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DOE seeking input on analysis methodology and assumption for estimating total cost of ownership of future advanced vehicle technologies

DOE analysis of ownership costs for future mid-size car. Error bands indicate technology uncertainties (red solid lines) and fuel price uncertainties (green dashed lines).Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000592) seeking input from the public on its analysis methodology and assumptions used for estimating the total cost of ownership (TCO) of various advanced vehicle technologies within DOE’s portfolio that have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas GHG) emissions and petroleum consumption.

The information collected by this Request for Information will be used for internal DOE analysis, including assisting DOE in estimating the benefits of its Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) portfolio. Interested parties to this RFI might include, but are not limited to: automobile technology developers or manufacturers; components suppliers (e.g., suppliers of batteries, fuel cells, motors, power electronics, etc.); fuels suppliers; electric utilities; independent power producers; industrial gas companies; state and local government; research laboratories; academics; and other public, private, or non-profit entities.

DOE conducted a preliminary analysis for several fuel/vehicle pathways for present day (2011) and future (2016 and 2030) mid-size cars to examine the potential for technology improvement to reduce the total costs of ownership of advanced powertrain vehicles and fuels to levels comparable to conventional powertrain vehicles and fuels.

The agency is seeking feedback on the specific assumptions and on the range of values used to represent achieving aggressive, moderate or conservative levels of success for various technologies:

  • Advanced internal combustion engine vehicles
  • Hybrid electric vehicles
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
  • Battery electric vehicles
  • Fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles
  • Alternative fuels from biomass

DOE asks respondents to comment on methodology to ensure a common ground for the various technologies and appropriate levels of success for comparison. For example, aggressive targets should not be assumed for one technology while less than aggressive targets are assumed for another, unless adequate justification is provided. The basis for any proposed changes to the assumptions (aggressive, moderate and conservative) should be provided (along with references where available).

Specific comments are requested on the projection of cost reduction rates for technologies that are not yet fully commercial (or for which substantial validation is not yet available). If respondents have information on learning curves (progress ratios, scale elasticities, etc.), please provide, along with validation, where available. Key components, such as batteries, fuel cells, motors, etc. are of particular interest, DOE emphasized.

Comments are also requested on the general financial analysis approach used.

Data and assumptions DOE used to estimate the total cost of ownership of future light duty vehicles included:

  • Major inputs to the TCO calculation include the cost of vehicle manufacture (sum of subsystem costs) and annual fuel costs over the vehicle life (assumed to be 15 years).

  • Results for all advanced vehicle pathways are based on a projected state of the technologies in 2030, and they incorporate fuel economy improvements based on the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards adopted in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

  • Year 2030 cost range for major vehicle subsystems: batteries for PHEVs and BEVs: $125, $220 and $300 per kWh; fuel cell: $25, $30 and $40 per kW; on-board hydrogen storage: $6, $11 and $16 per kWh.

  • For 2030 advanced vehicles, major subsystems (batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen tanks) are assumed to last for 15 years.

  • The high/low technology range is based on the high/low optimism sets of assumptions used by DOE-EERE.

  • A cost-of-capital factor is applied to initial vehicle cost using a 7% (net without inflation) cost of money to amortize said initial cost over the 15-year vehicle lifetime. The cost of a vehicle includes only factory production costs, not distribution and retail markups (i.e., the cost is less than the retail price).

  • Fuel economies (as measured in the laboratory) for all fuel/vehicle systems were determined using Argonne National Laboratory’s Autonomie Model, Summer 2011 version. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s latest method was used in deriving on-road fuel economies from results of simulations of laboratory driving tests.

Maximum economy-of-scale is achieved at 500,000 units per year for fuel cells (costs are about 16% higher at 250,000 units/year), 250,000 units/year for batteries, motors and other electric machines, and 100,000 units per year for engines and other vehicle components.



Future batteries performance and cost evolution may have been largely under evaluated. Toyota's (2015/2020) extended e-range, 1000 Km BEV, will most certainly not cost as much to operate as the BEV 100-200-400 indicated in this study. Very few experts can truly evaluate what extended range BEVs will cost in 2030 because they don'r have enough information and are still biased against that new future technology. Too bad they didn't call on Nissan and Toyota for expert advice. The results could have been very different.

Keith D. Patch

Nice catch!

In a similar technology vein, I have details of the Interim U.S. DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Program Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan that I got at the recent Fall 2011 U.S. DOE Fuel Cells Technology (FCT) Water Electrolysis Working Group Meeting at:


Hundred fold optimism: "fuel cell: $25, $30 and $40 per kW; on-board hydrogen storage: $6, $11 and $16 per kWh"
And why FC shall be hydrogen?

Are they really stupid?

Anyone can guarantee that there will be any "hydrogen" in 2030 (18 years from now).


They talk about 3 scenarios, optimistic (aggressive), moderate, and pessimistic (conservative). The graph shows moderate (at least based on the battery prices). The pessimistic scenario assumes no new battery technology, only cost reduction due to high volume manufacturing. However there is a lot of exciting new battery tech on the research level, and I would think it to be quite a stretch to think that none will succeed. OTOH what are the odds that it will go all the way to the optimistic price of $125/kWhr? I think quite good, but that is just me. In fact I believe that the price has to drop much lower before BEVs will become mainstream.

I am puzzled by the fuel tank on the graph. For ICE vehicles, this is a small sliver, but for PHEV and even BEV it is a significant expense???

Certainly by this graph, BEVs are dead and ICEs are still king with FCEV good competition to hybrids.


Oh, I get it, the red uncertainty limits are the aggressive and conservative limits.

So for BEVs even the most aggressive is just competitive for 200 mile range and still significant premium for 400.

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