Volvo CEO Thinks Electric Cars And Gas-Powered Cars Will Cost The Same ‘Around 2025’

Ex90tmd

We’ve got a Volvo CEO making some big prognostications, a discussion of battery tech, a Polestar earnings report, and Mercedes workers asking for a bit of change in today’s Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Volvo CEO Sees Price Parity Between EVs and ICE-powered Vehicles By 2025

Ex90ttmd

The Volvo EX90 is a big deal and part of the brand’s play to establish itself as a major part of the electrified, semi-autonomous future. Our own Jason Torchinsky was there for the reveal and he confronted the head of Volvo’s design department about the touchscreen glovebox.

While that confrontation was happening, Urvaksh Karkaria from Automotive News managed to grab Volvo CEO Jim Rowan (formerly of Dyson) and ask him about the existing differences between the prices of gas-powered cars and their EV equivalents:

“We think we get [to price parity] … around 2025, where there’ll be enough technology that’s driving down cost on the battery,” Rowan told Automotive News Europe on the sidelines of a media event in Stockholm, Sweden. “Technology will drive range up. Less batteries, but more range, at less cost — we’ll get there.”

This quote is great because it highlights two of the main ways you can bring the cost of an electric vehicle down. Everyone thinks about the raw stuff of making a battery (lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite, et cetera), but if you can make 1 kWh yield three miles of range as opposed to two miles of range then you can theoretically reduce the battery pack by 33% without sacrifice.

I really enjoyed this Car And Driver piece about whether you can make up the costs of an EV over three years and their determination was: Definitely (if you can get a tax credit).

The open question is: Will this scale? As we make more will they get cheaper as is dictated by basic economic principles or will materials scarcity or other issues eventually drive the price up?

Automakers Still Looking For Silver (Or Iron) Bullet For EVs

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I’ve got a double-dose of Automotive News today as they have a great piece that dovetails nicely with the quote above: “Automakers and suppliers are spending to break through a ‘chemical plateau'”

A modern battery for a car has many requirements and for every advantage one chemistry has it often has a downside. Here are things we ask batteries to do:

  • Store a lot of energy
  • Absorb a lot of energy very quickly (charge fast)
  • Store and disperse energy many times under varying conditions without losing significant capacity
  • Be safe
  • Be cheap
  • Be easy to make

Yikes! I haven’t even showered this morning.

One solution could be solid state batteries, which is what companies like Nissan and Honda are looking into. They work well and are very energy dense…

But there are questions about whether battery makers would be able to produce solid-state batteries at scale in the price range that would satisfy automakers and keep prices low enough for consumers. In 2021, the average lithium ion battery pack cost between $147 and $153 per kilowatt-hour, accounting for between 30 percent and 40 percent of the total EV’s cost, according to SNE Research.

Another alternative is Lithium Iron Phosphate. The planet (and universe) is full of iron. It’s cheap. It’s safe. We’ve been using iron for about as long as human beings figured out they could melt and shape it. This chemistry, however, is not super energy dense.

Again, it’s worth reading the article as it breaks down the upsides and downsides of various approaches.

Mercedes Works Council Wants Bigger Bonuses For Workers

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The Mercedes works council in Germany (this is the way European unions are generally organized) is asking the company for a big annual bonus. Why? The carmaker is making more money and it wants its fair share.

Per Reuters:

“So far, annual profit-sharing has been limited to a maximum of 6,450 euros ($6,617). This cap should be abolished,” Ergun Luemali told Reuters.

“We need a new calculation formula so that the workforce can now share in the increased profit if the return is kept at a significantly higher level,” he said.

Mercedes has reported strong earnings this year and there’s no sign that the fourth quarter is going to to be any different.

Polestar Is Losing Less Money!

Polestar

Speaking of earnings reports, Polestar is out with its Q3 results, and the news is pretty good. The brand has lost money, but it’s less money.

The Geely-Volvo sister company lost $196 million, which is an improvement of the $293 million they lost in the same period last year. At the same time, revenues are on the rise. In the first nine months of 2021 the company made $748 million. Over the same period this year the company made $1.5 billion, which is a nice 98% increase.

What could go wrong? All sorts of things. My favorite part of any earnings report is when they have to list out, usually in small font, all the circumstances that could change that would impact their guidance. Here are some of the things Polestar thinks could go wrong, from the brand itself:

Polestar’s ability to continuously and rapidly innovate, develop and market new products; the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, new lockdowns in China, government mandated quarantines, inflation, interest rate changes, the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria.

I may have added those last two.

Pick A Battery Chemistry

You’re starting an EV carmaker today and you’ve got a few billion dollars to spend on developing a battery pack. What are you doing in the short term and what are you planning for in the long-term?

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25 Responses

    1. Seriously! Prices are insane, and with a statement like this from a CEO, the writing is on the wall that the soul crushing prices are here to stay and will likely never return to semi-reasonable.

  1. A little off topic, but the lead photo for this morning’s dump is the worst angle of that EX90, which otherwise looks great. It’s got two sets of tail lights AND the proportions are off. Like a prototype where they grafted the top half of an SUV onto the trunk of a sedan and didn’t integrate the two.

  2. Getting more range out of LFP cells seems like a good short term bet. Those cells handle fast charging better, aren’t as affected by cold weather, and are safer in a fire than LCM cells. AFAIK…..

    I’m probably wrong on some of that, though. Corrections appreciated.

    1. I agree with you that LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries is where EVs should go in the short term, but here’s the correction you expected on how they compare to the NCM (nickel, manganese, and cobalt) batteries most US EVs use now.
      + LFP better handle faster charging
      + LFP better handle full charge/discharge (0%-100%-0%) cycles
      + LFP are less likely to catch fire
      – LFP store less total energy per weight / volume
      – LFP are more susceptible to effects from cold weather

    2. Oh, almost forgot another important attribute: LFP batteries use cheaper materials, and so have the potential to be less expensive to produce at scale.

  3. I’d go for solid state batteries if I was starting a new start up. The energy density and theoretical faster recharge time should make it more like an ICE driving experience which would ease transition.

    1. Ive always wondered what was the truth about SS. So far everyone’s been saying solid=better ,but that could all be wishful thinking.It’s hard to get real facts.
      Tinfoil hat on: maybe because no one actually knows yet?

      Recently i’ve been seeing a few articles that hint at what might be the truth- that SS doesnt give the benefits claimed. Nissan even mentioned the word ‘bomb’.

      Anyways,hopefully i’m all wrong and they’re a massive success

    2. I’d be curious to know how often charge times are being limited by batteries vs. the capacity of the charging infrastructure. The theoretical charge times of a lot of modern EVs are actually pretty quick, but it’s well documented that in reality you almost never can charge at that rate. Doubling the charge rate of the batteries is of minimal use unless chargers can provide power that fast.

  4. [b]”Everyone thinks about the raw stuff of making a battery (lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite, et cetera), but if you can make 1 kWh yield three miles of range as opposed to two miles of range then you can theoretically reduce the battery pack by 33% without sacrifice.”[/b]

    Today’s Tesla Model 3 makes 1 kWh yield closer to 4 miles of range than 3 miles of range. The GM EV1 made 1 kWh yield 6 miles of range. The 1996 Solectria Sunrise made 1 kWh yield 7 miles of range. An Aptera can make 1 kWh yield 10 miles of range. In my profile is a single-seater vehicle that can make 1 kWh yield 100+ miles of range; I get 150-200 miles range on a 1.5 kWh pack at 30-35 mph cruising speeds.

    For a 4 or 5 seater midsized sedan, Solectria Sunrise-like range per kWh is possible, with 30 year old tech. A two-seat sports car could be made to do significantly better than 10 miles per kWh. How? An emphasis on aerodynamic drag reduction and mass reduction.

    Modern cars are too bloated, unaerodynamic, and big and getting even moreso. The working class has been completely priced out of the new car market, and the lower middle class is not far behind them. The solution is to offer a good, well-built, cheap car, without a lot of features, that is easily repaired, but then give the buyer something in return for their sacrifice(for an EV, more performance is a very cheap upgrade, so start there). A sub $25,000 EV sedan that can perform like a hypercar in a straight line and out-corner one in the turns is IMO something that would attract attention to the product and invoke desire among potential buyers. Aptera-like aero and mass reduction would be prerequisites to allowing 200+ miles range for cheap. A car that can very comfortably seat 4 adults and get 200+ miles range “real-world” driving without operator concern for efficiency shouldn’t require more than 35 kWh if designed for the task. If one is willing to go to a 2-seater sized like a Lotus 11, if sufficiently streamlined, a 20 kWh pack could yield 300+ miles real-world range and 80+ miles on a race track going all out, in a deliciously light, tossable, and fast package that could match a Miata’s price point.

    To hell with per-unit margins. Eventually, no one in the middle class is going to be able to juggle debt around to pretend that they can afford the overpriced road hippo CUVs/SUVs ubiquitous among today’s offerings, and predictably and rightfully so, the auto industry will crash. When this happens, there should be NO bailouts.

    [b]You’re starting an EV carmaker today and you’ve got a few billion dollars to spend on developing a battery pack. What are you doing in the short term and what are you planning for in the long-term?[/b]

    Short term: more energy-dense LiFePO4 with a longer lifespan and reduced production cost.

    Long-term: some sort of solid state battery, even if it has less specific capacity than modern Li Ion variants. NiFe would be a good starting point to investigate this, IMO. The point would be to build a “forever” battery that will outlast the car and can be swapped into a different vehicle, as well as to enable an EV built to last a human lifetime upon purchase and to be easily/inexpensively repaired when it is decades old.

  5. When you can get a decent used still new looking under 5 year old EV for a third of the price, like you can (could?) with some ICE cars, I’m in!

    Same with car-sharing (renting) platforms. When it’s cheaper than owning a used car yourself, I’m in! Last time I did the math, it wasn’t.

  6. What Toecutter said. It is ridiculous to move 3 tons of stuff to transport 200 pounds. (To get a coffee.) The 150 Lightning? Love the function, hate the weight.

    And, then, there is light to medium duty living and work transport, which has different demands.

    I’ll keep this short, but, when a Tacoma-sized 4WD pickup with good ground clearance comes out, I’m there. Give me 5,000 Towing. I’ll give up range, touchscreens, connectivity, electric windows. ( 🙂 ) 175 mile range is fine, which should be possible with 60kWh, whatever chemistry. Bring it in under 30K today’s dollars.

  7. The Volvo CEO can say that their EVs and ICE cars will pretty much cost the same considering how much they’re charging for any new Volvo these days. This will certainly continue until developments make EVs a lot cheaper to manufacture. Any EV battery not using rare elements will get my vote. Until the server at Denny’s goes to work every morning in an EV, I can state we aren’t there with integrating EVs into our national transportation system. That’s going to be moonshot work. Maybe put NASA on life support until the Federal Government helps private industry to figure this out.

  8. As much as I love ICE cars, I can’t help but be impressed by all the EV stuff Volvo is involved with right now. I was sitting behind a Polestar 2 in traffic the other day and was surprised by how attractive it was in person…and the fact that their current crop of Recharge PHEVs are offering around 30-40 miles of electric range and 3-400 horsepower is impressive.

    My wife is interested in an XC60 recharge now (which is ironic considering my initial reaction to this site’s review of one was “who is this for?”) and the odds of me nabbing an S60 Recharge while we’re at it are far from 0. I just started a new job that requires a 30-40 minute commute through heavy traffic every day and the fuel economy my Kona N has been getting even in eco mode is embarrassing…

    Volvo is a niche manufacturer that rolled the dice on EV technology pretty early and are now reaping the rewards. It was a smart play on their end and I expect they’re going to see their market share increase…especially if they can keep their vehicles semi-affordable. As much as it pains me to say it, 50-65k for a premium EV or PHEV that’s stylish, safe, powerful, and well designed/appointed is a *groans audibly* decent deal in this day and age.

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