Martin Eberhard with a Tesla electric Roadster. Photo: Flickr, CC
EV Forecast: Sunny, But Uncertain
Martin Eberhard, one of the original co-founders of Tesla Motors in 2003 and now director at Volkswagen's Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), is predicting that that within the next 10 years, electric cars will have a range of 500 miles and more. It's a bold prediction considering that the Tesla Roadster has a range of 244 miles (at a very high cost, and for a lightweight 2-seater) and that most other electric cars that are coming soon have a range of around 100 miles (Nissan LEAF, electric Ford Focus, Mitsubishi i MiEV). But on the other hand, Mr. Eberhard has been in the industry a while and is in a position to know what's in the pipeline... Read on for more details.
Audi's E-Tron electric car, developed by VW. Photo: Michael Graham Richard
After being asked why VW/Audi was using 18650'-type lithium-ion cells (the same kind used in portable consumer electronics), Eberhard discussed the recent progress of these batteries:
To illustrate the point, the lithium-ion cells we're currently working with contain 2.9 amp-hours of power; five years ago the ones we were using at Tesla only had 1.4 amp-hours. That rate of development has already had an impact on the cars we're working on. The batteries we used in the original Audi e-tron prototype, for example, gave it 60kWh of power and a range of just over 150 miles. But with the 3.4 amp-hour cells we're about to take delivery of, it should have 100kWh and do close to 300 miles on a charge.
At the current rate of progress, I'd say we will have banished the range anxiety problem, and will be making EVs with greater than 500 miles of operational range, within 10 years. At that point, the further development of fast charging infrastructure won't be so important -- because how often do you drive more than 500 miles in a day? (source)
Of course, the performance of the batteries is only part of the equation. Cost is also very important, but as more portable electronics and more electric vehicles are made, economies of scale should help drive prices down in the same way that other technologies have been made affordable after mass-adoption.
Let's hope he's right.
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