Tony Seba in 2010: Tesla and EV Predictions

March 2, 2021

Well, how did he do?

UPDATE: His most recent piece below.

19 Responses to “Tony Seba in 2010: Tesla and EV Predictions”

  1. These predictions are way to optimistic. And electric cars may not have the future. There are biomass alternatieves and hydrogen as fuel. These kinds of fuel are way more clean and easy to use. We already have the infrastructure for it. It is no real difference for gasstations to suply biofuels. You can start by increasing the amount of biofuel in gas and diesel to the limits of present day cars. Then you can develop cars with engines that can go way over these limits. And end up with cars and engines that work very well with pure bio fuel.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Biomass in the form of corn ethanol—the only possibility in the US, as far as I know—is a money- and energy-laundering scam for oil. It’s terrible ecologically, politically, socially. Increasing it substantially, as in providing all the energy we now use for vehicles, is impossible; there’s not enough land in the world. IOW, we don’t have the infrastructure for it.

      Hydrogen is no better; it’s 3x less efficient than EVs (30% vs. 90%) and would require either fossil fuel-made hydrogen, which is out of the question, or a massive, massive increase in renewable generation (again, 3x more than with EVs) when we’re going to be stretched to the limits just providing enough for crucial needs. There’s no reason not to move to electric vehicles of all kinds, especially pubic mass transit including high speed rail to replace flying and long distance driving.


    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      The negatives of my EV?
      no tail pipe
      no muffler
      no catalytic converter
      no air filter
      no oil filter
      no oil changes
      no radiator
      no gas tank
      no gearbox
      no grill

      Since November of 2014 the only problems I’ve had with my EV are flat tires and the need to replace the utility battery (console and computers) under the hood.

      I do ring this out the window when rolling through pedestrian-heavy areas, though:

  2. mboli Says:

    Was this a Ted talk or something? It strongly reminds one of a famous paragraph by Mark Twain about the length of the Mississippi river.

    In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

  3. mboli Says:

    The BYD e6 car he featured recently became available in the North American market. Even adjusting for inflation, its $60k price is more now than the $40,000 he quoted in 2010. But the battery capacity has increased from 48 kWh to 80 kWh.

    I have to say it was fun thinking of rigging my home to deliver 144 kW to the BYD e6 charger, needed for that 10 minute half-charge. (Neglecting charging losses.) That would be 600 amp. Which I guess is more than your typical residential pole-mount distribution transformer. A mere 3 AWG 000 copper cables would be enough, assuming the car has three charging ports.

    But of course you wouldn’t do that at home. I think BYD was advertising the fast charging rate because they sell the e6 as a fleet car for taxi/rideshare service.

  4. greenman3610 Says:

    With GM and other majors now publicly making the commitment to “all EV” over the coming decade or so, it would seem his 2010 projections are pretty close.
    He remains the penultimate techno-optimist, and I’m more cautious on the whole, but we live in an era of technological amazements, so I don’t write this off.
    Most interesting, his newest projections are about food production…

    • mboli Says:

      And counterpoint to what I wrote above: the $5,500 Wuling small electric automobile introduced last year is reportedly taking over the China market for EVs.
      I agree.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      We have to remain aware that the US is not the whole world, but it’s worthwhile to note that mainstream dealer franchises are increasing the percentage of used cars they sell. The price of a used ICE vehicle will remain cheaper than new EVs for many years, and continue to get cheaper to compete.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        At some point everything that lowers its cost to compete with something that’s inherently cheaper will cost less than it takes to get, process, and sell it. When used (or for that matter, new) ICEVs reach that point, making and/or selling them will be a money-losing proposition, without escape; that is, the more one makes or sells, the more money one will lose. At that point, all ICEVs will be scrapped except museum pieces, and everyone running a vehicle will soon be running either a new or used EV.

        We need to get ahead of this with free mass public transit, including high speed rail to replace flying and long distance driving, because trying to supply even most people in the world with one of these will cause tremendous ecological, social, and political damage.

        Moving strongly toward equality, which we need to do anyway to avoid fascism and to allow adequate climate and ecological action, will help with progressive (vs. regressive) programs like public transit.

  5. Gingerbaker Says:

    Well Mr Seba must be correct, because he is saying what I have been saying!:

    Superabundance of virtually free energy changes everything and allows higher prosperity and quality of life.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Using more energy almost certainly means using more materials,(or else, what are you doing with the energy?) which would be disastrous for civilization and the biosphere, possibly fatal for humanity and most life on Earth.
      Another way to get higher quality of life is simplifying, and using dramatically less energy. Because we’ve allowed the lunatic right wing to control the debate for so long, that’s essentially politically impossible now, but we should face the risk that not doing it imposes–the risk of losing everything.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        “We find that by electrifying everything in these countries and by providing that electricity with clean renewable energy, power demand goes down about 42 percent without really changing much habit,” says Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program. For example:

        • About 13 percent of all energy worldwide is used to mine, transport and refine fossil fuels, so the elimination of fossil fuels immediately provides a savings of 13 percent. Jacobson includes the mining of uranium in this calculation, envisioning a future in which renewables also replace nuclear power.

        • About 23 percent of energy use will be saved because electric power is more efficient than combustion. An electric car, for example, uses about 85 percent of the energy in its battery to move the car, with the rest lost as waste heat. A gasoline powered car only uses 17 to 20 percent of its energy to move the car, with the rest lost as waste heat. So the transport sector alone could see massive improvements in efficiency, Jacobson says, of up to 80 percent. Across other sectors, including heating and heat pumps, the savings are smaller, but still enough to save 23 percent of the world’s energy use.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          I think we should pause for a moment to consider the plight of cats searching in vain for a cozy hood to sleep on in cold weather.

  6. Gingerbaker Says:

    “Using more energy almost certainly means using more materials,(or else, what are you doing with the energy?) which would be disastrous for civilization and the biosphere, possibly fatal for humanity and most life on Earth.”

    Exaggerate much? Seriously, show your math.

  7. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I’m having trouble grokking the economics of the “super-power” free electricity.
    Who invests in something that provides a product for free? Even governments don’t budget like that, do they?

  8. mboli Says:

    Thank you to @greenman for posting that second, very recent, talk by Tony Seba.

    I’m not positive, but I *think* I understand the “super power” sleight-of-hand that he was touting. I think it goes like this:
    — He is imagining a system where batteries are used to smooth out the mismatch between power generation (by wind and solar) and power demand. Demand goes up and down, generation goes up and down, batteries are in the middle.
    — Sometimes demand is bigger that supply, and the batteries are draining down. Sometimes your generation system produces more power than the demand. That’s what charges the batteries back up.
    — If you have batteries enough to hold 4 days of demand all by themselves, for example, then maybe you can survive a week-long heat wave with stagnant air (unusually high demand, unusually wind energy production).
    — If you have batteries enough for 2 days of demand, and you still want to survive a week-long heat wave, then you need more wind farms and solar panels. You need get enough power output during that stagnant air because you have less battery reserve to compensate.
    — His chart with the big dip in the middle shows the sweet spot of lowest total cost to survive that week-long heat wave, considering the cost to trade-off installing more batteries and less wind turbines or vice-versa.
    — But that low-cost sweet spot has a lot of extra wind farm or photocell capacity isn’t *needed* on a normal day, when the wind is blowing normally and demand is normal, and the batteries are doing their normal one day charge/discharge cycle.
    — And (unlike fossil fuel plants) it doesn’t cost extra to simply let the wind farm or solar panels run at maximum.
    — This is what Seba was calling super generation. It is the extra nearly-free electricity that comes from having to build out a lot of extra capacity that isn’t needed on the normal day, but it doesn’t cost extra to run it.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      We don’t just have wind and solar (implies PV only). We have hydro, geothermal (aka Earth), CSP, clothesline paradox energy (passive or active solar space and water heating, etc). With a well-connected national-and-beyond grid, we also have access to Canadian hydro, wind, and geothermal, and Mexican solar, at least, east and west coast offshore wind, batteries. With all the dispatchable renewables, and all the different rhythms of varied daily and yearly peak production, the amount of oversupply needed is decreased dramatically, although the principle is the same.

  9. […] guy is definitely on the far end of clean energy optimism, but if you listen to his projections from 10 years ago, he’s been prescient. The risks of getting this wrong are not just to the climate system, but […]

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