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The Economist chimes in. "The Rich and Indulgent"

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Old 03-05-2018, 11:55 PM
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urbanscribe
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Default The Economist chimes in. "The Rich and Indulgent"

https://www.economist.com/news/busin...astlapofluxury

German cars have the most to lose from a changing auto industry

Tardy arrival has significant costs. Suppliers are not in place to support an entirely new industry. German expertise in making chemicals and electronics could have been deployed to produce a battery industry to feed a thriving electric-car market. "We have no one in Germany who really understands batteries, and we lack the value chain; we are very, very late", laments Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, of the Centre for Automotive Research, in Essen.

Another problem is how to defend the carefully nurtured brands themselves from disruption. The reputation was built on superior engineering, ICEs and driving pleasure. Premium cars sell for more because they are on the cutting edge of developments in motoring. Antilock brakes, turbocharged (diesel) engines and a host of other whizzy extras all showed up first on German cars. In return carmakers can charge more and rake in fatter profits than their mass-market counterparts (margins average around 10% compared with 5% or below in the mass market).

Yet desirable brands and mechanical brilliance may be much less use as carmaking is turned upside down. EVs, mobility services and autonomous vehicles are likely to be increasing sources of profits. Electric motors are largely standardised and may not command the same premium. German cars, engineered to please their discerning drivers, are unlikely to carry the same kudos when vehicles drive themselves. BMW, which advertised its cars as "The Ultimate Driving Machine" may have to rethink its marketing.

It may be that the last hold-outs who drive themselves are the rich and indulgent. If so, conventional luxury cars will still have some customers. But that could be an ever dwindling niche. The onus is on carmakers to prove they can successfully reinvent themselves--and continue to keep the German economy in the fast lane.
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Old 03-06-2018, 01:12 AM
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By the time electrics become main stream these companies will have figured things out. These companies aren't stupid. They didn't become leaders by shoving their heads in the sand. It will be decades
before the companies making electric cars become the norm. Gas is still inexpensive. 18 wheelers still have the main advantage than electrics cant solve. Range. Battery technology is advancing fast. By fast I mean in their context fast means that a 1.5 volt battery of yesterday is far out paced by the lithium batteries of today. But by our standards of driving they are still moving pretty slow. Telsa still has to solder thousands of cells together to get the battery pack on their cars. And these batteries are still flammable and I almost burnt my house down with a drone battery recharging unit. Whats going to happen when homes catch on fire charging their car at night when a circuit over heats and they will over heat. Plus there are two dirty little secrets the makers of these cars haven't talked about. One- where are all these billions of batteries that are toxic going to be disposed of. Its not a big deal now because the numbers are small. The cars are still novelties. But where are these burnt out batteries going to be disposed of when billions of cars are electrics?
Two-nobody talks about the fact electricity isn't free. It doesn't grow on trees, solar technology is no where near to the point you can recharge while driving. A small percentage comes from solar, and wind power. A larger percentage comes from hydraulic power. But 60% of electricity in the United States comes from natural gas and coal. So how is that reducing our carbon footprint if you are burning fuels to produce electricity? Are you going to give up your freedom of a ICE car to go anywhere any time for burning a bunch of carbon producing fuel to give you limited range, hourly charging times on long trips and toxic by-products of dead batteries. I don't think so and certainly not in my lifetime. I think there are a few engineering problems to solve before Tesla is the new Porsche/Audi/Mercedes equivalent.
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:07 AM
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Disposal of toxic batteries and other things usually go to third world countries where there is little or no environmental regulations. Same for lithium and cobalt mining. People in those places actually turn color mining toxic minerals. It’s nasty stuff, and people who gloss over electric cars....seem not to care much about it. Copper mines, open pit, are also very nasty. In Nevada they are all over the place, leaching out mercury and other nasty things into soil and water. Old mines that have not been reclaimed.
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Old 03-23-2018, 10:53 AM
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Old 03-23-2018, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by DC911S View Post
Disposal of toxic batteries and other things usually go to third world countries where there is little or no environmental regulations. Same for lithium and cobalt mining. People in those places actually turn color mining toxic minerals. It’s nasty stuff, and people who gloss over electric cars....seem not to care much about it. Copper mines, open pit, are also very nasty. In Nevada they are all over the place, leaching out mercury and other nasty things into soil and water. Old mines that have not been reclaimed.

Cool - but you drive a metal car, live in a house made of bricks and mortar, drive along roads covered in road metal - keep food cool in a stainless steel fronted fridge, wash you clothes in a washing machine, wash your dishes in a dish washer, cook your food in and on an oven/cook top - you even tapped out your missive on a computer with batteries and live in a country that has been the worlds number 1 polluter for a long time only recently eclipsed by China...........by the way all of the components above are derived from mined material. Seriously get your facts right.

Also most of the worlds copper comes from Chile, go there, speak to the people ask them what they think.........perhaps by a leaf or a bolt.
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Old 03-27-2018, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
By the time electrics become main stream these companies will have figured things out. These companies aren't stupid. They didn't become leaders by shoving their heads in the sand..
I agree. It has been less about technology, than a willingness to be part of chasing economies in something fundamentally more expensive. But fires? I have a furnace at home, recently smelled gas from our LP fireplace, store gasoline in the garage, and really don't spend too much time worried about the 6 EVSEs (car chargers) I have. Two, I built, fry their NEMA 14-50 40amp relays regularly because the spec should have been 50 amps. The ones from Tesla, or running <30a, are cool cucumbers. If there weren't a right way to do it, I guess we should all worry about our stoves, dryers..

Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
..nobody talks about the fact electricity isn't free. It doesn't grow on trees, solar technology is no where near to the point you can recharge while driving. A small percentage comes from solar, and wind power. A larger percentage comes from hydraulic power. But 60% of electricity in the United States comes from natural gas and coal. So how is that reducing our carbon footprint if you are burning fuels to produce electricity? Are you going to give up your freedom of a ICE car to go anywhere any time for burning a bunch of carbon producing fuel to give you limited range, hourly charging times on long trips and toxic by-products of dead batteries. I don't think so and certainly not in my lifetime. I think there are a few engineering problems to solve before Tesla is the new Porsche/Audi/Mercedes equivalent.
Compared to gasoline/diesel, these weren't even problems to begin with. I think UCS can be a rabid environmental bunch, but the map they've been updating seems accurate as the US has dropped to 30% coal, 32% natural gas. It shows your 60% isn't so much an issue. Not many (any?) cars achieve these mpg's. And I also agree, "electricity is not free". There are many cooks in the kitchen of electric policy, and it has been hard to impress upon those lately shouting "100% Renewable" that they could wipe out the economies of "going electric". In 2018, you can mine bit coin, in WA, for just over $.03/KWh, or go to MA and pay $.24/KWh, from Eversource. It is only when you get this high, that 40mpg hybrids compete on $$.

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Old 03-31-2018, 11:49 AM
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I thought that article was well-written and accurate.

German car companies are at huge risk. They banked on diesel, architecting a regulatory regime and tax scheme to support it. EU emissions regulations focus on CO2 and CO while the USA regulations are heavy on NOx and particulate matter. This makes diesel an obvious choice for EU companies and as long as they could deliver increase fleet fuel economy, which diesel does for them, they get a two-fer. In the USA, the development of EVs has been happening at a pace that allowed them to tinker and make long term announcements, but not worry about delivering anything to the market at scale until Tesla started delivering the Model 3. Then, as they say, $hit got real. Dieselgate really harmed these companies at a strategic level, they are paying a price for it now.

Electricity isn’t free and not without it’s own emissions. True but that misses a big point, which is that electricity demand has been flat for years and this has been freaking out the publicly-owned utilitities that have to pay for infrastructure and have capped rates. Manufacturing... biggest user of electricity and it has been declining. The widely touted “x% of electricity comes from renewables” also fails to recognize that those stats are compiled from “utility-grade electricity generation” along with “small-scale utility generation”. In other words, it doesn’t count home-installed solar... which is why wind is the largest component of renewable enery consumption stats.

Now on to natural gas, which is 50% cleaner than coal but still emits CO2. Basically, 1/2 the amount of CO2, 1/3 the amount of NOx, and 1% the sulfer of coal. It’s a fair trade-off and a great choice for on-demand power. Coal plants have to be fired up and when they are running you really loath having to shut them down for any reason. Natural gas plants are turbines, you just hit the switch and you have power. Awesome.

Fracking in America has transformed the energy map of the world, not just because we are now exporting oil again but becuase natural gas is unleashed by frackers. The USA has the 4th largest *proven* reserves of natural gas (behind Russia, Iran and Qatar, in that order) but that is proven reserves and our number have been growing. Horizontal drilling can be done anywhere in the world, but fracking is something that, at this point, seems to favor the geology of North America. We’ll see. At any rate, we have something like 200 years of natural gas.

Back to German brands, yeah they are catching up but I would not automatically say “they will catch up”. Building modern cars is not an excercise in physical engineering, it’s all technology and this is something the Europeans have really struggled with, for decades. The thing that has always fascinated me about Tesla, even though I refuse to buy one of their cars because I’m stubborn and like European cars, is how simple they are. Musk has removed every system that gives someone like Porsche an advantage, with the exception of brakes and steering. A Tesla is a rolling network of computers and a lot of proprietary software that no one else has.

The Supercharging network is another area that European, indeed all, manufacturers are going to have to confront. GM didn’t have to build a gas station network as part of their growth strategy, they need one now. EVs are disrupting the market because it is not just about the car itself. The supercharging network, which Porsche is addressing in their own strategy, along with an entirely new approach to buiding and delivering features (OTA) is forcing these companies to rethink the entire model year paradigm that is at their core.

Bottom line, yeah the Germans are facing an existential threat to their car manufacturing industry, and I loved the quote about “Germany, a company town for car companies.” I don’t doubt that they will address the challenge, much like they did when the Japanese entered luxury car markets, but make no mistake about it, nothing is going to be the same for them.

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Old 03-31-2018, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jnolan
I thought that article was well-written and accurate.

German car companies are at huge risk. They banked on diesel, architecting a regulatory regime and tax scheme to support it. EU emissions regulations focus on CO2 and CO while the USA regulations are heavy on NOx and particulate matter. This makes diesel an obvious choice for EU companies and as long as they could deliver increase fleet fuel economy, which diesel does for them, they get a two-fer. In the USA, the development of EVs has been happening at a pace that allowed them to tinker and make long term announcements, but not worry about delivering anything to the market at scale until Tesla started delivering the Model 3. Then, as they say, $hit got real. Dieselgate really harmed these companies at a strategic level, they are paying a price for it now.

Electricity isn’t free and not without it’s own emissions. True but that misses a big point, which is that electricity demand has been flat for years and this has been freaking out the publicly-owned utilitities that have to pay for infrastructure and have capped rates. Manufacturing... biggest user of electricity and it has been declining. The widely touted “x% of electricity comes from renewables” also fails to recognize that those stats are compiled from “utility-grade electricity generation” along with “small-scale utility generation”. In other words, it doesn’t count home-installed solar... which is why wind is the largest component of renewable enery consumption stats.

Now on to natural gas, which is 50% cleaner than coal but still emits CO2. Basically, 1/2 the amount of CO2, 1/3 the amount of NOx, and 1% the sulfer of coal. It’s a fair trade-off and a great choice for on-demand power. Coal plants have to be fired up and when they are running you really loath having to shut them down for any reason. Natural gas plants are turbines, you just hit the switch and you have power. Awesome.

Fracking in America has transformed the energy map of the world, not just because we are now exporting oil again but becuase natural gas is unleashed by frackers. The USA has the 4th largest *proven* reserves of natural gas (behind Russia, Iran and Qatar, in that order) but that is proven reserves and our number have been growing. Horizontal drilling can be done anywhere in the world, but fracking is something that, at this point, seems to favor the geology of North America. We’ll see. At any rate, we have something like 200 years of natural gas.

Back to German brands, yeah they are catching up but I would not automatically say “they will catch up”. Building modern cars is not an excercise in physical engineering, it’s all technology and this is something the Europeans have really struggled with, for decades. The thing that has always fascinated me about Tesla, even though I refuse to buy one of their cars because I’m stubborn and like European cars, is how simple they are. Musk has removed every system that gives someone like Porsche an advantage, with the exception of brakes and steering. A Tesla is a rolling network of computers and a lot of proprietary software that no one else has.

The Supercharging network is another area that European, indeed all, manufacturers are going to have to confront. GM didn’t have to build a gas station network as part of their growth strategy, they need one now. EVs are disrupting the market because it is not just about the car itself. The supercharging network, which Porsche is addressing in their own strategy, along with an entirely new approach to buiding and delivering features (OTA) is forcing these companies to rethink the entire model year paradigm that is at their core.

Bottom line, yeah the Germans are facing an existential threat to their car manufacturing industry, and I loved the quote about “Germany, a company town for car companies.” I don’t doubt that they will address the challenge, much like they did when the Japanese entered luxury car markets, but make no mistake about it, nothing is going to be the same for them.
Thoughtful and well said. Europeans (one of which I am) have lagged in fundamental software development, full stop. The core of the driverless engine is going to be built in California most likely. That in itself is a big risk to car companies. What if Merc/BMW/P can't get that done and become just a stylistic value added packagers of Waymo core products? To wit, your point about Tesla cars being bare of such self-perceived frivolities (which we enjoy here)

(For others on this thread, spare me the two fatal accidents in Tesla's autopilot cars which are insignificant to miles auto driven compared to human driving)

Anyway let's not be pessimistic. The PR seems to indicate German Cos are taking it seriously. Now the proof will be in the actual floor models vs. the concept cars. Few have so far built that bridge successfully.
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Old 04-05-2018, 04:33 AM
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If natural gas is cleaner than coal and has less toxic groundwater/runoff/byproduct/sourcing issues...why are we skipping that as a power source for our cars?

Threats of explosion? Storage issues? Noise?

Is there enough lithium/cobalt/rare earth etc to actually produce 7-10M cars a year that are full electric?
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Old 04-05-2018, 12:00 PM
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LNG is expensive to produce, CNG is stored in the vehicle at around 3,500psi, which creates it’s own challenges from an engineering standpoint. Natural gas produces less energy per unit than gasoline, which means you have to use more of it and range becomes an issue in light and medium duty vehicles. Then there is the expense of building a national refueling network that would become obsolete as EVs overtake ICE, eventually.

The lithium and cobalt question is legitimate, I don’t know. However, I will note that whenever an obscure natural resource becomes valuable, we start looking for and finding it in more places.
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Old 04-05-2018, 03:41 PM
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Electric is still more efficient even when used to make electricity vs. using NG gas for transportation - also moving to EV allows use to "modularize" the fuel source - i.e. the car doesn't care, nor does it need to be upgraded if we want/can change how we generate electricity

NG is 62% efficient at making electricity - https://www.gepower.com/about/insigh...iciency-record
NG is 25% efficient at moving a car - and that doesn't include the cost to refine and transport it, store, and distribute it

basically EV's win hands down even when you're using fossil fuels to generate the power.
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Old 04-05-2018, 04:35 PM
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I've been reading about Mazda's Skyactiv compression ignition engine hitting 56% thermal efficiency. Wow. Mazda does not have an EV play, it will be interesting to see if they can actually scale that level of efficiency in an ICE.

Originally Posted by daveo4porsche View Post
Electric is still more efficient even when used to make electricity vs. using NG gas for transportation - also moving to EV allows use to "modularize" the fuel source - i.e. the car doesn't care, nor does it need to be upgraded if we want/can change how we generate electricity

NG is 62% efficient at making electricity - https://www.gepower.com/about/insigh...iciency-record
NG is 25% efficient at moving a car - and that doesn't include the cost to refine and transport it, store, and distribute it

basically EV's win hands down even when you're using fossil fuels to generate the power.
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Old 04-05-2018, 05:53 PM
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https://newsroom.toyota.co.jp/en/powertrain2018/engine/

Toyota is claiming 41% - pretty good - still lacks the modularity of electricity but wow great progress!
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Old 04-06-2018, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by daveo4porsche View Post
Electric is still more efficient even when used to make electricity vs. using NG gas for transportation - also moving to EV allows use to "modularize" the fuel source - i.e. the car doesn't care, nor does it need to be upgraded if we want/can change how we generate electricity

NG is 62% efficient at making electricity - https://www.gepower.com/about/insigh...iciency-record
NG is 25% efficient at moving a car - and that doesn't include the cost to refine and transport it, store, and distribute it

basically EV's win hands down even when you're using fossil fuels to generate the power.
That 62% number is Guinness record number for the best power plant in the word operating optimally. The real average in the US for NG powerplants is 43.3% (https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annu...epa_08_01.html)
Electricity is not 100% efficient at moving the car either. If it were, there would be no heat generated at all. It very high, but definitely not 100%. There is also battery charge & discharge loss (for Tesla, 92% theoretical peak, 70-80% reported by users)). Also, electricity transmission and storage tends to be more lossy than for other energy forms - 5-6% loss from distribution and transmission is average, but it's higher in densely populated areas, which are more likely to use EVs. So the total would be 43.3% * 95% (delivery efficiency) * 85% (charge&discharge efficiency) * efficiency at moving the car. So probably 35% at most. Still will be higher than typical internal combustion for sure. But not burning carbons for electricity is even better.

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Old 04-06-2018, 08:54 PM
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don't forget to factor in the electricity used to refine gasoline - in California Refineries are the largest consumers of Electricity according to many reports…I'll quibble on your numbers but - we're in the same ball park - you low ball them a bit - my references have higher number - so the truth is somewhere in the middle...

the _MAIN_ advantage of EV's in my opinion is your last point - it's even better to _NOT_ use fossil fuels for electricity - but we first have to tear down the myth that since we use fossil fuels for electricity it doesn't matter if we move to EV's - nothing could be further from the truth - worse case is it's a wash but prepares us for alternative fuel sources, real case it's still better, and when you transition to non-fossil fuel based electricity you get to keep your car.
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