The conference speakers were surprisingly blunt in their appraisal of batteries and motors for electric vehicles at last week's EV Japan conference. Batteries control the cost of pure electric vehicles by a big margin and they are the largest part of the cost of hybrids, though a lesser percentage. However, the rapid trend to plug-in hybrids with useful rather than token all-electric range means even hybrid batteries are getting larger. So why did US Secretary of State for Energy Steven Chu recently say that both battery and motor cost reduction and improvement are key to making electric vehicles affordable and therefore widely adopted in future? Clear answers came from some of the largest automotive companies at this event.
"We have a rare earth cost problem with our motor magnets." Nissan
"Price of magnets can go up 100% if we do not displace dysprosium." Nissan.
The analysts at Citigroup referred to the need for, "Supply bottleneck for non-ferrous, precious and rare metal materials - reduction in amount used or development of substitutes".
"Rare earth price increase has increased permanent magnet motor cost by 40% since 2009." Nidec - which has a new switched reluctance motor for cars and similar sized vehicles that combines the benefits of synchronous motor technology with needing no magnets, so it can be sold at lower cost.
We learned that Tokyo University of Science, Tokai University, Hokkaido University, Mitsubishi Electric and others are working on a continuum of opportunity from synchronous traction motors that have magnets that do not contain dysprosium or neodymium, ones that have smaller magnets, sometimes using more of the reluctance phenomenon and ones that are entirely switched reluctance. There is similar work elsewhere in the world at companies such as SR Drives in the UK trialling big switched reluctance motors on buses etc.
In parallel with all this, the asynchronous motor, which has no magnets, is the favoured motor already for buses and trucks and military vehicles according to the analysis in the IDTechEx report, Electric Motors for Electric Vehicles 2012-2022
Ruggedness is a particular plus - it is not all about cost.
Bosch described its permanent magnet motor with integrated generator but this is not fully integrated like an asynchronous motor that simply generates when in reverse. The emphasis on permanent magnets made it look rather like yesterday's story when everyone else is racing to remove magnets.
Popular understanding is that traction motors without magnets are much larger, heavier and less efficient, but we heard of switched reluctance motors of over 95% efficiency and we already knew of some asynchronous motors of similar performance when permanent magnet motors, whether BLDC or PMAC ( trapezoidal or sinusoidal) typically come in at about 94.5% efficiency as verified at this event.
On the other hand, although Tesla went to asynchronous motors when almost all cars use PM synchronous motors and, in the exhibition here about 30% of the small vehicles on display had asynchronous motors, Tesla is now ambivalent. The Tesla speaker said they would go to any motor technology that meets their specification and, above all, gets the cost down. In other words, there is a copper cost problem too. If the switched reluctance motors really have overcome their problems of noise, vibration and working with fine tolerances, they do have an advantage in using less copper than asynchronous equivalents.
Some of the blunt talk on batteries included, "Japanese batteries are the most reliable" Tesla
"Toshiba SCiB batteries have superior durability and acceptance of regen. (current) due to lithium tin oxide anodes" Honda.
The Institute of Information Technology assessed that a shakeout of battery suppliers commenced in 2011, with Nissan/AESC, LGChem and Panasonic/Sanyo ramping up production on good order books but SBLimotive, LEJ/GS Yuasa and A123 hungry and dropping prices. Of course, we note that this is only the first battle of a war and the Samsung Bosch joint venture may be a late starter but it has enormous intellectual property according to the analysis of 40,000 advanced energy storage patents in a report of that name Advanced Energy Storage Technologies: Patent Trends and Company Positioning by IDTechEx and it has enormous financial firepower. Neither partner will compete with this joint venture, unlike the situation with other joint ventures making traction batteries. IIT noted that the Koreans have the fastest traction battery production lines for now. It also noted that the supply chain for traction batteries is not just bypassed by the largest vehicle manufacturers tending to make their own but the independents are jumping round the Tier 1 intermediaries "like Bosch and Continental". "The conclusion is that Tier 1 suppliers are not necessary (in the traction battery supply chain)".
For more attend Electric Vehicles Land Sea Air USA 2012 ,where uniquely we reflect the new realities that there are now six key enabling technologies and they are competing in all forms of EV, hybrid, pure electric and land, water and airborne, manned and unmanned. Speakers from ten countries detail the situation in their parts of the world including SNYPER 3 from Singapore, first to fly an electric helicopter recently, showing how up to 35% of helicopter crashes could be avoided with hybrid electric technology. Sun Yat-Sen University China and Germany Trade & Invest detail their national situations. Next generation batteries are covered by Robert Bosch (Bosch Group) of Germany, Oxis Energy UK and speakers from Canada and the USA. OLEV Technologies will show how to continuously pick up power, Schneider Electric of France how modern charging infrastructure is a system not boxes. There will be two presentations on supercapacitor breakthroughs - here is the future. See the full picture, with best-in-class speakers from across the whole world - Slovenia to Gibraltar, China to Canada, each carefully chosen by IDTechEx because of their leadership. There are two presentations on agricultural EVs and five on electric aircraft including Boeing and Airbus involvement. Other presenters include BMW (cars etc), Mitsubishi Motors (small commercial vehicles and cars), Daimler AG (commercial and military vehicles and cars) and Toyota (leader in electric forklifts, cars, buses but also presenting on its fuel cell vehicle program.) Uniquely, a large number of electric vehicle manufacturers not seen in conventional EV events will present including iRobot Corporation Autonomous Underwater Vehicles AUVs (better known for EVs as robot vacuum cleaners). Mission Motors and two others focus on electric motor cycles. Many manufacturers of industrial, commercial, military, cars and other EVs will be there. Come to this event where you avoid the usual speakers with nothing new to say and meet people new and useful to you without doing a lot of travelling to find them. Apply for an award.