bar to chic noshing establishment.

Sure, Tesla now has a cross-country "Super Charge" network, but Americans are impatient, and 30 minutes is too long. The liklyhood of breaking the boundaries that prevent faster charging in the near future are slim.

"Back in the day" when a "road trip" was an adventure, people would have had no problem with a 30 minute super charge, they would have plugged in and had a picnic lunch. Think "Airstream Culture". Those were the days when travel was exciting, now people just want to get the fuck where the are going and plug in to the nearest Wi-Fi.

So maybe the Big Guys have a point with hydrogen power cells that in reality are no more dangerous than 20 gallons of vaporized gas hitting a flame - if you're in an accident that punctures the tank and causes an explosion, your gone either way.

Random thoughts...

Re:Random thoughts... (1)

fnj (64210) | about 5 months ago | (#46800579)

There is a problem or two with hydrogen fuel cells, which is why everybody who played with the idea before long shelved it, or put it on the back burner "for later", sort of like fusion power.
1) They are phenomenally expensive.
2) They require exacting thermal management.
3) You can't just "turn them on" with a click like an electric motor, or even with a handful of seconds cranking like an internal combustion engine.
4) No practical way to store the fuel.
5) Kids, they don't last forever any more than internal combustion engines or batteries do.

Re:Does the math work out? (4, Insightful)

Cassini2 (956052) | about 5 months ago | (#46799459)

GM and the other car makers do not make money on cars. These stats predate the collapse, but GM wasn't make any money manufacturing cars. GM was making money on financing. As such, GM didn't go broke until the banking crisis hit. Similarly, the auto dealers don't make money selling cars. They make money in add-ons and services (including repairs.) For instance, many dealers charge $200 dollars to transfer your ownership, over and above the charges at the DMV. These extra charges add up. I'm pretty sure the repair parts operation at a modern OEM makes far more than the original cars.

Re:Does the math work out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799779)

Similarly, the auto dealers don't make money selling cars.

Doesn't something like a Honda Civic cost a dealer 13-14k factory and the sell around 19k retail? Of course the factory charges a bit more but then give part of the money back once the dealership meets sales quotas and the like. I just find it a bit hard to believe dealerships don't make bank on cars. Many people but at the lowest priced dealer and don't come back to be upsold on other stuff.

Re:Does the math work out? (1)

St.Creed (853824) | about 5 months ago | (#46799899)

For a standard car maker, the dealers would have a wholesale price. This would mean about a 10-20% margin on the car at retail if the car had to be sold at low price in order to compete, or more if the care made a lof of money already. However, at best that just imburses the dealer for the time spent in the showroom, employees, marketing etc. - the bread, in other words. They really need the after sales for the butter.

Re:Does the math work out? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#46799981)

Doesn't something like a Honda Civic cost a dealer 13-14k factory and the sell around 19k retail?

Only a dufus pays the sticker price. You can find dozens of crowd sourced websites that will tell you exactly what the "real" price is.

Many people but at the lowest priced dealer and don't come back to be upsold on other stuff.

They don't have to make money on every customer. They just have to make money on average. I bought a new mini-van last summer. I negotiated hard and got them to accept a low ball offer. Then my wife started adding on custom floor mats, a sun roof, in-dash GPS, backup camera, etc. The salesperson's smile just got wider and wider.

Re:Does the math work out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800301)

Lesson for you - don't take the wife to the dealership when buying a new car.

Re:Does the math work out? (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | about 5 months ago | (#46800845)

[M]any dealers charge $200 dollars to transfer your ownership....

What? But the dealer has no legal role in car ownership after the car is initially purchased. What happens if the new (or old) owner doesn't pay? (I've sold two previous cars and never paid the dealership anything.)

Re:Does the math work out? (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 5 months ago | (#46800269)

Something sounds like the old fable of pulling yourself up by your own hair.

That actually works but it has to be the hair located between the scrotum and the anus... half the population just doesn't have the balls for it and most of the rest just can't get a grip on the idea...

Seriously, states are giving huge tax breaks to attract business right now. In this economic climate it might even be possible to open a battery factory, although it would be cheaper in other countries. If you control production then the profit that would have gone to a manufacturer as well as a distributor is saved. Then you might save on shipping costs, if you chose to be responsible for that also. I would say build a factory near the Mexico border in AZ, NM, or TX and then put the battery factory a block away in Mexico. I skipped CA as they have made it very costly for anyone to work with things like battery components and metals.

resell value already bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799399)

even before the end of the battery life the battery would give diminished returns and it would hurt the resell value more then non electric cars.

I would never buy a used electric car for that reason.(until battery tech really improves)

I think that the battery life and resell value is one of the major hurdles for the full electric car. An electric car is pretty much a write off the moment you drive one off the lot.

Re:resell value already bad (4, Interesting)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about 5 months ago | (#46799455)

An electric car is pretty much a write off the moment you drive one off the lot.

I suggest you try searching for used Model S prices, before just offering your reasoned-out guess as fact. Year-old vehicles are going for incredibly close to retail. So much so that it doesn't make sense to sell back to Tesla at their Best Resale Value Guarantee [teslamotors.com] , which assures that the depreciation is going to be less than equivalent BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus or Jaguar vehicles.

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799677)

that resell guarantee is only if you use their financing option to actually buy the car.

which is not that smart buying a car on credit is the most wasteful thing you can pretty much do. Cars unlike for example real estate will go down in price guaranteed

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799773)

So all of us regular folks should A: save up until we can afford to purchase the vehicle outright, or B: forego purchasing a vehicle we cannot afford (cheapest cars now in the $17K range) to purchase outright and walk or ride a bike or use PT; or c: lease.

?

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799831)

or maybe not buy a tesla car and just buy a normal used car.

Tesla's are luxury items right now they are the Ferrari of the electric cars and not everybody can drive a Ferrari even tough we probably all want one.

i would love to see the electric car become the common car and the gas powered cars become the luxury item but we are not there yet.

until that happens i would suggest that you would look away from Tesla and if you want a electric powered vehicle then look at the other options even tough they are less attractive then a Tesla.

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799835)

The cheapest cars right now are in the $500 range.

Re:resell value already bad (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 5 months ago | (#46800333)

Very few people who make under 6 figures have any business buying a brand new car with the prices of new cars these days. The average price of a new car is at an all time high compared to average income. The AVERAGE new car price is now over $30,000, and the average wage is $42,000. Even worse, the mean wage is only $27k, so an average new car costs more than the typical person makes in a year.

Re:resell value already bad (1)

fnj (64210) | about 5 months ago | (#46800611)

Er, "average" is "mean". They are synonyms. Perhaps you meant "median" for one of your two income figures?

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800647)

What is strange is that the middle range has held constant more than I would expect. It seems like the low end of vehicles have pushed towards the entry-level luxury, and people are in general buying themselves deeper into debt than they used to do.

In 1998 my Audi A4 cost about $28k. Today a similar trim-level Audi might cost about $40k, and it is larger, safer, and with better performance by most measures. In other words, my car purchasing inflation has been about 40-50% in aggregate in 15 years. In the same time period, other items have seen 100% inflation (rent, food, fuel) or worse (health insurance).

re: few people having business buying new (1)

King_TJ (85913) | about 5 months ago | (#46800753)

You might have a point, except owning a reliable car tends to tie in to other factors.

For example, the majority of people in the U.S. don't live in one of the big cities where mass transit is truly practical as an alternative to driving to get to and from work each day. Even for many who DO live in such cities, mass transit imposes too many limitations. (For example, if you work as some sort of on-site service technician -- for computers or copiers perhaps? A good, reliable vehicle may be a requirement to perform the job.)

When you purchase a vehicle brand new and finance it, you usually get a better interest rate than lenders will give you on a used one, for starters. And then, you have a consistent payment every month for the next 5 or 6 years, as you pay it off. That consistency is "key" for most people earning those "under 6 figure" salaries. Surprises like a cheaper, used car suddenly having a transmission failure outside the warranty period, are a much bigger problem to tackle.

When your new car, under a factory warranty, has a problem -- you're generally given a loaner to drive while it gets repaired. That means no interruptions with your work.

The trick is to buy only a new vehicle that offers a warranty as long as your financing period. That "3 year, 36,000 mile" stuff they used to sell everyone wasn't such a good value at all.

Re:resell value already bad (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 5 months ago | (#46800035)

It ALWAYS makes sense to take financing if the interest rate is lower than your return on investment putting the money elsewhere.

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800505)

No, it doesn't always. You have no understanding of risk.

Re:resell value already bad (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 5 months ago | (#46800539)

Says the guy whose advice is for everyone to buy cars in cash, posting as AC. It *ALWAYS* makes sense. RETURN ON INVESTMENT implicitly accounts for risk of the investment. Stick to reddit.

Re:resell value already bad (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 months ago | (#46800719)

You will almost never find a risk-free investment with a higher return than the interest rate on a loan. If you ignore the "risk-free" part, then you are equating a certain cost with an uncertain return, which is not correct. So the answer is not "always," but "it depends" on the usual factors - your time horizon, whether having more would help you as much as having less would hurt you, etc...

Re:resell value already bad (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 5 months ago | (#46800319)

that resell guarantee is only if you use their financing option to actually buy the car.

which is not that smart buying a car on credit is the most wasteful thing you can pretty much do. Cars unlike for example real estate will go down in price guaranteed

That is not argument against buying on credit. That is an argument against buying at all. If you are going to insist on buying, with interest rates being what they are, and with inflation being what it is, it would be stupid to pay cash money in current dollars for it. Plus the lending party is taking all the risk. The risk of your future money being worth less, the risk that you won't even pay them back, etc. All they can do is seize the car, which is worth far less than the original purchase price. They will, however, sell it to their cousin at auction for the lowest price imaginable, and then you will owe the difference.

Re:resell value already bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799967)

An electric car is pretty much a write off the moment you drive one off the lot.

I suggest you try searching for used Model S prices, before just offering your reasoned-out guess as fact. Year-old vehicles are going for incredibly close to retail. So much so that it doesn't make sense to sell back to Tesla at their Best Resale Value Guarantee [teslamotors.com] , which assures that the depreciation is going to be less than equivalent BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus or Jaguar vehicles.

And there is a very good reason for that: electric motors are FAR LESS susceptible to breaking, than a ICE+drivetrain.

Re:resell value already bad (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800189)

even before the end of the battery life the battery would give diminished returns and it would hurt the resell value more then non electric cars.

ICE cars also give diminished returns over the years. Those MPG figures quoted for cars only apply to new cars. As engines, gearboxes and wheel bearings wear, so the efficiency falls, and you get less MPG.

If you keep the car long enough, you'll have to have the IC engine switched or reconditioned.

Of course with an EV, when the time does come to replace the batteries you'll probably get a new set that's even better than the original, with a greater range. Because the technology will have improved in the intervening years.

WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (2)

Ormy (1430821) | about 5 months ago | (#46799429)

Dear Tesla, Do we really need another unnecessary buzzword? Does 'gigafactory' mean 10^9 (or even 2^30) individual factories? Is that what you mean by economies of scale? If so then that's pretty cool and you can have your new word. Or do you just mean a really big factory? Because if so then making up a new word to make it sound cool is just lame, don't do it. That is all.

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799485)

"Now I know why you called your company 'Microsoft'." --Bill Gates' wife, on their honeymoon

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799569)

Bill Gates likes Karaoke?

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (1)

callmetheraven (711291) | about 5 months ago | (#46799577)

It's 1.21 x10^9 factories.

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (1)

Livius (318358) | about 5 months ago | (#46800347)

640,000,000 factories should be enough for anyone.

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#46799585)

Does 'gigafactory' mean 10^9 (or even 2^30) individual factories?

No, it simply means a giant [wiktionary.org] factory. As opposed to your ordinary megafactory, which is just a large [wiktionary.org] factory.

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#46799663)

so why not a MONSTER (tera) factory, it wouldn't be quite that big? I guess Telsa's future Chinese competitor can grab that one

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (3, Funny)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46799841)

Actually they started with a monster factory, but the production line kept generating eldritch horrors that devoured the employees, so they had to scale back their ambitions. Those OSHA folks can be *so* demanding.

Re:WTF is a 'gigafactory'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800351)

The plan is to produce enough Gigawatt-hours of cells & packs to supply ~500,000 Tesla vehicles, which is their planned or estimated annual sales by 2020 ( quite ambitious but doable ), hence the name, cooler-sounding and much shorter than (multi-)Gigawatt-hour-battery-factory

http://www.teslamotors.com/sit... [teslamotors.com]

Hybrids (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799435)

Hybrids are different since they can run on just the gasoline side. I just wonder how effective that is. In five years or so, when the owners of the first generation of hybrids face that battery upgrade, they might start selling quite cheaply. They key issue may be both whether they can run well (i.e. up hills) without battery assist and whether they'll be safe to drive. A lot of their stability depends on the weight of those batteries below the floorboard. Keep them in, and the weight will hurt gas mileage. Remove them, and they might actually get pretty decent mileage.

Re:Hybrids (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799821)

Performance wise, the American market is biased toward high powered cars, even when the same model in RoTW trim would have a significantly smaller powerplant and still be considered adequate. Manufacturers of even hybrids are offering gas engines that are more than powerful enough to deliver adequate performance without the electric motor. I find it hard to believe manufacturers would allow their hybrids to operate without the battery attached, even if it were not functioning.

Re:Hybrids (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800255)

In five years or so, when the owners of the first generation of hybrids face that battery upgrade, they might start selling quite cheaply.

Huh? The first generation of hybrids were the original Priuses, which are 17 years old. And user reports are that many of them are still running on original batteries. Replacement if needed is of the order of $2000.

Re: Hybrids (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800643)

Hybrids use their batteries much less than pure electric cars. Hence their batteries are smaller and cheaper.

real reason why.... (2)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about 5 months ago | (#46799509)

To cut down costs of replacing those batteries under warranty.

As long as the car isnt stored in a garage for weekend usage. "standard" usage will reach about 2/4 years before the degrade in mileage and performance warrants a replacement.
As a bonus, cut costs to customers outside of those warranties.

This is just Tesla's way of saving some money, 8 years life expectancy on a battery is high risk and they know it.

Re:real reason why.... (4, Insightful)

zwede (1478355) | about 5 months ago | (#46799641)

"standard" usage will reach about 2/4 years before the degrade in mileage and performance warrants a replacement.

Not sure where you get your information from, but so far things are looking much better than that. The Tesla Roadster had a slightly older battery technology and they have about 80% of the battery capacity left after 100,000 miles. Still very usable. A couple of Model S have hit 70,000 miles and have ~95% of capacity left, so the Model S battery is better. The 8 year warranty is a fairly safe bet by Tesla.

Re:real reason why.... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 5 months ago | (#46800415)

Miles don't matter. Batteries are measured by the number of charge cycles.

Re:real reason why.... (0)

fnj (64210) | about 5 months ago | (#46800627)

And the number of charge cycles is directly related to miles, duh.

Re:real reason why.... (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800277)

"standard" usage will reach about 2/4 years before the degrade in mileage and performance warrants a replacement.

Bullshit. You have made that up.

volume (2)

BradMajors (995624) | about 5 months ago | (#46799513)

Their factory will only "drop battery costs dramatically" if it runs at full capacity. Its capacity is about 500,000 cars per year, while Telsa has only sold 25,000 cars in total.

Re:volume (5, Interesting)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about 5 months ago | (#46799561)

Their factory will only "drop battery costs dramatically" if it runs at full capacity. Its capacity is about 500,000 cars per year, while Telsa has only sold 25,000 cars in total.

The factory isn't for Tesla vehicles only. Tesla and Panasonic (the factory is a join venture) intend to supply other electric vehicle manufacturers with cheaper batteries. So the potential market is much greater.

Re:volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799825)

And if that means parts (batteries) are (almost-)standardised across all/most manufacturers that'll drop the price much further.

Re:volume (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#46799861)

How are they going to make them cheaper? If there was a way of doing so, wouldn't somebody be doing it already? And if they're going to research it, that's all well and good, but why couldn't existing battery manufacturers do that before? It's not like Panasonic are a two-bit outfit operating out of somebody's garage.

Seems to me there are many people out there who think Elan Musk is some combination of Midas & Canute.

Re:volume (3, Insightful)

immaterial (1520413) | about 5 months ago | (#46800067)

How are they going to make them cheaper? If there was a way of doing so, wouldn't somebody be doing it already?

No, because the last guy that thought of some efficiency or tech improvements didn't bother to implement them - after all, surely somebody else did it already...

Re:volume (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800329)

How are they going to make them cheaper?

Economy of scale and efficient recycling of old batteries.

If there was a way of doing so, wouldn't somebody be doing it already?

The incentives for battery companies and an EV company are different. A battery company is quite happy if the market price of a battery remains high. An EV company wants it as low as possible.

Seems to me there are many people out there who think Elan Musk is some combination of Midas & Canute.

Seems to me that as soon as a successful tech entrepreneur starts to become a household name, there's a irrational wave of vitriol and spite comes across a minority of Slashdot posters.

Re:volume (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about 5 months ago | (#46800767)

There isn't that much to gain from economy of scale, as those types of cells are already produced in 100s of millions per year. So we are realistically looking at something like halfing the price at most, not cutting it down by an order of magnitude or something.

Re:volume (3, Funny)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 months ago | (#46800435)

That reminds me of the old saw about the economist and his friend walking down the street. The friend spots a $20 bill on the street and says, "whoah, it's a $20 bill!" The economist, not even looking down, says "nope, if there were a $20 bill lying there, somebody would have picked it up already!"

Re:volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799571)

And with their capacity and the need for better / more batteries on the market, they can sell the extra. They are good for more than cars I'd wager.

Re:volume (1)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 5 months ago | (#46799613)

Battery packs are also a substantial cost in the NEW cars. This will let them drop their price point for new, and thus sell more cars. Glorious positive feedback.

Re:volume (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about 5 months ago | (#46800693)

If only there were another use for high quality, high capacity batteries, like laptops...

You gotta love Elon (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 5 months ago | (#46799587)

Here in Quebec we have several "dynasties" of rich people who got tons of money from their parents. Like Pierre Karl Peladeau. The guy's a billionaire but does sweet fuck all with his money as far as I can tell. At least Elon is doing something with his money. I have no idea why his electric car brings up so much animosity with people though. The point is that here in Quebec we have surplus electricity, we have universities, we have electrical engineers, we have research into electric cars.

And we did fuck all with it. I wish we had one Quebecker with the vision of an Elon Musk. All we have is Guy Laliberte putting on a clown nose in space, and Pierre Karl going "full loon" in political mode. What a waste.

Re:You gotta love Elon (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 5 months ago | (#46799735)

At one point in college in the 90's someone told me that ~70% of Canada's foreign cash income came into Québec and ~70% of that was hydropower sales to NYC. That's a lot of electricity. Québec did some really interesting work on aerogel single pane windows.

Re:You gotta love Elon (0)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800343)

I have no idea why his electric car brings up so much animosity with people though.

Because conservatives can't stand change. And because the media that forms their opinions is funded by old money that's tied to oil.

Re:You gotta love Elon (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 5 months ago | (#46800437)

Old money is in banking and finance. New money is in oil.

Re:You gotta love Elon (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800507)

Sure. If you are a socialite of 100 years ago. New money these days is Tech. Oil is old money. Indeed it's heading towards an industry in decline.

Re:You gotta love Elon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800801)

Yeah, because it took Elon Musk to create the EV... Oh, wait... not that's not right... It took Elon Musk to create a consumer friendly EV.... Oh, wait... that's not right either.
 
For all the praise Elon Musk gets around here he does little but offer a high end EV which he's profiting from handsomely. I really don't know why he makes everyone's balls tingle around here. He's a billionaire looking to make more money on a product that next to no one here could truly afford and would be scoffed at if it were offered by any large auto maker. Teslas really are great because they're leading in terms of range but given their price point I'd certainly fucking hope so. I wish the affordable EV market would get this kind of free promotion. Dollar for dollar Chevy's Spark EV will get better than range than the Model S but I have yet to see a story about it here.
 
Meh.
 
Oh, and as a conservative... I'm looking to replace my car in about 4 years and when I do I fully plan on going to an EV. I need at least 100 mile range under cold weather conditions but I'm hoping that's an afterthought at the time I'm ready to buy. If Tesla can do it at a good price point I'm there, otherwise I'm not going to hold out just so my car's badge can be waved around as a token of pride. That's the crazy kind of fuckery that makes markets hard on honest providers.
 
My guess is that it'll be either Volkswagen or Nissan who'll take my money.

Sorry, (-1, Troll)

ledow (319597) | about 5 months ago | (#46799681)

But now we hit the crucial point of electric cars. At some point, you have to pay a fortune and destroy the environment in order to put another, unrepairable, battery back into them.

This is the point at which two things can happen, if batteries are too expensive: People bin the cars and get a new one. People bin the cars and buy something else.

It's not like an iPad or something where this is a throwaway expense and the device goes out of fashion before it's required and replacement can be done on the cheap. WE HAVE NO CHEAP BATTERIES suitable for electric cars. It doesn't matter how huge your factory is, you just can't make the batteries that cheap. If you could, you wouldn't even need to make an electric car yourself, you could just make a living from the batteries alone and could have done many years ago before you sold the cars.

And the problem is there for all manufacturers, all end-users, all producers. We just don't have that kind of energy capacity that cheap yet. Except, possibly, in liquid form.

When these batteries start dying, the cars won't even get as far as the second-hand market. Nobody will touch them. They will be destroyed (recycled) rather than sold on. Now factor the cost of that battery over 8 years... chances are it comes in at about the same (with charging costs) as just using petrol all that time ($40k buys a LOT of petrol...). We honestly haven't saved anything. But done so at great expense.

And, historically, even battery "breakthrough" that I ever heard of resulted in pretty much zero commercial success (mainly because they never achieved anywhere near as much as they promised they would). And every battery "breakthrough" that I did witness as successful was done literally overnight without almost any fancy scientists telling us how great they'd be - laptops just started to come with NiMH, and then Li-Ion batteries - and then I saw a LiPo battery in a product - and at the time you'd never even heard of them. Even back in the early days of rechargeable batteries, they just appeared on the market out of nowhere and then stayed there for years while dozens, if not hundreds, of alternate ideas were given air-time and resulted in nothing because their improvements never actually materialised.

I'm not saying there's not something on the horizon. But the amount of battery chemistry changes that have commercialised successfully can, literally, be counted on your fingers. And the amount of "battery research" that resulted in nothing, where we were told they'd be the next big thing in 5-10 years time? Innumerable. I can remember being told that aerogels were the future of batteries... have yet to see one.

This is, as far as I can see, a face-saving exercise. Nobody has managed to build a better battery. Many of the electric cars of the last decade literally use laptop cells to do so - just stacked differently. And yet we've had proven commercially-viable electric vehicles since the 60's at least (anyone over 30 in the UK knows the sound of the milk-float).

They bet the whole show on someone, somewhere, building a better battery and - pretty much - selling at a loss hoping it would arrive if they just sold enough cars. And now that bubble is starting to collapse in on itself. Nothing has really changed in battery technology. Nothing looks likely to in the immediate future. So all they can do is ramp up production and hope there's enough lithium to use it.

And who gets the bum end of the deal - the first adopters who, to be honest, I have little sympathy for as they made the same predictions / gamble on batteries as Tesla have. Give it a couple of years and they will have a very expensive paperweight that can't even get them down the road and it'll be cheaper to buy something else entirely.

I'm not completely anti-electric. Hell, I was pricing up all-electric scooters/mopeds/motorbikes only the other day. They are viable. In the time it would take me to kill them, I would save enough in petrol to buy them all over again. But the fact is that they have a limited purpose and limited potential precisely because the engine power just isn't there. There's no point having a Ferrari to go down the shops if the fuel tank will barely get you there.

And what most people really need is something that can do 70mph, with 2 adults, 2 kids, a shed-load of luggage, and drive hundreds of miles between charges, and not "die" if they then don't use it for a while. And when you get into that scenario, or even the scenario of everyday commute, they quickly become so reliant on the battery that you have to worry about it. I'm not going to spend tens of thousands on a car with a dubious resale cost at the end of it. And that resale cost is almost entirely limited by the battery.

The next few years will be interesting as these things die off.

Re:Sorry, (1)

thsths (31372) | about 5 months ago | (#46799897)

> And the amount of "battery research" that resulted in nothing, where we were told they'd be the next big thing in 5-10 years time? Innumerable.

Welcome to research. Many research projects, even really successful ones, just end up with a gain of knowledge, but no commercial value. Research projects that actually change the world are few and far in between. That's why it is called research, and not development.

Just read the history of Lithium batteries. Most of the big steps were made at universities in research projects: the use of Lithium, the intercalation, the reversible chemistry, improved electrolytes, chemistries etc. Some steps came from commercial laboratories. All major improvements were the result of research projects.

Re:Sorry, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799985)

Wow.

If you are not completely anti-electric, then...wow.

I think most of not all of the early adopters purchased their Tesla as a second or third vehicle. They are not overly concerned with resale, or the threat of being stranded by a dead battery. I think very few Tesla customers are driving in areas where charging stations or home/destination are more than 100mi apart. I think your statement would be best applied to a Nissan Leaf or Smart Electric. Tesla's packaging addresses all of those concerns specifically.

As for the battery, you may well be right on the mark. We will see. As an aside, Toshiba developed LiPo battery packs for their laptops in the late early 2000's. Saw on in a sales event on a Portege, then waited for the release but it never happened, or at least not for the next few years while I was still purchasing Toshibas for my job.

A.C.

Re:Sorry, (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800469)

Your opinion is that batteries don't make incremental improvements, but only revolutionary improvements once in long while when a completely new battery chemistry comes along.

Your opinion is completely wrong.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]

What size does one take? (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about 5 months ago | (#46799699)

I'm in the market for a Tesla. If it takes D batteries, I'm all set. I can get those at Costco for cheap.

Re:What size does one take? (3, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#46799787)

It takes something a little bigger than an AA battery. the 11 battery "sectors" are built out of 18650A lithium ion batteries , 651 in each, The 18650A form factor are about 1.5 cm longer and 0.4 cm thicker than an AA battery.

Re:What size does one take? (1)

nickersonm (1646933) | about 5 months ago | (#46800817)

They are in fact 18mm wide and 650mm long.

Re:What size does one take? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#46800265)

I read somewhere that it uses over 7000 18650 size cells, which are similar to AA but a bit longer. Unfortunately they are not user-replaceable.

Go the the removable battery gas station model. (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 5 months ago | (#46799717)

I know there is some criticism of the Tesla demo of the robot battery swap but the idea is sound. By taking the battery ownership and distributing it amount uses you create range, optimum care conditions, and on demand premium batteries for specific conditions. The cost of the battery can be distributed over the its life and depreciated by a business.

Re:Go the the removable battery gas station model. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800531)

More than sound - it's proven. Better Place was doing it in their couple dozen swap stations in Israel and their taxi demo project in Yokohama.

They may now be bankrupt but it wasn't because of the swap technology.

nano dots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799763)

Just think, if they came out with a battery big enough for a car. Bam I'd get 2 teslas

this is why I leased my Leaf (3, Interesting)

plurgid (943247) | about 5 months ago | (#46799791)

Everyone I know gave me tons of shit about leasing a new car. I still think a lease was the right decision.
Others may disagree, but in my opinion until battery prices come down (or the technology has a mega-improvement), electric cars are more of a service than an asset.

My Leaf is amazing. It's like driving a spaceship ... completely silent, smooth as silk, no transmission, acceleration like there's a rocket strapped to your ass ... damn near zero maintenance, and it costs about 1/10th per-mile to drive as opposed to my gas-guzzling "Canyonero" SUV.

IN FACT, the amount of money I USED to spend in a month, just buying gas for my old car, is $80 less than the monthly lease payment on the Leaf (and of course, I knew this going in, which is why I did it).

The battery is by far the most expensive single part of the car. In fact, when you look at it, you're really sort of buying a very expensive battery with some car-shaped accessories. The fact that the battery WILL fail as a matter of scientific certainty, and that we can even know more or less exactly when that will happen, makes me not want to own one of these.

With gas cars, you buy them doing calculations about repair cost and resale value that simply do not apply to the situation with electric cars. It's damn unlikely (unless I get in a wreck) that ANY repairs will ever be needed on my Leaf other than the big one ... the battery will eventually go, and at that point I might as well buy a new car.

Which is why leasing electric cars is the way to go, until the battery technology has a massive improvement, or the cost comes way down ... or some car company figures this out and makes interchangeable batteries with a leasing program for the battery. I'll happily own the car if I don't have to own the battery too!

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800027)

"acceleration like there's a rocket strapped to your ass..."

The zero to sixty time is 9.9 seconds, making it one of the worst accelerating cars sold today.

In the future, please clarify that you mean an Estes rather than NASA type rocket.

Stoplight Acceleration is very fast. (2)

Aero77 (1242364) | about 5 months ago | (#46800605)

"The zero to sixty time is 9.9 seconds, making it one of the worst accelerating cars sold today."

Only test car drivers and street racers do 0-60. I also own (lease) a Leaf and everything the poster says is true. Its a great car.

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800049)

I have to say that I'm surprised that Tesla is selling batteries at all. The Battery swapping recharge stations would be much easier if no one owned batteries. Just make the owners pay for each recharge cycle (or each kWh used), and a bit for each month on top, and noone has will ever have to worry about being unlucky with a failing battery.

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800129)

Tesla offers something like a lease. It's a guaranteed buy-back IF you do the loan from Tesla itself.

I decided to look elsewhere for my auto loan and got a better deal by about 1 point (I think Tesla was offering 2.5% and I got 1.7%).

Depends on how you want to take the risks. I'm betting that 8 years after I purchase the car (when the battery warranty runs out) the cost of a replacement cell is going to be less than 50 percent the cost of the car.

As it is, the linked to article includes $8000 for labor. By this time next year Tesla is going to be having rapid battery exchanges available in California which will swap out all of your cells in under 90 seconds for less than $100 (it's essentially a rental of a full set of batteries). I can't believe the labor cost markup is going to remain 2 orders of magnitude above that for a permanent change out.

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#46800161)

IN FACT, the amount of money I USED to spend in a month, just buying gas for my old car, is $80 less than the monthly lease payment on the Leaf (and of course, I knew this going in, which is why I did it).

That's not really the right comparison, is it? You should really be comparing it to running a similar-sized conventionally-powered car like a VW Golf.

As to depreciation, leasing can't make it disappear, it can only hide it or redistribute it.

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (1)

plurgid (943247) | about 5 months ago | (#46800293)

I think it's a pretty fair comparison.
I said to myself: "there are these new-fangled electic cars, I wonder if I could obtain one for around the same monthly cost as what I used to spend in gas?".

and by Jove, the answer was "yes", so I went and did that.

could I have saved more money, by possibly getting something like a smart car with a moped engine in it? yeah I dunno maybe. But I'd still have to put gas in it, and I'd still have to deal with the maintenance nightmare that is an internal combustion engine.

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#46800313)

Tesla rate their battery pack lifetime at 250,000 miles, similar to a petrol engine, and the warranty is 8 years unlimited mileage. Even when you get 250,000 miles in say 15 years time chances are you will be able to sell the battery pack for recycling since much of it will be perfectly good. It's made up of over 7000 cells, and considered "dead" when down to 80% capacity, so many of the individual cells will be fine for use in other devices. Solar smoothing and whole-house UPS, for example, and of course re-conditioned packs for people wanting a lost cost replacement option.

Having said that a lot of people would be fine with a Model S and 80% or even 30% remaining range. 30% is 100 miles, equivalent to many EVs on the road today, and fine for many people's daily commute. Unlike most old cars with high mileage a Model S shouldn't need much maintenance either.

Re:this is why I leased my Leaf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800445)

interesting point how much would a battery pack be worth assuming its really really dead (holds 0% charge) and how much would it be worth in just pure raw materials.

I assume there is degradation of raw materials by the chemical process that is happening in the batteries.
Would that affect the raw materials price and if so how much?

Longetivity of electric car batteries (0)

eschatfische (137483) | about 5 months ago | (#46799809)

Currently, Tesla's EV batteries have remarkable longevity. Everybody talks about replacing them, but you really don't need to. Tesla Roadsters (lithium-ion) and 1st-generation RAV4 EVs (NiMH) are still on the roads with their original battery packs and much less range degradation then expected, the 2nd generation RAV4 EV has an 8 year/80k warranty on its Tesla-manufactured batteries, the Model S has an 8 year/125k warranty on its batteries, and both are going strong after a couple of years and are expected to last substantially beyond their warranty. My understanding is that most people in the EV community expect these cars to be fairly easily able to go 10-15 years on their original batteries, albeit with reduced range.

I think we can reasonably expect the Tesla-produced EVs to provide reasonable range for over a decade and for 150k miles. After a decade or 150k miles, assuming electric vehicles will continue to be mass produced at the same rate they are now and are not rarities, resale value of these 10 to 15 year old cars will already be greatly reduced due to other factors, as they are with decade-old gas cars. There will be wear and tear on the body and interior, weather and paint damage, dents, issues with the electrical and HVAC systems due to age. Even if battery packs are $8000 or even $5000, folks will still be wondering whether it's worth it to replace them, much like engine replacements are reasonably uncommon in older gas-burning cars due to other wear and tear. At some point between 12 years and 20 years, 150k and 200k miles, the battery pack will actually die, and that's pretty close to the average lives of gas burning cars. That's *without* the gigafactory.

I'm elated that Tesla is working on producing cheaper, higher-capacity, more performant batteries, to bring the costs down on their cars and make the EV experience better. But longevity? It'll be nice for sure, and I certainly look forward to cheaper and longer-life EV batteries, but things are good enough today that I'm just not sure that's the biggest issue Tesla has to deal with. There's a lot of FUD in the non-EV community about EV batteries, when in fact, long term reliability on Tesla's existing packs has been quite good.

Re:Longetivity of electric car batteries (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46799941)

that warranty on the miles driven on the battery doesn't cover the degradation of the battery.

it covers damages to the battery but not if your battery can hold a charge or not in the Tesla warranty its pretty clear listed.

so when your car loses its charge take a hammer to the battery pack and hope you destroy some cells for a free replacement.

Is this really a problem? (1)

Powercntrl (458442) | about 5 months ago | (#46799887)

So, you're telling me someone who can afford to drop $70,000 on a car is going to want to be seen driving it 8 years later? Sure, there's probably a handful of people who scraped together their pennies to buy their Model S, but by and large it's a toy for the rich who will trade in and replace it for a newer model long before the battery is ever a problem. Hey, it works for Apple with their iDevices.

I'm not entirely convinced "economy of scale" even applies much to Lithium Ion batteries. Their cost these days is largely related to mining and processing the materials that go into them. Sure, Tesla will be able to stabilize their supply of batteries and squeeze out profit that would've went to a middleman, but unless they've developed Star Trek-style replicator technology, they're not getting the prices out of the "WTF?!" zone anytime soon.

Re:Is this really a problem? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 5 months ago | (#46800225)

it is if you want your company to be more than a 1 time, "that was neat" fad for rich people that need a toy

Re:Is this really a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800401)

Yeah, I also thought, the volume isn't the problem, but the technology is. Lithium is scarce and an ecological disaster when mined in large amounts.

Re:Is this really a problem? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800503)

Lithium mining is not an ecological disaster. Lithium is mined the same way salt (any many other household chemicals such as boron, sodium carbonate, etc.) is "mined" from salt water. Elemental lithium does not exist in nature, it exists primarily as lithium-chloride dissolved in water that leeched the lithium-chloride from rocks containing that salt. Lithium mining is a process of finding water with lithium chloride, pumping it in to a retention pond, and letting the sun evaporate the water.

Lithium *can* be mined by going after the rocks that contain the lithium-chloride, pulverizing them, then dissolving and extracting the lithium, but that's not economically feasible. Lithium is produced this way, but only as a by-product from hard rock operations that are going after other minerals.

Re:Is this really a problem? (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800425)

I'm not entirely convinced "economy of scale" even applies much to Lithium Ion batteries. Their cost these days is largely related to mining and processing the materials that go into them.

Two things. One is that things are always cheaper the more you buy. So those mined materials come cheaper if you have a big manufacturing facility.

Second is that actually most of the raw materials for the batteries will come from recycling old batteries. At the moment Tesla only does a minimal reprocessing themselves, then send old batteries off to 3rd parties to recycle. And those materials don;t come back.

The new factory will recycle as much as possible of the batteries into new batteries. Of the order of 90%.

Re:Is this really a problem? (1)

fnj (64210) | about 5 months ago | (#46800741)

things are always cheaper the more you buy

I rather suspect you'll find the cost of 10,000 tonnes of steel ingot will be pretty exactly 10,000 times as much as one tonne of steel ingot.

Re:Is this really a problem? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#46800791)

And I rather suspect you will find it's not.

Re:Is this really a problem? (1)

Parafilmus (107866) | about 5 months ago | (#46800635)

So, you're telling me someone who can afford to drop $70,000 on a car is going to want to be seen driving it 8 years later?

Someone will be driving it 8 years later, unless you exepct the original owner to just throw the car away.

Yup. This is totally amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46800335)

Since 2003 Tesla has (already) put over 25,000 cars on the road. Why, that is like, 2500 cars per year for TEN YEARS! Ford put out 2.5 million cars last year alone.
What Tesla needs to do is come out with a $10,000 car which can be recharged anywhere in the USA within the car's range of 200 miles. Until they do that they can go suck chunks as their business model won't work to overthrow the powerful gasoline engine, ever. Get to work on that...

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