Video: Motley Fool Doesn’t Think a Move to Pure Electric Vehicles is Inevitable

4 years ago by Electric CarsTV 26

Though we think that the move to pure electric vehicles is inevitable (possibly several decades away, but still inevitable), Motley Fool’s senior auto analyst, John Rosevear, disagrees.

Finger Quotes Are Always Fun

Finger Quotes Are Always Fun

Rosevear is, without a doubt, an educated man.  His automotive knowledge, especially when it comes to Tesla Motors, is apparent.

It’s not often that we find it intriguing to listen to someone who argues against our stance, but in this case Rosevear presents some convincing points.

He’s certainly not against the idea that electric vehicles may be the future.  He simply thinks it’s too early to know that’s a for sure thing.

The video description below says it all:

“Are electric vehicles here to stay? In this video segment, John points out that while personal vehicles will certainly use less gasoline in years to come, it’s too soon to say whether electric cars will be the final answer.”

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26 responses to "Video: Motley Fool Doesn’t Think a Move to Pure Electric Vehicles is Inevitable"

  1. Marshal G says:

    He’s clearly more articulate than the average EV hater, but not necessarily more informed. He hears some automakers making noise about hydrogen cars and takes their word for it that they are coming to all 50 states and people will buy them, and of course “the market will decide.” And a good bit of his argument seems to be that “Teslas are expensive” which seems to be the standard way to brush off EV’s in general. He doesn’t seem to take into account coming battery improvements and inevitable price reductions and competition among the growing number of manufacturers entering the mix. He reminds me of the people who dismiss solar because “it only makes up 1% of our mix so it can never replace coal.” Nobody seems to be taking Nissan seriously which could be their biggest mistake.

    1. Mint says:

      His suggestion of hydrogen as a possibility may show he’s not completely in tune with the numbers, but plug-in hybrids (which I assume is included in his discussion of hybrids) are going to be tough to beat with pure EVs.

      How much of a typical person’s driving can be made EV with a 100 mile range? 85%? Okay, lets say a future 300 mile range battery and ubiquitous SuperDuperChargers can do that last 15% (~2000 miles per year) without a lifestyle change. Those extra 200 miles are about 50kWh extra battery.

      You’re going to need REALLY cheap batteries to beat a range extender. Like $50/kWh cheap.

      As for solar, I’ve never heard that rationale used before. The serious challenge it faces are two-fold. The most immediate problem is energy storage. Let’s make some generous assumptions:
      – we get a free, perfect, cross-continent grid
      – solar power’s LCOE goes down to 2 cents per kWh
      Generating electricity with natural gas when the sun isn’t shining needs has a marginal cost of about 4c/kWh, so we’ll need to get energy storage costs down to 2 cents per kWh (one cycle per day). If your storage lasts 20 years (7300 cycles), is 100% efficient, needs zero maintenance, and investors only look for a 5% ROI, you need cost to be $91/kWh.

      The other issue is longer term, and one of fundamental energy density. For solar to be the solution that replaces coal, it’ll have to outrun the promising developments in nuclear. Molten salt reactors using either uranium or thorium that have a very low cost floor will be a reality within a decade, and fusion is making serious progress, too.

  2. Jason says:

    Somewhat abstract, but interesting viewpoints. If the future of hydrogen relies on current automotive manufacturers to continue pushing the technology then it will never happen. Most of them are still trying to delay the adoption of hybrid electric and full electric vehicles.

    1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      H2 only works if onboard H2 fuel cells get down to $60-80/kW before solid-oxide fuel cells that can take gasoline/diesel/CNG do. I don’t think the market will accept 100kW “engine” costing more than $8k.

      1. io says:

        A small but growing fraction of the market has accepted the idea of an 8k$+ “fuel tank”.
        Also, you certainly don’t need a continuous 100kW to move an average car. 40kW would easily sustain highway speeds, uphill several %, with passengers.

        1. Since cars are generally not operating at wide open throttle on public streets for more than a few seconds at a time, the most demanding driving regimen is usually freeway driving. That usually only takes about 20 hp = 15 kW.

          The BMW i3 gas engine puts out only 26 kW = 35 hp. So presumably that’s a viable real-world number that includes things like climbing grades on the freeway.

          http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/a-solar-powered-car/

          http://ecomodder.com/forum/tool-aero-rolling-resistance.php

          http://bmwi3.blogspot.com/2013/06/bmw-i3-rex-hobbled-horse-or-galloping.html

          1. kdawg says:

            To maintain 73mph on flat terrain, my Volt uses 24kW.
            (in the summer, no AC)

  3. Dan Frederiksen says:

    I used to think that Motley Fool might be a little clever because they have a self ironic name but no, it’s actually a literal name. They are fools. They don’t know what they are talking about.
    They should not be given air time.

    1. kdawg says:

      And apparently a senior analyst there cannot afford a Tesla.

  4. Dan Hue says:

    IMHO, the move is inevitable because of a little problem called climate change. We are slowly but surely transitioning to renewable energy, and the need for storage is going to increase. EVs need battery storage too, and using them for that purpose is like hitting 2 birds with one stone. Indeed, the real long term challenge for renewables is to align the supply with the demand. Flexibility can be worked on the supply side (smart interconnected grid, mix of complementary sources, timely use of hydro as backup, etc.), but there is a lot that can be done on the demand too, and that is where EVs (which can be tethered to the grid for most of the day) could prove invaluable. So while I agree with the point made in the video, which is basically that the traditional ICE can still be improved in a way to reduce fossil fuel usage en masse, I think that BEVs will have an extra allure for reasons beyond transportation.

  5. M says:

    (http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1083457_china-to-build-ecomotors-efficient-opposed-piston-engines) Small “Ecomotor” with 50% COP and twice the size of typycal engine(2 kw per 1 kg) as generator of PHEV -and you do not need to wait lithium air batteries

  6. David says:

    Clearly uneducated. Understanding the physics behind fuel cells and hydrogen its obvious that too much energy must be expended in creating and managing hydrogen to make it the ultimate fuel. Electricity and battery storage is already much more efficient than hydrogen and likely to increase over time.
    Increasing mileage is immaterial. You cannot get the theoretical efficiency out of a gas engine that you can get from electric drive. The inhibitor is battery technology. Already its good enough, but there are clear long term paths for that to become less of an issue. At some level the point becomes the most efficient means to generate electricity. In that case, solar is the ultimate and hard to argue with from a long term perspective.

  7. Solar and wind are often criticized because of their intermittency.

    But grid-scale storage solutions are already under $100 kWh and trending lower. The added cost of pumped hydro, for example, which already makes up 3% of generating capacity world-wide, is just $0.05 per kWh. Not much compared to peak/off peak price deltas, which are $0.13kWh in just the San Diego Time of Use 2 rate chart.

    http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/10/15/15greenwire-doe-promotes-pumped-hydro-as-option-for-renewa-51805.html?pagewanted=all

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/refs/storage/Cost%20Analysis%20of%20Electricity%20Storage.pdf

    1. Jesse Gurr says:

      “But grid-scale storage solutions are already under $100 kWh and trending lower.”

      That’s fine and dandy but what does that have to do with BEV batteries? The report you linked did not include Li-ion batteries in its study of grid tied storage. Pumped hydro is an excellent grid storage medium, I agree. But in the report you linked, battery systems are 3 to 12 times more expensive than pumped hydro. And unfortunately we can’t just build pumped hydro where ever we want.

      I really don’t understand what your point was though.

    2. Spec9 says:

      The people that complain about the intermittency are not engineers and scientists. Between geographic diversity, renewable source type diversity, demand-response, conservation, over-building, pumped-storage, and other techniques, the effects of intermittency can largely be handled. It is just not a huge issue like the anti-renewable folk like to portray it.

  8. David Murray says:

    I agree with him and would not classify him as an EV hater. All of the videos I’ve seen of him he seems to be rather unbiased. And I don’t think he was suggesting that EVs might disappear. I think he was saying that he’s not convinced that the pure EV will be what everyone is driving in the future. And I think that is a fair statement. I fully expect EVs to be a part of a diverse solution in the future, which includes plug-in hybrids, natural gas, regular gasoline, diesel, and possibly even fuel cells. But I honestly think if the fuel cell ever plays a role at all it would only be as a range extending option for an EV and it would probably run on a liquid fuel such as methanol.

    Keep in mind that as more and more people switch to plug-in vehicles and CNG over the next 10 years, it will decrease the demand for gasoline which will lower the price and therefor slow the adoption towards alternative fuel vehicles. Eventually we’ll reach some sort of equilibrium in the market.

    1. kdawg says:

      The problem is, other than bio-fuels, most of the other options he alludes to require fossil fuels, which by definition, do not have a future. Hydrogen, say from cracking water, is a net energy loser. You’re better off just using the electricity directly.

      I think Rosevear get’s paid to sell the controversy, so that’s what he does.

  9. muchski says:

    Yeah this guy is naive. If he did his research he would realize hydrogen is dead in the water haha, er H20. Also analogy of paying more for a Tesla is like paying more to get an iPhone instead of an Android, that’s a horribly misinformed statement. Compared to luxury sedans the Model S is in the same price range but is a much better and more featured car. Android phones offer more features and choice at the same or less cost than an iPhone. Teens and Grandmas have iPhones too so I don’t think it is a premium product or experience nor is it cool.

    Tesla makes a better car that addresses all previous limitations of electric such as range and charging, and they are actively working on addressing the last issue which is cost. Oh and they are also super cool!

  10. Loboc says:

    Long term, (200 yrs) any kind of ‘switch’ to CNG or methanol (derived from coal) will fail due to supply and increased costs. They are jumping from one tree to another to avoid a rainstorm.

    Some kind of high density high conversion energy will be needed to perpetuate personal transportation.

    The solution is to, unfortunately, get rid of the personal transportation root cause. A village approach that avoids commuting is one solution.

  11. Spec9 says:

    Motley fool is well-named. A motley group of fools. There is some wisdom there . . . and a lot of stupid stuff as well. They currently have a big groupthink there are about CNG.

  12. HVACman says:

    Frankly, he makes some great points, but they are based on a possibly disastrously-flawed assumption that he and most of the world continues to make. Hes assumes “we” will continue to have the wealth to afford private “cars” 50 years from now, regardless of energy source or navigational specifics. What happens to the US and the world economically as the double whammy of climate change and fossil fuel depletion slams our current infrastructure over the next few decades is the bigger question. It’s not just personal transportation that has to be revolutionized. Manufacturing, shipping, air transportation, heating, power generation, agriculture – all depend on abundant and cheap fossil fuels. Technological revolutions several magnitudes larger than EV’s, PV, and wind combined must be undertaken and succeed in short-order to maintain the economic status-quo, much less improve the world economy for the 3rd-world multitudes also clammering for the lifestyle of the average American.

  13. George B says:

    Thanks for posting this video interview. I remember John Rosevear’s analysis of the Tesla fire in Kent, WA, which I found articulate and well-informed. This interview, on the other hand, shows that he does not know the subject matter well enough yet. Pure EVs are one of the most disruptive technologies we have ever seen. Think CRTs being displaced with LCDs. Think feature phones getting their butt kicked by smart phones. Except this industry is even bigger and more is at stake here. Pure EVs will be eventually much cheaper than any other competing technology. Additionally, they offer a superior ride, and a better overall ownership experience with much lower maintenance costs.

    Yes, the underlying technology, particularly the batteries, still needs to get a bit better and cheaper. That said, let’s recall that the Internet has started to take shape when most people were still offline, and those who could access the ‘net were doing so via clunky and slow devices called “modems”. EVs are on the cusp of mass adoption, which will be facilitated by impeding technological advances and an increasing concern for the environment. Electricity, which is already ubiquitous, can soon be produced sustainably and more cheaply than ever before by a combination of solar and wind.

    I think the next 5-10 years are going to be truly exciting for this technology. You don’t have to believe me. Just watch this rousing speech Lars Thomsen, a noted futurologist, has delivered at the 26th International AVL Conference in early September (it’s all in German, unfortunately):

    http://bit.ly/thomsenpresenation

  14. Gadge says:

    Hard to believe, but Rosevear’s arrogance was out shown by his ignorance. When higher energy density batteries start production relatively soon, EV’s will blow ICE & fuel cell cars out of the water.

    1. George B says:

      Indeed. He really reminds me of the talking investment advice heads of the dotcom era, many of whom did not have a clue about the industry they were reporting on.

  15. scott moore says:

    You can always tell when a technology is going to take off, because the naysayers get more shrill. Examples include the personal computer (“no way is everyone going to want one”), HDTV (“too costly, no real improvement over cable TV/DVD”), etc.

    The electric car is always going to have an advantage over natural gas, regular gas, coal, burning dead cats, etc., simply because it is cheaper and more efficient to generate power in a standing plant with lots of emission controls, etc.

    CNG cars are a great idea, and would have ushered in cheap and clean(er) fuel, etc. However, the car makers haven’t pushed that, and it is simply to late. For the hydrogen powered car, this is simply a fantasy at this point. The technology is not cooked, and even if the billions in investment pan out, it would be introducing a car that you still have to gas up, and that is still generating pollution (somewhere).

    Despite green fantasies, the world is drowning in oil and gas. Our reserves exceed Saudi Arabia’s, and that is just the USA. The only real barrier to the shale oil revolution spreading everywhere in the world is that many countries are going to find it cheaper to import it than drill for the oil beneath their feet.

    Natural gas is the perfect bridge fuel for the power companies. Small and relatively clean plants that can be set up locally, that can throttle up or down as needed. And as the government increases regulation, NG is cheaper to clean up than any other fuel, to the point where all the byproducts are captured and used, including the carbon.

    The one to really worry about is what the oil companies will do when electric car use exceeds the %5 to %25 level. At that point, the depressed demand for gas is going to seriously affect the price, and there will be huge incentive for the oil companies to depress it further to regain market share.

    I suspect that it will be too late. With most technological revolutions (of which the EV is certainly one), there are plenty of pundits predicting the large existing interests could roll over the new players if they wanted to. The problem is they wait much to late, and counterattack long after the war is over.

  16. Foo says:

    I didn’t know Conan O’Brien’s brother was an auto analyst.