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Opinion: Debunking the myths—Why fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are viable for the mass market

by Dr. Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy

2014 has been a year of rapid growth for the fuel cell market with positive progress being made globally, especially in markets such as US, UK, Germany, France and Japan. Public-private investment initiatives, government funding for infrastructure and consumer subsidies, falling production costs and notably, the commitment to future OEM launches of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)—all indicate a clear road to adoption. The findings from last year’s UK H2 Mobility report support this conclusion, outlining that FCEVs represent an attractive and sustainable long-term business proposition and that they can deliver important environmental and economic benefits to the UK.

Despite the recent progress, a number of myths around the use, power efficiency and cost of fuel cells still exist.

With global leading car OEMs such as Toyota, Honda, Hyundai all recently announcing their intentions to make their FCEVs available to the consumer, there is no doubt that the OEMs have done their homework. A hydrogen-powered version of Hyundai’s Tucson sport utility vehicle has already appeared in southern California showrooms. In August 2014, Hyundai’s ix35 fuel cell model was driven a record distance for a hydrogen-powered production car on a single tank, covering 435 miles across three Scandinavian countries. Honda next year will offer Californians futuristic sedans that can travel 300 miles (480 km) or more on a tank of hydrogen gas while emitting nothing more toxic than pure water vapor. Most recently, Toyota announced that its fuel cell sedan would also be available in the UK, USA, Germany and Denmark during the summer of 2015.

FCEVs are a real opportunity to offer motoring consumers a zero tailpipe emissions yet practical solution. It’s time to debunk a number of myths.

Myth #1: Hydrogen energy is not all that energy efficient

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe but, on earth, it must normally be extracted from water or organic compounds. This is not much different from diesel and gasoline which are produced from refining and cleaning crude oil (a process which heavily involves the use of hydrogen). Whilst hydrogen today is extracted from natural gas and is already a global, multi-billion dollar industry used in a wide range of industrial applications, it is also produced from renewable sources like solar, wind or biogas without the need to use fossil fuels. This renewable production capacity is increasingly important to ensure the existing power grid can accept more renewable sources. Of course, this also has the merit of producing so-called “green hydrogen”.

In addition, fuel cell vehicles have zero-CO2 and zero particulate tailpipe emissions. And, according to a report by the California Fuel Cell Partnership, cars that run on hydrogen derived from natural gas emit 55% to 65% less carbon than gasoline-powered ones, because of their higher efficiencies. Because fuel cells are much more efficient than internal combustion engines (ICEs), whether produced from natural gas or renewable energy, on a so-called ‘well-to-wheel’ basis, hydrogen used in FCEVs is much more efficient than natural gas burnt in ICEs. And of course, FCEVs also don’t spew carcinogens or smog-forming particulates and compounds which matter to public health in cities.

Myth #2: Hydrogen gas is dangerous to store and use

One of the most common arguments heard when discussing the use of hydrogen is that, as a flammable gas, it is easily ignited and therefore far too dangerous to be stored either in refueling stations or within a pressure tank. However, hydrogen is no more or less dangerous than other flammable fuels or the batteries used in electric cars, and vehicles with pressure gas storage tanks are nothing new. With millions of on-the-road miles driven over the last few years, an existing global multi-billion industry transporting and making hydrogen for many decades, the motive industry is certainly convinced that hydrogen can be stored safely, with Toyota very recently having received approval from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to self-inspect and manufacture hydrogen tanks for FCEVs.

To reinforce the safety aspect of using hydrogen storage tanks, Toyota reported that they had fired bullets at their carbon-fibre fuel tanks, which did little more than bounce off or make small dents.

In fact, hydrogen has a rapid diffusivity (3.8 times faster than natural gas), which means that when released, it dilutes quickly into a non-flammable concentration. Because of this it may even be considered a safer alternative to the gasoline we use today, which when spilt creates an easily ignitable hazard for an extended period and, unlike hydrogen which has a low emissivity (you can put your hand next to a hydrogen flame without being burnt), when ignited sets secondary fires as the heat generated by gasoline is high.

Myth #3: FCEVs and their supporting infrastructure are too expensive to build so they will never provide a mass-market alternative solution

The cost of making fuel cell vehicles has recently dropped dramatically. Recent advances in fuel cell manufacturing and catalyst performance have led to a dramatic decrease in the cost of fuel cell production. In a recent interview with digital publication Quartz, Gil Castillo, senior group manager of advanced vehicles for Hyundai in California, says costs have dropped 70% since the company began working on fuel cells in the late 1990s. So much so, Hyundai has announced it is leasing its hydrogen SUV for $499 a month, with fuel thrown in for free.

Manufacturers are working hard to further reduce the cost of FCEVs, and these will decrease as they scale production for mass market: nothing new to invent here, just volume manufacturing and product engineering like any other products. In fact, Toyota recently mentioned that it has been able to streamline its FCEV manufacturing process, by gaining Japanese government approval to build and inspect hydrogen tanks, which is expected to help reduce the enabling costs of installing fuel cells into electric vehicles.

Add to the mix a surge in global government funding initiatives and subsidies from California to Japan, and across Europe, and the case for affordable fuel cells and consequent infrastructure is strengthened. On the 1st of May 2014, the California Energy Commission announced that it will invest $46.6 million to accelerate the development of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations in California in order to promote a consumer market for zero-emission fuel cell vehicles. Furthermore, the Obama administration has launched the USA’s hydrogen strategy nationwide through the launch H2USA—a new public-private partnership focused on advancing hydrogen infrastructure to support more transportation energy options for US consumers, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

On 9 October 2014, the UK Government announced an £11-million investment to help establish an initial network of up to 15 hydrogen refueling stations by the end of 2015, and will include £2 million of funding for public sector hydrogen vehicles.

The investment in infrastructure is not a distant hope or contained to the US alone. According to ITS-Davis researchers, regional investment of US$100-$200 million to support 100 stations for about 50,000 FCEVs would be enough to make hydrogen cost-competitive with gasoline on a cost-per-mile basis. This level of investment is already poised to happen in at least three places: California, Germany and Japan.

Myth #4: It will be difficult and time intensive to fill up FCEVs with hydrogen at the pump

Drivers don't have to make significant changes to their refueling behaviour to fill up their FCEV with hydrogen—a similar ‘nozzle-to-car’ method is the norm and unlike many other alternative fuel vehicles, standards already exist. The fuel cell electric vehicles manufactured by Toyota, Hyundai and Honda already allow an ‘at-pump’ refuel that will take only a few minutes to fill, compared to the extended periods (including overnight) required to recharge battery-only vehicles. Crucially the driver does not have to fill up again for several hundred miles. And hydrogen technology is already being trialled in fuel cell buses by a number of cities including London and can also be scaled up to long-haul trucks and other big vehicles.

Myth #5: FCEVs don’t have enough energy for long journeys

FCEVs offer zero tailpipe emission motoring without compromising on performance and range. The ability to carry more energy on-board the fuel cell vehicle in comparison to a battery powered car means that the fuel cell vehicles have greater range. And performance has improved over time. An FCEV can now achieve a much longer range with an on-board hydrogen gas tank, making it competitive with conventional and hybrid vehicles. In a real-world test on California roads, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers demonstrated that a fuel cell-powered Toyota Highlander SUV can travel over 400 miles and achieve a fuel economy of 69 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe).

In fact, hydrogen cars now coming onto the market have triple the range of most battery electric cars and can be refueled in several minutes (rather than recharged in hours), and this is just the start.

With the advancement of fuel cell technology, it’s clear to see that the case for adoption of FCEVs will continue to grow. This will also be driven by ever tightening global policies on carbon emissions. Industry partners from OEMs, to governments and fuel cell technology providers need to continue to work together to seize this opportunity and deliver a highly scalable and viable tailpipe, emissions-free energy alternative for the mass market.

We’re excited about the opportunity that fuel cell technology offers to the automotive industry, and we look forward to welcoming further market advancements and examples of real-world commercial use that will come to market in the next 12 to 18 months.

Dr. Henri Winand is the CEO and Executive Director of Intelligent Energy, which specializes in the development of modular fuel cell systems. Dr. Winand joined the Board as Chief Executive on 1 September 2006. He was previously Vice President of Corporate Venturing at Rolls-Royce plc.
During his time with Rolls-Royce, Dr. Winand managed a power systems business; introduced new manufacturing technologies into the group; and was responsible for defining and supervising the implementation of strategies for deriving additional value from the group's technology assets.
Dr. Winand has a PhD from the University of Cambridge, a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Warwick and a BEng from Imperial College, London. He is a Governing Board member of the European Union’s Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and Treasurer of the New Industrial Grouping. He is a member of the UK Government’s Green Economy Council, advising the Secretaries of State for DECC, DEFRA and BIS and also a member of the University of Cambridge’s Alumni Advisory Board.

Comments

kelly

Have you driven a Tesla Model S? Think Model T vs horse; Model S vs ICE drive comparison - including Porsche, MB, BMW, ...

The ~4 $BILLION a year tax subsidies for a OVER ONE HUNDRED year old profit gouging industry is the crime. Including pollution/medical cost - light vehicle ICE is over TWICE as expensive as US gasoline prices.

EVs make economic sense NOW. I recently took a 6,000 mile tour of the West from Ferguson, Mo to Santa Cruz, CA. EVs were charging at ~every large SF South/West Bay mall and even Walmart - so the future trend is clear.

Cheap fuel cells, if possible, could have their use - but their economics are uphill.

Pmpjunkie01

@Davemart So you want to be bunched up with the clowns that claimed each Volt cost a quarter million to build? No problem. You also think that quote "A slightly irrelevant truth is preferable to entirely and wilfully false statements." You seem to dispense a lot of both!

How much did the taxpayer pay for those ZEV credits again? The right answer is: nothing. How much money is TSLA making on each car sold: The right answer is: Enough to cover r&d for two new models, rapid expansion of production capacity and to fund their leasing program.

If you run your numbers on the viability of FCEVs much the same I am not surprised you convinced yourself that they are remotely competitive.

Davemart

pmpetc burbled:
'So you want to be bunched up with the clowns that claimed each Volt cost a quarter million to build?'

If you wish to ramble on about things I have never said, instead of addressing those I have, then I can't be bothered even reading the rest.

For the record way before the Volt came out I am on record of supporting it throughout.

As Aha

seems reading comprehension skills are related to fool cells

Davemart

@As Aha:
Seems intelligence is related to the propensity to parrot PR slogans.

Davemart

@As Aha:
Trotting our mindless slogans also seems to be related to reading comprehension skills, for instance confusing 'did not bother reading' with 'could not understand'.

Pmpjunkie01

@Davemart: I expected this to be way over your head.

Rambling on about things you never said:

A slightly irrelevant truth is preferable to entirely and wilfully false statements.

Posted by: Davemart | November 07, 2014 at 12:27 PM

on this thread. Arguing with you is obviously a waste of time.

SJC

Pmp,

Then go away, do us all a favor.

clett

Perhaps we're wasting our breath debating this - in the end the consumer will decide.

To my mind, if the choice is between BEV (charge anywhere including at home, 3 cents per mile fuel costs, very low maintenance costs) and FCEV (refill only at rare and expensive filling stations, 10 cents per mile fuel costs assuming $5 per kg at the pump, high stack maintenance costs), then the retailers are going to have to work very hard to convince people to hand over their cash for the FCEV.

Engineer-Poet

I think RFH meant "peak FC efficiency is not limited by the Carnot efficiency".

I think the real problem, though, is this:

cars that run on hydrogen derived from natural gas emit 55% to 65% less carbon than gasoline-powered ones

In other words, they anticipate H2 produced by SMR without carbon sequestration.  We need 80% less CO2 at MOST.  That is a non-starter right there.

especially when FCEV's will be able to reduce their fuel cost per mile to be 1/2 to 1/3 that of ICEV's today.

Roger, the figures being bandied about are upwards of $5/kg for H2.  When gasoline is $3/gallon, you need upwards of 2x the mileage per gge just to break even.

To everyone:  EtOH reforming is a game-changer.

Roger Pham

@clett and EP,
Your numbers of 3 cents and 10 cents and $5 per kg are totally arbitrary.
BEV will cost at least 4 cents per mile at 3.5 mile per kWh, 12 cents per kWh, and 85% charging efficiency.
FCEV will cost 5 cents per mile at $3.5 per kg and 70 miles per kg.
The cost of hydrogen will be very low because the energy feedstock if using solar and wind energy, will be very low.
The purchasing cost of FCEV's will be much lower than that of long-range BEV's because the Hydrogen tank costs $10-15 per kWh NOW, while battery costs will still be 10-15 x higher in the next decade.


Engineer-Poet
FCEV will cost 5 cents per mile at $3.5 per kg and 70 miles per kg.
Meanwhile, ITM Power says its aitch-two will cost £4.19/kg ($6.65/kg), or 9.5¢mi @ 70 mi/kg.  That would still be cheaper than H2 from reformed ethanol at $2.50/gallon.
BEV will cost at least 4 cents per mile at 3.5 mile per kWh, 12 cents per kWh, and 85% charging efficiency.

My Kill-A-Watt says my car takes 7.4 kWh for a full charge, which can carry me roughly 25 miles.  So 300 Wh/mi, or 3.6¢/mi at 12¢/kWh.

The purchasing cost of FCEV's will be much lower than that of long-range BEV's

The competition in the near term isn't the Tesla-class EV, it's the PHEV.

Roger Pham

@E-P,

You're 100% right.
Indeed, PHEV's can be built for much less cost than BEV's and even FCEV's as well.

However, if one would "hybridize" a FCEV with an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) at 50-50 ratio of ICE power train and Electric power train, I would call this an HCFCEV , short for Hybrid Combustion and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, then the purchasing cost of a PHEV comes surprisingly close to that of a HCFCEV. OK, so let's call it an HCFCEV, and read below.

First, as basis for comparison, let's look at the costs of electric power train vs ICE power train.
Let's consider the Nissan Leaf at $29000 vs. the Nissan Versa at $14000, identical bodies and power (107 and 109 hp) except for power train.
The ICE power train at $45/hp x 109 = $5000, leaving $9000 for the cost of the rest of the car.
The Leaf's power train, then, costs $20,000. The battery pack costs $6000, thus, leaving $14,000 for the motor and inverter.
A PHEV based on the Leaf body with half ICE and half electric will cost $7000 + $2500 = $9500 for power train. The 100-mi range of the Leaf can be reduced to 25, thus 6 kWh for $1500.
Thus, $9000+$9500+$1500=$20,000. A 25-mi range PHEV based on the Leaf can be priced at $20,000, a fully $9,000 less than a BEV Leaf with range of under 100 miles.
If charged twice daily, it can cover 50 miles, thus cut gasoline usage by 90%! Yet, very affordable.

What about the potential cost of a near-future HCFCEV (Hybrid Combustion Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) having 82 kW (110 hp) total power?
Thus, out of 82 kW total power, 41 kW (55hp) will be electric and 41 kW (55hp) will be ICE. The ICE will be a 2-cylinder direct-injection engine running on H2. No emission control needed since there will be no CO nor HC when running on H2, thus keeping it very cheap! Thus the price of the power train of a HFCEV will be a little over half of that of a fully-electric FCEV or BEV.
Notice that the ICE used here is not as a range extender, but as a LOW-COST POWER BOOSTER. The H2 is the sole energy source, and the FC is for base-load power due to its 60% efficiency at low loads, while the engine can manage only 40%-45% peak efficiency on H2 at higher loads, but is needed for only a few seconds during fast acceleration, if at all!
This a cost breakdown of a near-future HFCEV having total of 110 hp or 82 kW::
Electric power train $127.3/hp x 55hp= $7000
ICE power train $30/hp x 55hp = $1,650
FC stack at $30/kW, $30 x 41 = $1230
H2 tank , $1500 for about 4-5 kg.
1 kWh of solid-state Lithium battery capable of 40 kW, $500
The rest of the car $9,000, as in the Nissan Versa / Leaf example above
HCFCEV SUM TOTAL= $20,880 USD MSRP

A 25-mi range PHEV based on the Leaf can be priced at $20,000, a fully $9,000 less than a BEV Leaf with range of under 100 miles, but only $880 less than the purchasing cost of a comparable PHEV.

However, this $880 lower purchasing cost of a PHEV vs a HCFCEV, and 4 cents/mile for PEV vs 5 cents/mile for FCEV, will be made up for after the first battery pack change of the PHEV, costing $1,500. The H2 tank of the HCFCEV will last for the life of the vehicle.
Thus over some years after the first battery pack change for the PHEV, purchasing cost + operating cost of a PHEV vs a HCFCEV will be comparable!

Roger Pham

Notice that the cost differential of a PHEV and a comparable HCFCEV above is only $880, but the HCFCEV allows owner not to have to plug in daily. Would a near-future HCFCEV worth the initial cost differential of $880 and a penny higher cost per mile? The buyers must decide for themselves, especially, after the first battery change for the PHEV, the two vehicle types will have about equal overall associated costs. The fuel cost saving in comparison to an ICEV running on gasoline will be substantial, and may be one factor for the selection of future HCFCEV and PHEV.

New Info:
The cost of e-motor controller now can be purchased for as low as $15 per hp, as is reflected in the KellyController or EVnetics brands. Most EV motors are still costing $50-60 per hp.
As such, I must revise the cost of electric power train as $15 + $55 = $70 per hp.
So, the new cost of a barebone PHEV based on the Leaf / Versa body would be: ($45/hp x 55hp) + ($70 x 55) + $9,000 + $1,500 = $16,825
And, the new cost of a barebone HCFCEV comparable with above PHEV : $1,650 + ($70 x 55) + $1,230 + $1500 + $500 + $9,000 = $17,730
The difference in initial purchasing costs between a hypothetical PHEV and its comparable HCFCEV would be : $905.

Roger Pham

@E-P,
From ITM website:
"Hydrogen cost is projected at £4.19/kg, a 32.7% reduction from last year’s £6.23/kg, within a 10 year capital amortisation period and £2.69/kg, a 22.9% reduction from last year’s £3.49/kg, after capital amortisation."

2.69 lbs is $4.26 USD per kg, quite close to my prediction of $3.5 per kg. 10 years from now, solar and wind energy will cost well below 3.6 pences (5.7 cents) per kWh, the cost of electricity quoted by the ITM website, so, the cost of H2 will really be around $3.5 per kg or even less.

Roger Pham

"The difference in initial purchasing costs between a hypothetical PHEV and its comparable HCFCEV would be : $905."
However, that is for a PHEV with only 6 kWh-battery pack, which is really too low capacity for many people. Opting to upgrade from a 6-kWh-$1,500-battery pack to an 8-kWh pack will raise the cost of the battery pack by $500, hence will raise the cost of the PHEV by $500.
So, now, the purchasing cost difference of a PHEV-8kWh vs a comparable HCFCEV capable of over 300-mi range would dwindle down to only $405.

As Aha

1 kWh of solid-state Lithium battery capable of 40 kW, $500
two ways to make it 1) optimistic - we will build it. 2) realistic - aliens will bring this technology to us

HarveyD

The industrial rate for clean Hydro/Wind electricity in our province is $0.03 Cdn/kWh (or about $0.026 USD/kWh)

Large commercial EV quick charge stations and large H2 stations could get that low industrial rate 24/7 and even lower outside peak demand hours almost anywhere in the province.

H2 stations, with large storage tanks, could get clean electricity for half the above low rate for overnight operations. That could make H2 produced from clean surplus electricity cheaper than from (not so clean) NG and FCEVs as cheap as EV to operate.

Both BEVs and FCEVs could be operated at very low cost.

Due to our cold weather and very large overnight electricity surplus, FCEVs may have a real advantage.

Alex_C

@Roger Pham

"I must revise the cost of electric power train as $15 + $55 = $70 per hp"

Your figure for e-motor price of $55/hp (ie $75/kW) is IMO way of the mark.

In an article from 2011 by ORNL, where 2 (or 3) e-car motors were compared, it's stated that price of e-motor in Camry hybrid is $10.7/kW.
And that "DOE 2020 Motor target: 4.7 $/kW"
(don't have a link, can be found)

Price of PM based e-motors varies, as magnet price components varied wildly last 5 years.
Induction motors have stable prices.

Inverter prices - see:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2014/06/20140624-gm-1.html

"GM considering bringing power electronics production back in-house"
24 June 2014

As you like 3-cyl downsized (and turbocharged) engines, here is a technical article on Peugeot turbo 3-cyl, 1.2L. Reviewers liked turbo and non turbo versions, it's not coming to North America.
http://www.fev.com/fileadmin/user_upload/Media/Spectrum/en/Spectrum_52_En.pdf

It's said somewhere there it switches to Atkinson cycle at part load (the turbo version), probably the non-turbo one does the same.
Peugeot also have a 1L 3-cyl engine. You can see them (in English) on UK Peugeot site.

I'd like to se a VR3 engine in a hybrid, mentioned it before - it's narrower, leaves more room for larger electric part in transverse layout.
Wonder if it is significantly more expensive to build a VR3 than an L3 engine.
The VW patents on VR motors must have already expired, they first appeared more than 20 years ago.

Roger Pham

@Alex C,
>>>>"In an article from 2011 by ORNL, where 2 (or 3) e-car motors were compared, it's stated that price of e-motor in Camry hybrid is $10.7/kW."

Sorry, Alex, it's a case of misplaced decimal point by one digit, or understating the cost of PM e-motor by a factor of 10.
You see, the price of $55 per hp of e-motor is for AC-synchronous motor without PM magnet, like those of Tesla. Those rare-earth-magnet motors like in Toyota Hybrids cost a bit more, but are more efficient, so $107 per kW is not unreasonable. Probably less now, due to large-scale manufacturing and the use of speed reduction in subsequent 3rd generation of Toyota HSD version that allows a smaller motor to produce more power.

Just a matter of common sense, Toyota's HEV's are produced over 7 millions units now, certain major mass production that will benefit from major cost reduction. Yet, Toyota's HEV's are consistently costing $4,000-5,000 over a comparable non-hybrid model.
You think that Toyota is price-gouging on their HEV's? Think again, Ford Fusion costs $5,000 less than their Fusion Hybrid version. This is shocking, when you realize that the HEV version does not have a 6-speed transmission with all the complexity and zillion of parts.

So, if as you projected, motor controller costs $3.6 / kW and e-motor costs $11 /kW, so roughly $15 per kW. A Fusion Hybrid or Camry Hybrid has an ~80-kW electric power system, 80 x 15 = $1,200, yet dispenses with a ~$4,000-6-speed transmission, for a saving of $2,800 that will go toward the cost of the hybrid battery pack costing ~$1,500...Yet, the HEV version still costing $5,000 higher...What gives?

However, if one would make a kW of electric power to cost ~$94 /kW ($70 per hp), then the 80 kW will cost $7,500. Substracting the $4,000 transmission will give $3,500. Adding $1,500 for the 1.4-kWh battery will give...Voila, $5,000 price premium of the HEV vs non-HEV version.

Bottom line: Electric power train still costs significantly higher than ICE power train. No wonder that CEO's of Daimler-Benz and Fiat both are complaining of losing money for each EV sold!

Thanks for the link to the Peugeot turbo 3-cyl. Much appreciated!

Alex_C

@Roger

I found the link to the mentioned ORNL article. Here it is:
http://web.ornl.gov/adm/partnerships/events/power_electronics/presentations/T2-E-PM-less.pdf

The quoted prices can be found in a table on page 10.

I did a search for e-motor prices. Found some, but generally they are for grid frequency (50 or 60 Hz), four pole, induction motors, ie 1,500 or 1,800 rpm synchronous speed.

The prices listed, per kW, are close to your figures.
I guess the listed powers are for continuous operation.

But I think you made a mistake by assuming that for example an induction motor, made for 1,500 rpm (at 50 Hz grid), weighing 70 kg, when modified to run up to 12,000 rpm (ie 8x faster, and being 8x more powerful), weighing still 70 kg (or a little more), will cost 8x more.

If the quoted motor was a high efficiency one with copper rotor, what needs to be done to make it run up to 12,000 rpm is:
- new, ceramic bearings, for high rpm (like in Tesla roadster, by SKF)
- Use stator wirings with isolation for high voltage (up to 600V or so)
- Better balance the rotor for high speeds, lower tolerances
- perhaps thinner laminations for higher efficiencies (although it's probably done already if it's a high efficiency motor as donor)
- Better cooling system
- Perhaps some other minor modifications, but weight won't change much

All the changes above are not IMO likely to (more than) double the price of the original (donor) motor, when manufactured in similarly high volumes.

Of course more powerful inverter will need to be used, but it's reflected in inverter price, not motor price.

FYI: Last year ZF developed a low cost electric drivetrain with induction motor spinning up to 21,000 rpm, 30 kW continuous, 90 kW peak (1 minute or so). Single speed gearbox.
(Germans are getting serious!)

I was not going to argue the costs you calculated, just wanted to point out the unrealistically high motor prices per kW you used in calculations.

Anyway I used to agree with you that the most reasonable choice is a PHEV with 30-50 km range (later more, when battery energy densities improve), actually based on battery weight and/or volume. BEVs are, IMO, a maybe car - when you need them, they are not ready, or leave you stranded, too much hassle. FCEVs are even less realistic in the near future.
To me full hybrid HEVs don't make much sense - you already put there powerful electric motor and inverter for electric only mode, and you can use it just for a 1-2 km. By adding a 5-8 KWh battery pack you can save 3/4 of the fuel used.


BTW, what do you think, would the manufacturing cost of a VR3 engine be (significantly) higher than that of an L3 engine?
They both have only one camshaft, though VR3 valve control system would be more complex.
Am I missing something?

Roger Pham

@Alex,
The following link shows AC synchronous magnet-free motors designed for EV application in 160-200 hp range, rated for up to 10,000 rpm. Note that the cost of motor and speed controller included is around $60 per hp ($80 per kW) instead of $70 per hp, but these motors are air cooled and not liquid cooled, hence they are a bit cheaper than liquid-cooled HEV's motors. If it is possible to produce motor + controller for $15-20 per kW, then certainly they won't be able to sell any at $80 per kW.

http://www.evwest.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=8&osCsid=ga5elpg5s8i6u6oe4rq5ij4ic0

Full HEV makes sense for those who don't want to plug in,and for those who don't want to haul a big battery pack around, and for those who don't want reduction in luggage capacity or passenger capacity.
Take, for example, the Ford Fusion PHEV has 8 cubic feet of trunk space reduction (50%) as the result of the big battery pack. This is unacceptable to me and to many other people, explaining why current crop of PHEV's are not selling as well as they should.
The Volt's huge battery pack takes up a lot of room in the passenger cabin, reducing the passenger capacity from 5 to 4. This may explain why the 5-passenger Leaf with a full luggage space of 22 cubic feet is now outselling the VOLT, in spite of the fact that the Volt can be quickly filled up and has no range-anxiety problem associated, while LEAF has poor range, especially in winters, when the range may be down to 50 miles, or when the vehicle is some year old, with rapid reduction in battery energy retention capacity with time.

The link that you gave describes 1.2-liter PSA engine, which is turbocharged L3 configuration. No mention of any VCR mechanism, nor any VR3 engine mentioned.

Alex_C

@Roger

Thanks for the link.
The motor prices there are very high, because it's a low volume product.
Probably none of them made in quantities over 100 per year (who uses them?).

Once they are made in volumes of 50,000/yr, prices will drop dramatically.
You'll probably agree with this, you seem to be very knowledgeable in mechanical devices.

Inverter prices will become affordable, as it's usualy the case with electronics.

As for ICE prices, you used here the figure previously mentioned in your comment on new Chevy Volt (I'm not questioning it, high volumes must be assumed):

>>> "An engine + transmission cost no more than $45/hp,"

Doesn't it defy logic that an ICE + transmission cost less than a high speed induction motor per unit of power, when manufactured in similar quantities?
ICEs are so much more complex to build, so many parts, and also have more kg/kW.

The mentioned VR3 engine has nothing to do with the Peugeot 3-cyl. It was my idea as it is narrower than L3, asked you for opinion, to learn. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VR6_engine).

Roger Pham

@Alex,
The Prius model is made in large volume for 12 years, yet it still costs consistently $5000 over the price of the Corolla similarly equipped. How would you explain such a price difference? The Prius can really help raise CAFE for Toyota so that they will be able to sell more Tundras, Highlanders, and Tacomas...etc...so no reason for Toyota to price gouge on the Prius.

IMHO, the VR3 layout only saves half of a cylinder's diameter in length, but is more complicated to make and to balance. A short engine is only advantageous for allowing a portion of the battery pack be put under the hood, but only non-flammable battery chemistry can be used. Otherwise, the risk of fire would be too high with a frontal collision.

Roger Pham

Furthermore, let's look at the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid having a 40-hp motor, and $26,000 MSRP, vs the Sonata LE at $21,150, or almost $5,000 price difference. What does this almost $5,000 pays for in the hybrid version? Well, 40 hp of e-power, at $70 per hp, would cost $2,800. The battery probably costs $1,500, so the battery and e-motor power so far have a combined cost of $4,300, leaving the $500 for development cost.

Notice that the hybrid version still carries the 6-speed transmission like the non-hybrid version, so Hyundai cannot afford to put as powerful an e-motor system as in Toyota HSD or Ford Hybrid system, in the latters, have ~80 kW of e-power but can do away with the 6-speed transmission, so cost differential of hybrid vs non-hybrid version are all comparable in all carmakers, Ford, Hyundai, and Toyota, IN SPITE OF THESE HYBRIDS ARE BEING PRODUCED IN VOLUMES OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSAND YEARLY WORLD-WIDE!

Indeed, the cost of e-power systems are pretty consistently high among all car-makers and e-motor sellers, even at high production volumes of hybrids produced in hundreds of thousands of copies yearly! When the CEO's of Daimler-Benz and Fiat said that they are losing a lot of money for each EV sold, even at the high prices that these EV's are sold, they must be taken seriously!

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