FutureFolly
Posts: 141
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:22 pm

GM's next major EV investment

Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:36 pm

The Spark EV's powertrain is quite simply next generation EV technology. It's the true stand out part of the Spark versus all the competition, even BMW's i3. The rest of the car was well done, but it's not impressive the way motor is.

So what area of EV technology should be the focus of GM's next major investment?

Alternative question, what order of priority should they be put in? My personal order would basically be as follows.

-9.6kw On-Board Charger: Getting the 80% recharge time under two hours would start to approach the convenience of DC charging. Being able to hook directly into a NEMA 14-50 like a Tesla would be a huge advantage. It would also be a great marketing tool and benefit the DC-FC system.

-DC-FC Network: Again, probably partnership dependent, but GM could provide the capital needed to create a network of DC-FCs like Tesla's Supercharger Network. Alternatively, GM could provide capital for Chevy dealers to add DC-FCs.

-Regenerative Brakes: Natural feeling regenerative brakes is one of the Holy Grails of EV
technology. Being the first to master it would be huge and possibly the perfect way to compliment to the excellent motor.

-Advanced Frame Materials: Similar to Ford's investments in aluminum with the F-150 and BMW's investment's in carbon-fiber, weight reducing materials will eventually find applications in most future vehicle frames, but getting out of the gate early would be a huge advantage.

-Lithium Batteries: Investing development money with a company like A123/B456 would bring down future battery costs. Tesla's business model basically mandates a massive increase in the global supply of lithium batteries.

The 9.6kw OBC or DC-FC network would probably be the most practical for GM in terms of ROI because the cost could be passed on to only the customers that wanted those features.

The brakes would produce the most noticeable change to the system but could easily cost over a hundred million dollar to develop. Since EVs are still small volume and not profitable all investments are going to be difficult to justify. Better brakes would be difficult to market as well.

GM is no doubt doing materials research like all automakers, but implementation in small cars will probably be a low priority for many years. Trucks and SUVs are already highly profitable and would see the biggest quantitative drop in weight.

It's tempting to think that better batteries is where every automaker should be putting their money, but realistically investing in a lithium battery producer would be a gamble. Tesla's Gigafactory mainly aimed at lowering prices through scale, not research. If GM wanted to do something similar with a partner they would need to offer a huge amount of capital. They would also need extensive plans for how to avoid flooding the market with batteries. If GM doubled down on EVs this would make more sense, but they would realistically have to be planning a full vehicle lineup of EVs.

TonyWilliams
Posts: 572
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:23 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:19 am

FutureFolly wrote:9.6kw On-Board Charger: Getting the 80% recharge time under two hours would start to approach the convenience of DC charging. Being able to hook directly into a NEMA 14-50 like a Tesla would be a huge advantage. It would also be a great marketing tool and benefit the DC-FC system.

They can buy them right now from Tesla (they have built over 50,000).

DC-FC Network: Again, probably partnership dependent, but GM could provide the capital needed to create a network of DC-FCs like Tesla's Supercharger Network. Alternatively, GM could provide capital for Chevy dealers to add DC-FCs.

You don't think it would be smarter to jump off the Frankenplug train to nowhere and partner with Tesla for THEIR Supercharger network? The first OEM to do that (I predict it will be Daimler / Mercedes Benz) will be in a commanding position.

The model that Nissan uses, and likely BMW, of putting their particular brand of charger at their respective dealers is grossly flawed.

Regenerative Brakes: Natural feeling regenerative brakes is one of the Holy Grails of EV
technology. Being the first to master it would be huge and possibly the perfect way to compliment to the excellent motor.

I guess you haven't driven the competition.

Advanced Frame Materials: Similar to Ford's investments in aluminum with the F-150 and BMW's investment's in carbon-fiber, weight reducing materials will eventually find applications in most future vehicle frames, but getting out of the gate early would be a huge advantage.

Too late for "early". Did you know that the Tesla Model S is all aluminum?

Trucks and SUVs are already highly profitable and would see the biggest quantitative drop in weight.

You hit the nail on the head. If government doesn't mandate EV's, GM wouldn't build any. When they do have a mandate, they do the absolute minimum, just like Toyota, Honda, et al.

It's tempting to think that better batteries is where every automaker should be putting their money, but realistically investing in a lithium battery producer would be a gamble. Tesla's Gigafactory mainly aimed at lowering prices through scale, not research.

You seriously don't think Tesla is leading the way in battery research, particularly when it's the only game they have?
Contrary to many folks here, I do NOT own a LEAF.

FutureFolly
Posts: 141
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:22 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:25 am

TonyWilliams wrote:
FutureFolly wrote:9.6kw On-Board Charger: Getting the 80% recharge time under two hours would start to approach the convenience of DC charging. Being able to hook directly into a NEMA 14-50 like a Tesla would be a huge advantage. It would also be a great marketing tool and benefit the DC-FC system.

They can buy them right now from Tesla (they have built over 50,000).
If the size of Tesla's OBC isn't an issue it could almost be an aftermarket upgrade. This may actually be a brilliant idea.

The Model S is a BIG car though. Their engineering size constraints were probably not as small GM would need in a Spark sized car.
TonyWilliams wrote:
FutureFolly wrote:DC-FC Network: Again, probably partnership dependent, but GM could provide the capital needed to create a network of DC-FCs like Tesla's Supercharger Network. Alternatively, GM could provide capital for Chevy dealers to add DC-FCs.
2
You don't think it would be smarter to jump off the Frankenplug train to nowhere and partner with Tesla for THEIR Supercharger network? The first OEM to do that (I predict it will be Daimler / Mercedes Benz) will be in a commanding position.

The model that Nissan uses, and likely BMW, of putting their particular brand of charger at their respective dealers is grossly flawed.
I honestly don't think Tesla wants to license their Supercharger Network to GM for a reasonable price. It's part of the exclusivity of the network that it's not crowded like gas stations. MB and BMW are also basically direct competitors, and unless they formed a deep alliance, I don't see Tesla giving up the strategic value of the network.

Another consideration most people don't notice is that Tesla specifically placed the chargers on major pathways, but not near population centers where Tesla owners would live or work. It can't just be the price of real estate. They are designing them as way stations for people passing through, not people on their way to do unscheduled errands, like most BEV owners.

It's not a good fit for anyone.

It's too early to predict the doom of the Frankenplug as well. It has positive attributes too.
TonyWilliams wrote:
FutureFolly wrote:Regenerative Brakes: Natural feeling regenerative brakes is one of the Holy Grails of EV
technology. Being the first to master it would be huge and possibly the perfect way to compliment to the excellent motor.

I guess you haven't driven the competition.
Correct. Not even an EV owner actually. Did an around the block in a friend's Leaf.

I'm genuinely curious who has the best brakes. I have read that the Prius has the best brakes for a hybrid, but it didn't happen overnight. From a theoretical perspective there is no reason they shouldn't get to the point of being undetectable. Until that point more research is always needed.
TonyWilliams wrote:
FutureFolly wrote:Advanced Frame Materials: Similar to Ford's investments in aluminum with the F-150 and BMW's investment's in carbon-fiber, weight reducing materials will eventually find applications in most future vehicle frames, but getting out of the gate early would be a huge advantage.

Too late for "early". Did you know that the Tesla Model S is all aluminum?
Actually I did, but by "early" I didn't mean leading the way. It's definitely too late for that. Lol

I was trying to illuminate the point that even if "cutting edge" research in materials were develop it would be a slow trickle down to small cars like the Volt and Spark.

I don't think future cars will go full aluminum though. The price premium of the metal will probably prevent this in anything under the Full-Sized Sedan/E-Segment. I think we will see a lot of aluminum-steel hybrid frames with aluminum sub-frames.
TonyWilliams wrote:
FutureFolly wrote:Trucks and SUVs are already highly profitable and would see the biggest quantitative drop in weight.

You hit the nail on the head. If government doesn't mandate EV's, GM wouldn't build any. When they do have a mandate, they do the absolute minimum, just like Toyota, Honda, et al.
The Spark is only masking as a compliance car. California is a test market, not the final market. If they were going to be dragged into the BEV market, they would have bought a powertrain, not developed such an innovative one, and they wouldn't have included DC-Fast Charging in any form.

The sale price was meant to be ultracompetitive too. Most compliance car only have attractive lease prices.

Everything about the car was a strategic. That's not what you do with a car you're being dragged into making.
TonyWilliams wrote:
FutureFolly wrote:It's tempting to think that better batteries is where every automaker should be putting their money, but realistically investing in a lithium battery producer would be a gamble. Tesla's Gigafactory mainly aimed at lowering prices through scale, not research.
You seriously don't think Tesla is leading the way in battery research, particularly when it's the only game they have?
Tesla is certainly leading the way in terms of dollars invested. The research side of battery investment is very risky though.

I meant that you can easily do research without a Gigafactory. You can't easily reduce cost without a Gigafactory. I was pointing out that there are two ways to reduce cost, research and scale. The risk of the research is that it doesn't produce the discovery you need. The risk of the Gigafactory is that capacity unexpectedly exceeds demand. Tesla's Gigafactory is about maintaining supply so Tesla's demand doesn't inflate prices of Lithium battery cells. It's as much a need as it is a cost reducing measure. There is no reason for Tesla to hedge against the factory not reaching scale when the car company can't survive without consuming all the output of the factory. GM can't say the same thing and that makes a Gigafactory a different kind of gamble for GM than Tesla. GM would have to change their EV business model dramatically, and that is unlikely.

If GM invested with a battery producer and they developed the Holy Grail of Electrodes together, GM would have the inside track on the best future batteries without having to pay extortion prices because they would be co-owners of the intellectual property. That is a BIG contingency though. Research is just a gamble, and gambles aren't what GM is interested in at this point.

nozferatu
Posts: 575
Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:48 pm

What I would like to see are the following:

Relating to the electric/battery side of things:

- improved battery technology that address the following issues: A) power density, B) rapid charge time, C) mass.
- improved motor/regen

Relating to non-electric things:

- lightening of chassis/frames
- using carbon fiber reinforced material as next generation of chassis design...ala i3.
- recyclable/renewable materials inside.
- sportier feel/handling.

nozferatu
Posts: 575
Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:55 pm

TonyWilliams wrote: You hit the nail on the head. If government doesn't mandate EV's, GM wouldn't build any. When they do have a mandate, they do the absolute minimum, just like Toyota, Honda, et al.
For doing the "absolute" minimum, the Spark EV is damned good minimum. Much better than either what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

I don't see why anyone should go with Tesla....it's not as if Tesla is handing things out.

cwerdna
Posts: 478
Joined: Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:35 am
Location: SF Bay Area, CA

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Wed Apr 02, 2014 10:24 pm

nozferatu wrote: For doing the "absolute" minimum, the Spark EV is damned good minimum. Much better than either what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

I don't see why anyone should go with Tesla....it's not as if Tesla is handing things out.
Not sure I'd agree about Toyota... The Rav4 EV is the "poor man's Tesla"s w/WAY more range then any other EV cheaper than a Tesla. It's also quite fast... IIRC, a bit slower than the Spark EV but faster all the rest.

Only problem is, the Tesla bits seem unreliable. :(

Oh, and the Rav4 EV has a 10 kW on-board charger, which it's had from day one. Fit EV also has a 6.6 kW OBC, from day one. Unfortunately, neither has any DC FC capability... well, the JDM Fit EV supposedly has CHAdeMO but for some reason, Honda left it out of the US version.

Skullbearer
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:47 pm
Location: Sacramento, CA

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Thu Apr 03, 2014 8:03 am

cwerdna wrote:
nozferatu wrote: For doing the "absolute" minimum, the Spark EV is damned good minimum. Much better than either what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

I don't see why anyone should go with Tesla....it's not as if Tesla is handing things out.
Not sure I'd agree about Toyota... The Rav4 EV is the "poor man's Tesla"s w/WAY more range then any other EV cheaper than a Tesla. It's also quite fast... IIRC, a bit slower than the Spark EV but faster all the rest.

Only problem is, the Tesla bits seem unreliable. :(

Oh, and the Rav4 EV has a 10 kW on-board charger, which it's had from day one. Fit EV also has a 6.6 kW OBC, from day one. Unfortunately, neither has any DC FC capability... well, the JDM Fit EV supposedly has CHAdeMO but for some reason, Honda left it out of the US version.
The Rav4 EV IS a Tesla project, which is why it has their OBC and similar range focus, along with very strong performance.

Part of the low adoption of DC-FC for vehicles with 30kWh or under batteries is the very small usage and smaller benefit compared to DC-FC on a Tesla, for example. DC-FC on 20kWh usable and below (Spark, Smart, Fiat) is often predicted by companies I work with to have less than a 2% regular usage. LEAF owners are demonstrating this, for example. In Davis, CA, the Nissan dealer has a fast charger, they only see about 1 Leaf a month use it, but there are almost 100 Leafs that commute past that dealership, or are parked in the area. They often stop and use the 7kW charger, but not the DC-FC (usually just topping off while they eat nearby). One of my co-workers has a Leaf and lives just around the corner in fact, and he only fast charged once as a pure novelty. 6.6kW covers almost everyone's driving habits with only a small disruption. I fall into the small percentage that really NEEDS 9.9kW charging, since I am doing >120 miles a day with my Spark (with just the 3.3kW OBC) and have already run down to 1% once, and 0% another time (had to push it the last 1/4 mile home two days ago). Having to very carefully plan my errands so I can sip 3.3kW charging here or there, to make my rounds and not strand myself and my pregnant wife.

Now for larger EVs or PHEVs, like the Rav4, trucks, utility vehicles, etc; DC-FC or 10kW+ OBC would definitely see some usage (according to the customers of my employer). Utility companies are definitely interested in 10-20kW charging, but NOT >20kW as the benefits do not offset the cost of installation and the premium charge from the electricity company. For example, one customer did a study based on their vehicle usage, and to operate a pure BEV service vehicle 24/7, they only needed ~10-12kW charging... only at their facility, and only 6.6kW when out on a job. For a PHEV vehicle with 30+ miles EV range, they only need 6.6kW period, and they can operate an entire day on just 1-3 gallons of diesel plus the electricity. On the flipside, installing a 15kW+ service for 20 fleet vehicles to use (even staggered) would cost so much extra that it doesn't make any financial sense vs. just paying for diesel. In all honesty, even when these companies really care strongly about going green, they simply cannot make money and do so with BEVs or reliance on high power charging systems. The setup cost for charging 10+ fleet vehicles at a combined 100-200+kW is HUGE, the power company basically has to treat your facility as its own neighborhood. Its like having a full size manufacturing plant, but you're only charging a few vehicles.


I personally believe that pushing for lower power (10kW) DC-FC as a widespread standard will allow the Spark and other <20kW usable BEVs to enjoy a reasonably priced vehicle (only 3.3 or 6.6kW OBC) and as quick of charging when out and about as is regularly useful. The hardware on the vehicle side is almost the same for 45kW DC-FC, so targeting only 10-15kW DC-FC on the provider side could mean much faster growth of available charging points. Most locations have available service for 1 or 2 10kW DC-FC units, but rarely for even 1 45kW unit.
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nozferatu
Posts: 575
Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:10 am

cwerdna wrote:
nozferatu wrote: Not sure I'd agree about Toyota... The Rav4 EV is the "poor man's Tesla"s w/WAY more range then any other EV cheaper than a Tesla. It's also quite fast... IIRC, a bit slower than the Spark EV but faster all the rest.

Only problem is, the Tesla bits seem unreliable. :(

Oh, and the Rav4 EV has a 10 kW on-board charger, which it's had from day one. Fit EV also has a 6.6 kW OBC, from day one. Unfortunately, neither has any DC FC capability... well, the JDM Fit EV supposedly has CHAdeMO but for some reason, Honda left it out of the US version.

We owned a Rav4...albeit an regular IC version...and it sucked. Inside and out. Fitting a Tesla powertrain in there doesn't make it a better quality car...just an electric car with a better powertrain I suppose.

As far as range goes, I've learned official versus actually differ greatly. So far I'm getting 110 miles of range on my Spark EV per charge.

Needless to say, each model has their pluses and minuses. I'd prefer to drive a smaller vehicle rather than one the size of either a Tesla or Rav4.

Curious in what way are the Tesla bits seeming unreliable? I thought they were reliable.

iletric
Posts: 163
Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:43 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:12 pm

What's Tesla "bits"?
--------------------------------------
Save $$ --> Don't buy --> Lease !

FutureFolly
Posts: 141
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:22 pm

Re: GM's next major EV investment

Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:17 am

Skullbearer wrote:The Rav4 EV IS a Tesla project, which is why it has their OBC and similar range focus, along with very strong performance.

Part of the low adoption of DC-FC for vehicles with 30kWh or under batteries is the very small usage and smaller benefit compared to DC-FC on a Tesla, for example. DC-FC on 20kWh usable and below (Spark, Smart, Fiat) is often predicted by companies I work with to have less than a 2% regular usage. LEAF owners are demonstrating this, for example. In Davis, CA, the Nissan dealer has a fast charger, they only see about 1 Leaf a month use it, but there are almost 100 Leafs that commute past that dealership, or are parked in the area. They often stop and use the 7kW charger, but not the DC-FC (usually just topping off while they eat nearby). One of my co-workers has a Leaf and lives just around the corner in fact, and he only fast charged once as a pure novelty. 6.6kW covers almost everyone's driving habits with only a small disruption. I fall into the small percentage that really NEEDS 9.9kW charging, since I am doing >120 miles a day with my Spark (with just the 3.3kW OBC) and have already run down to 1% once, and 0% another time (had to push it the last 1/4 mile home two days ago). Having to very carefully plan my errands so I can sip 3.3kW charging here or there, to make my rounds and not strand myself and my pregnant wife.

Now for larger EVs or PHEVs, like the Rav4, trucks, utility vehicles, etc; DC-FC or 10kW+ OBC would definitely see some usage (according to the customers of my employer). Utility companies are definitely interested in 10-20kW charging, but NOT >20kW as the benefits do not offset the cost of installation and the premium charge from the electricity company. For example, one customer did a study based on their vehicle usage, and to operate a pure BEV service vehicle 24/7, they only needed ~10-12kW charging... only at their facility, and only 6.6kW when out on a job. For a PHEV vehicle with 30+ miles EV range, they only need 6.6kW period, and they can operate an entire day on just 1-3 gallons of diesel plus the electricity. On the flipside, installing a 15kW+ service for 20 fleet vehicles to use (even staggered) would cost so much extra that it doesn't make any financial sense vs. just paying for diesel. In all honesty, even when these companies really care strongly about going green, they simply cannot make money and do so with BEVs or reliance on high power charging systems. The setup cost for charging 10+ fleet vehicles at a combined 100-200+kW is HUGE, the power company basically has to treat your facility as its own neighborhood. Its like having a full size manufacturing plant, but you're only charging a few vehicles.


I personally believe that pushing for lower power (10kW) DC-FC as a widespread standard will allow the Spark and other <20kW usable BEVs to enjoy a reasonably priced vehicle (only 3.3 or 6.6kW OBC) and as quick of charging when out and about as is regularly useful. The hardware on the vehicle side is almost the same for 45kW DC-FC, so targeting only 10-15kW DC-FC on the provider side could mean much faster growth of available charging points. Most locations have available service for 1 or 2 10kW DC-FC units, but rarely for even 1 45kW unit.
I wasn't sure the commercial/fleet market would be seriously interested, but now that you mention the cost of upgrading the business's electrical service to support the potentially massive peak demand I can easily see how traditional DC-FC systems would be impractical. This is almost distinct enough to be called L2+. Utilities need to be the ones making high power installations less costly, but until that point novel solutions are going to be important to progress.

I see a lot of potential for PHEV in the heavy-duty truck sector, but there have been a lot of challenges that L2+ charging may help fix. Businesses are regularly looking for opportunities for investment. The cost of upgrading to a hybrid system can only be justified if it saves a substantial amount of money everyday by raising mileage significantly. Except for start-stop intensive commercial vehicles, i.e. delivery and garbage trucks, saving a lot of diesel is only practical by giving trucks electric-only capabilities. Luckily large trucks have large enough payloads and plenty of undercarriage space perfect for large battery packs. Charging is a major bottleneck though. From what I've read the L2 OBCs are barely able to recharge the massive battery packs in the 12-16 hours the trucks are not in operation. Clearly these are the vehicles that need to be using 19.2kW/80amp L2 OBCs that don't exist yet. L2+ charging could also be much cheaper option for a significant amount of time.

Do you see much potential in Power Take-Off shaft based hybrid systems? As an architecture I think it's the most seamless I've encountered for the class of vehicles.

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