DER SPIEGEL: Elon Musk enforces competition with German automotive Industry

DER SPIEGEL reports: Elon Musk enforces competition with German automotive industry on Electric Mobility

Tesla will build battery factory in Germany!

Finally! And this makes me happy!

The Tesla CEO deals a blow to the automotive industry and accuses them to lack in technological commitment. In an interview Elon Musk announced he will be investing in building a battery factory in Germany.


Electric car manufacturer Tesla surprisingly announced that it plans to produce batteries in Germany. „I assume that Tesla will build a battery factory in Germany on the long run,“ Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel.

Applause! He will choose a windy or sunny region, hopefully.

Daimler operates so far a battery factory in Kamenz near Dresden. However, the production of the cells will expire in 2015. There the batteries for the electric Smart were prepared.

… interestingly just as the subsidies find an end …

Daimler and Toyota recently had sold their Tesla shares. Clearly, Elon Musk did not rate negatively, but explains: „Daimler and Toyota just wanted to realize profits.“ With Daimler there is continued cooperation in the technical field. Recently, plans were made known that Tesla is also talking about sharing charging infrastructure and technology with BMW.

The dialogues are taking place perpetually. Let’s see what BMW will be doing about it, because currently Tesla is setting the benchmark.

Tesla even has a small network of charging stations („Supercharger“) in Germany.

… which is being expanded nationwide …

With the „i3“ BMW has got an electric car in his product portfolio. The „i8“ sportscar has, in addition to a battery and electric motors, an internal combustion engine.

These are merely placebos. Commitment to electric transportation would be a gigantic challence to the german car company. What should BMW do with all her engineers specialized in combustion-based technology? There would be three or four generations of those engineers in excess …

BMW’s carriage, however, unlike Tesla’s, is composed of carbon-fiber enhanced synthetics, which makes the car less heavy. For future vehicles Tesla intends to benefit from this technology.
Common sense, basically. The right contact for this joint venture, however, would be SGL Carbon – a listed company whose majority is held by BMW stockholders. The intersections concerning the processing of nano-carbon structures in battery production (Novelty: carbon anode for Li-ion batteries) and the production of nano-carbon-strucutures in fiber car parts are surprisingly big.

On Fuel Cells

Musk: Fuel cells are inefficient

A harsh judgment. It all depends on the comparison. But any modern system based on generator, battery and electric motor wins by large. In this respect, he is right.

Musk served once more against the fuel cell technology. In the past he had already judged that technology to be inefficient. Toyota introduced the Mirai, a pure fuel cell electric car to be sold from 2015 in Germany. With 79,000 € it is expensive in comparison, but delves in the price-range of the Tesla S and has a range of 500 km per fill. In contrast to Tesla’s electric cars refueling only takes a few minutes.

The Tesla’s range extends to beyond 500 km as well. So far, the short refueling seems to be an advantage, but this aspect is only superficial. The first DC charging system for electric vehicles in the world, the Japanese standard called „CHAdeMO“ („O cha demo ikaga desuka“ which means something like „How about a cup of tea?“ which means, it takes the time of a japanese tea ceremony) can be implemented very well in everydays business affairs. There isn’t a problem in charging an electric vehicle while going through daily tasks, e.g. at night, during lunchtime or during appointments. With first-hand experience one quickly realizes that this is even more relaxed and comfortable than the hustle to the gas station in between or on the way home and the smelly fumbling after looking for cheapest gas station by smart phone app.

Producing hydrogen in sufficient quantity is not a problem, only more expensive by some factors.

Comparison: battery vs hydrogen vs diesel

Basis: electricity is 100% generative, 50:50 prepared with PV and wind turbines, production quota of 7 ct. / kWh.

Questions: Price per kWh? Price per 100 km drive?

Vehicle: VW Bus T3, 22 kWh / 100 km @ 90 km / h

Case 1: fuel cell vehicle:
Process Step 1: (58 kWh) generative electricity by wind/sun, efficiency 100%
Process Step 2: (40.6 kWh) electric water electrolysis, generating hydrogen, efficiency 70% (according to Prof. Sterner, OTH Regensburg)
Process Step 3: (38,60 kWh) hydrogen is cooled, compressed, stashed, transported to tanks at gas stations and stored, efficiency 95%
Process Step 4: (36,70 kWh) hydrogen fuel filling into vehicles, efficiency 95%
Process Step 5: (22 kWh) hydrogen powered fuel cell generating electricity, efficiency 60%
Summary: For 22 kWh of electricity needed to cover the distance 58 kWh of electricity is needed. At 7 ct. / kWh electricity generation costs come to about 4.00€ energy-only costs for 100 km.

Case 2: vehicle with batteries:
Process Step 1: (25.6 kWh) generative electricity by wind/sun, efficiency 100%
Process Step 2 (24.4 kWh) electricity sent over the net and sent to stationary battery storage, efficiency 95%
Process Step 3: (23,15 kWh) electricity is AC / DC loaded into stationary battery storage, efficiency 95%,
Process Step 4: (22 kWh) electricity is DC / DC loaded into the vehicle battery, efficiency 95%
Summary: 22 kWh of electricity needed to cover the distance 26 kWh of electricity is needed. At 7 ct. / kWh electricity generation costs come to about 1.80€ pure energy-only costs for 100 km.

Case 3 vehicle with conventional Turbo Diesel engine:
fuel consume: 8 ltr. / 100 km
Process Step 1: (117.3 kWh) refining, transportation, gas station, refueling, efficiency 75%
Process Step 2: (88 kWh) combustion in the engine, efficiency 25%
Process Step 3: (22 kWh) energy required distance, efficiency 100%
Crosscheck: (8 liter diesel = 6.76 kg: per 100 km in fuel value 9.21 kWh / kg: resulting: 87.2 kWh)

Summary: For the 22 kWh of electricity needed to cover the distance the combustion is 8 liters of diesel = 117 kWh of primary energy is needed. At 1.40 € / liter diesel results in approx 11,30 € pure energy costs. It is fair to admit that here all taxes and charges already included, otherwise it would be about 6 €. However, no cost for carbon dioxide, fuel oil or diesel generation per liter – depending on the calculation method – about 2.4 kilograms was included also. At 8 liters just close to 20 kg emissions are produced. A CO2 certificate costs about 3 ct. / kg which equals 30€ / ton. That would add 60 cents in the 8 liters (= 20 kg CO2) on top.

Another issue that has never before been addressed in the discussion about the toll: charging the driver of incinerators with a fee in this regard.

Nota bene: charging stations compared to hydrogen filling stations are easier to build, the necessary infrastructure is much cheaper. If the number of available charging stations is sufficiently large relative to the number of vehicles, then the current refueling would even be less of a hassle.

Nevertheless Musk is skeptical: „This makes no sense.“ The use of a fuel cell is inefficient. An electric car run this way would need three times more energy than one which is run on batteries. Here, the Tesla chief criticizes the way hydrogen is produced. Hydrogen can be manufactured by electrolysis of water, by reformation of natural gas, or through biomass.The efficiencies of the processes vary widely and environmental damage comes attached. As it is with battery production.

My calculation for the powergeneration with the hydrogen thechnology amounts to about double, taking an estimate with the most optimistic assumptions of Prof. Sterner. My own assessment is much closer to that of Elon Musk. Moreover, here the infrastructure costs are still not considered at all. It’s not just about the cost of hydrogen refueling stations and the special vehicles for distribution, but also that the systems for generative power generation will have to be three times as large. Power-to-gas is as less an alternative, because the efficiency still is even lower then synthetic methane which must be reformed for fuel cell operation.

For my part, I have a resounding „NO“ to P2G as the future leading technology – unless it will be the next governmental subsidies graveyard to create satisfying jobs for their relatives and political friends. Carbon is too valuable a resource as to function as just a fuel source in the long term. The pure hydrogen technology is too expensive compared to battery technology. Therefore, a resounding „YES“ to the future of mobility: It will be purely electric. Elon Musk is the only player who has realized this and also pursues it consistently as a business model.

Plug-in hybrids also criticized

The Tesla CEO also doesn’t approve those plug-in hybrids which are currently offered by virtually all bulk producers. „It’s like an amphibious vehicle, not fit for water and not fit on land“ he told to DER SPIEGEL.

I concur, completely. Hybrids are neither fish nor fowl. They are inconsistency lived and prevent a straight development of true electric mobility. Energetically speaking the combination of electric drive and combustion engines are only useful when the main propulsion is an electric motor. Batteries are recharged by a smallsize CHP (combined heat and power unit), which doubles as a heat generator or air conditioning. Promoting hybrids in the same way as pure electric vehicles is unjust as well. Individuals who actually commit to the introduction of sustainable technologies get alienated by a policy promoting all-electric and hybrid vehicles equally.

Yo-Ho, He is a Pirate

In early summer Elon Mmusk released all patents of Tesla battery technology for public use. The man acts like a Pirate. Now he calls the smug established automotive industry out once more to finally renounce to combustion. For in the end nothing shall be as it has been before.

Sail ho, you fly like „Jonathan Livingston Seagull“, Elon Musk.

I consider you to be a true Pirate of our age.

Thomas Blechschmidt

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