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Elon Musk dismisses his competitors gains in battery tech costs, stating that his company is the only one to currently produce EVs that are reliable at a full range of standard temps from blazing hot to icy cold.  (Source: Brendan McDermid / REUTERS)

Tesla says it has big improvements in store for its upcoming $57,400 2013 Model S electric.  (Source: Tesla Motors)
Remarks come in the wake of Nissan bragging that it is far ahead of competitors

If there's one main factor that is turning people off from truly considering electric vehicles for their next purchase, it is the price.  Thus when Nissan claimed to have reached production costs of $375/kWh for its upcoming 2011 Nissan LEAF EV, it turned heads.  After all, most auto companies were saying that they hoped to reach $400-$700/kWh with their upcoming models.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is not impressed with Nissan's claims, though.  While he does not comment much on the battery cells themselves, during a call to analysts and investors he blasts Nissan's supporting systems, saying that they are more primitive than his company's first prototype.

At issue is the fact that the LEAF uses air cooling for its batteries, while Tesla uses a superior liquid heating/cooling thermal management solution.  By opting for the cheaper air cooling, Musk says Nissan's battery temperatures will be "all over the place".  Worse yet, he says that they will undergo "huge degradation" at colder temperatures, and literally "shut off" at warmer ones.  Competitor GM has stated that its 2011 Chevy Volt EV may have similar issues.

Tesla Motors' current system for the Roadster sports over 6,831 laptop-sized battery cells designed for automotive use.  It packages cells together in modules and then places modules into a full pack.  Each module is equipped with liquid cooling and temperature sensors.  Firmware controls the rate at which the cooling fluid (or heating in cold weather) is pumped through the system, responding to changes in heat.

Despite having a huge profit margin on its current Roadster, Musk says that his company is "giving up" hopes of overall profitability in exchange for "pretty astronomical growth."  Tesla is instead opting to spend up to $500M USD (currently its hoping to stick to under $400M USD) to develop its new Model S electric vehicle.

Musk says the new vehicle will sport significant improvements to its battery.  It will feature 50 percent more density per module -- meaning that it will pack 3 cells into a similar sized module for ever 2 of the Roadster's pack.  It also ditches the expensive all-cobalt electrode in favor of a nickel cobalt aluminum cathode (positive electrode).  The new composite cathode will be much cheaper, while not significantly impacting performance.

The company has not revealed the cost per kWh that it's targeting for the Model S.  In 2009 the industry average, according to a Deutsche Bank report [PDF], was $650/kWh, but current orders being placed for the 2011/2012 timeframe are averaging $450/kWh.  The rapidly dropping prices are helping to cut the cost of laptop batteries as well, which are priced at $350/kWh, according toLG Chem subsidiary Compact Power’s CEO Prabahkar Pati.  Pati says that low price is a sign of things to come for the auto industry.

Tesla Motors plans on having an "Alpha" version of the Model S built later this year.  That version will be 80 to 90 percent complete in terms of production intent.  Then next year it will build a "Beta" version, which will be 99 percent complete.  The production Model S is launching in 2012 priced at $57,400 USD.

While that price may seem high, price inflation may make it more competitive.  Some dealers of the upcoming Volt EV are reportedly adding $10,000 to $20,000 USD markups on to its base price, raising the cost to as high as $61,000 USD before tax credit.

Still pressure is on for Tesla, which lost $38.5M USD in its last fiscal quarter, bringing its total losses for the year to $68M USD -- over $10M USD more than it lost 
all of last year.  The company has an upcoming contract with Toyota to produce an electrified RAV4 that also promises great future payoffs, but at the present is sapping cash.

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RE: Both are primitive tech
By RedmondChad on 8/13/2010 6:15:30 PM , Rating: 2
Solandri, you still have a problem with your electricity cost calculations. The charging overhead is nowhere near what you're suggesting, it's only about 10%. The amps decline at the end of charging, so not as much energy gets put in to the pack. You can't figure it by multiplying a suggested charging time by amps and volts.

3 miles per kWh is a good metric from other EVs (many owners put meters on the outlet to measure it); that includes all charging (and other) overhead. To cover 100k miles, you will need around 33.3kWh.

You also neglected to mention that the base Leaf is equipped much better than the base Civic. And with no emissions inspections or oil changes, maintenance costs will be lower. (My 7.5-year-old EV has seen nothing but wiper blades and tires). And that gas prices are a lot more likely to rise than electricity prices. I think the Leaf is going to be astoundingly cheap to own; although of course nobody can prove anything either way because it all depends on assumptions about the future.

But all of that is beside the point, anyway. Why does a solution that helps our economy (buy less AND buy local), improves our country's strategic position (no dependence on the Middle East), pollutes less (unless you're in the ~1% of the population that gets all your power from coal--then it pollutes about the same), and reduces carbon emissions have to cost less? I'm willing to pay quite a bit extra for it.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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