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Published on June 11th, 2012 | by Breath on the Wind


The EV Black Knight Rides Again: John Petersen on Mortal Enemies

June 11th, 2012 by  

In commerce, a black knight is someone who makes an unwelcome takeover bid. John Petersen, of Seeking Alpha, has written many articles on electric vehicles from the perspective of commerce and would be familiar with the term. He is not an EV supporter. Rather, his disclosure exudes a contempt for the EV that is pervasive throughout his work, while he admits to a previous commitment to lead-acid batteries and a present ownership in Axion Power. He throws down the gauntlet again in a recent article as he tries to take over the EV conversation with seemingly intelligent arguments based upon private definitions and an air of authority and disdain: The Black Knight rides again.

The Feign+

The EV white knight will have to meet this dark challenger with a lance of clarity and the wisdom of rhetoric. He starts off the article by admitting that he was wrong. EV batteries can make improvements, but continues this to a slur. The improvement seems so minor that resistance to his later arguments is futile. In rhetoric, this is a “straw man” and it essentially sets up a target intended to fail in a fixed match. It is a nice move that sets up momentum for the piece but it’s transparent and just a little punching bag inside a very small box.

As proof of his stand, Petersen relies upon the rhetorical “argument of authority” and brings in Professor Vaclav Smil to support his position that battery technology is not progressing according to Moore’s Law. However, in science, we know that a proper control study should be untainted by our experimental object. If you are testing for X, then X should not be part of the control study. The quoted article talks about the slow transition from fossil fuels. We have to look no further than the Nickel-Metal Hydride story to find the common elephant in the room: fossil fuel interests slowing the pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies. We can find that same elephant slowing the pace of innovation in Congress, disproportionately using a party with similar symbolism.

We are presently witnessing a lot of this play between slowing progress and then having so-called authorities claiming progress is impossible or blaming a lack of progress on those resisting this beast. But it is a device and a technique, not a reality. John Petersen is a lawyer. Lawyers are quite used to very narrow definitions of terms and then logically connecting those terms to establish a very narrow meaning that may have no relationship to the real world. It is what makes a good lawyer, but not necessarily a good understanding, because it sometimes then takes another who is trained to think as a lawyer to deconstruct this legalese.

The Audience

The audience is an important part of any presentation. Petersen is writing for investors (see 6th paragraph), not those investors of their time or curiosity, but those interested in playing the stock market game. The game suggests some real-world connections like profits and balance sheets, but there are rumors of insider information, article mills, and large purchases that influence prices outside of expected norms. If you are looking at Petersen’s articles because you have an interest outside of the stock market, you are going to have to translate what you read. You are not the intended audience, but you are caught in the same net. Be very careful of your assumptions.

But the author is not careful. He is writing for investors but makes asides to the “EVangelicals,” advocates of electric vehicles who threaten to undermine his authority. He dismisses them as the “Great and powerful Oz,” dismisses the little man behind the black curtain upon whom its power is based.

The Definitions

“Range Anxiety” is a term invented by GM to sell the Volt, a range-extended EV. It was a selling point at a time when we were constantly being told by politicians to “be afraid” of the “enemy.” Promoting a neurotic fear seemed good for business, if not a very nice thing to do. It is a good rhetorical technique as it stirs people’s emotion and even Merlin might enjoy the misdirection it engenders, as the subtext is “Be afraid!” … so you don’t think.

It is such an important technique that it was enshrined in the “Art of War” as the principal of “deception and shaping.” Here, Peterson is saying that because the EV owner is neurotic and wants more range than they can be demonstrated to need, what he calls “EV efficiency” is affected.

The average driver only needs about 40 miles travel a day. Ignoring that this means 50% will travel further, he uses this calculation to suggest that any vehicle that has a battery larger than this wastes that capacity.

“EV Efficiency”

Petersen uses the term “EV efficiency.” It’s a term often associated with electric vehicles that can have an efficiency as high as 98%. Efficiency normally is a measure of useful work derived from a system in a ratio over the energy supplied to a system. This is usually expressed as a percentage less than 100%. He is telling us that the “EV efficiency” is limited, but Peterson is not following any standard definition of efficiency; he is not comparing similar energy values at all.

Rather, he is comparing the amount of material required for a particular sized battery to what is used. It is not a measure of energy but of material. It should properly be called EV conservation, not efficiency. Instead of giving him a gold star, we should send him back to school. His argument goes something like this: “Because you, the consumer, are neurotic and refuse to conserve, I have to give you a less advanced technology.” It is a bit like making the kids sit at the kiddie table in a high chair and cut up their food that they can only eat with a spoon when they are 16. What is wrong with this picture? If you have never trained your kids, this is what you might get. Dependents. A little education is not only part of your responsibility as a parent but can be a social responsibility as well.

It is on this basis that Petersen advocates hybrids and lead-acid batteries. Dependents are good for business. For this less than optimistic lawyer, people will always be wasteful and the investor can cash in on this failure. Education is bad for business.

The Back Door

Peterson has been a prolific writer with many articles published, but he is not educating us. He is telling us that, because we are incorrigible, we don’t deserve electric vehicles. The logic is clear from its premise to its conclusions but like many such arguments it fails in its assumptions. The obvious point, education, is broad enough to take up in a planned separate article. Even more basic is the definition of what is an electric vehicle. There are nuclear ships, submarines, and submersibles that are electric vehicles. The largest land vehicles in the world: earth diggers, movers, and tunnel-boring machines are all electric vehicles. The transmission required by a diesel engine would simply be prohibitive for these vehicles. To supply power for them, a tether is often used to the mains or a diesel generator is used on the vehicle in a series hybrid diesel/electric configuration.

What Is An Electric Vehicle?

Series hybrids, solar cars, and fuel cell electric vehicles are electric vehicles that produce power on the vehicle. Cable cars, trams, and elevators are electric vehicles that are powered by a cable turned by an electric motor. A mag-lev train is an electric vehicle that does not use a conventional rotary motor. Subways and trolleys are electric vehicles that have electricity transmitted to them. Some vehicles will store electricity on the vehicle in batteries and ultra capacitors (or even flywheels). Batteries and electrical storage are not an essential component to an electric vehicle — no, John, not even your lead acid batteries. What makes an electric vehicle is electricity usage, not storage. The battery electric vehicle (BEV) is only a subset of what is possible. It is a little box in a big room.

Perhaps, as John has elsewhere suggested, we have gone too far, too fast in trying to use new battery technology. Perhaps we are presently overextending ourselves with batteries in electric vehicles. But without the battery, Petersen’s argument against the EV vaporizes. Studies have shown that the cheapest method to implement electric vehicles would be to send power to them. New tuned wireless transmission technology may make this possible, unnoticed by the operator.

How To Decide

I enjoy reading John Petersen. He has a clear perspective, knowledge, and although he might not admit it, some good instincts. I also might enjoy reading the horoscope and driving bumper cars. Perspectives, knowledge, and instincts can also play a part with these, but my daily decisions are not going to be based upon someone writing what they think I want to hear and my daily ride will hopefully not be “fun” like bumper cars. It is a mistake and perhaps dangerous to consider such extremes “normal.”

I resent being told I make poor choices and can’t learn. To an EV advocate, the investor’s perspective on the BEV is extremely narrow and fails to take in the scope of what is possible with these marvels. It fails in its definitions and it fails on a test of thinking outside the box. The dark knights, like our fears and preconceptions, have no more power than we give them.

Photo Credit: George Shuklin/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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About the Author

We share this World; its past, present resources and our combined future. With every aspiration, the very molecules we use for life are passed to others through time and space so that each of us may be considered a Breath on the Wind. This part of the world's consciousness lives in NYC; has worked in law, research, construction, engineering; has traveled, often drawn to Asia; writes on Energy and Electric Vehicle issues and looks forward to all your comments.   "If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect." -- Benjamin Franklin

  • rickster

    Great article dissecting that EV hater!. JP articles,are very misleading to the not-so knowledgeable EV investor, and some have laughable content.

    • Breath on the Wind

      It is nice to see some are enjoying the article after it has been published for about 2 years. I hope you have moved on from Seeking Alpha articles to more informed and balanced sources.

  • Anne

    Oh, and anyone thinking John Petersen is a cool-headed, rational stock analyst should read his disclaimer:

    “Disclosure: I have no direct or indirect interest in
    Tesla, GM, Nissan or Toyota and I have nothing to gain or lose from any
    of their stock price movements. While I am a former director and current
    stockholder of Axion Power International (AXPW.OB),
    a micro-cap company that has developed a robust, affordable and
    serially patented third-generation lead-carbon battery for micro-hybrid,
    railroad and stationary energy storage applications, I can’t see how
    the success or failure of a niche product like electric drive could
    impact the value of my investment in a company that’s focused on much
    larger and more predictable mainstream markets.”

    IOW, he has a considerable financial interest in talking down EV’s because the development of cheap, large format lithium batteries that they pursue is the biggest threat to the lead-acid batteries from Axion Power.

    Axion Power has lost 90% of its stock value over the past 5 years and 50% in the past 12 months. He’s just trying to save his pension.

    • Bob_Wallace

      One of Peterson’s recent arguments of why EVs would fail is because there wouldn’t be enough batteries for both EVs and grid use.

      He made that ridiculous argument while having financial interests in a company developing utility, not EV, batteries. 

      Clearly he understood that the battery market would bifurcate with lighter, higher capacity batteries developed for EVs while the utility market would put cost first.

      I give John a score of zero for honesty.  

  • Hope

    What’s ‘Seeking Alpha’ ?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Best I can tell it’s a site where people can publish their ideas of what stocks will make money and which won’t.

      I’ve read a few pieces in the past and I now avoid it like the plague.  When I read opinion pieces about things with which I was familiar it seemed that reality had not paid a recent visit to the author.  Strong arguments were being made based on things which were just false.

      (RE: Peterson’s frequent anti-EV pieces.)

      I suspect that there’s a lot of “pump and dump” going on there.  That’s when someone buys some stock really cheap, “pumps” the price up by spinning tales about how successful the company is going to be, and then when the suckers run up the price the crook “dumps” his shares for a nice profit.

    • Breath on the Wind

      Seeking Alpha is a website that uses the phrase:  “Read, Decide, Invest” According to the Wiki article it was founded in 2004 and their “about us” page says they publish 250 articles a day from a pool of 5000 writers.  It is big.  It is subscribed to by some reputable news organizations.  I rarely go to the site but articles are picked up by one of the collecting services where I do have a subscription.

      What Bob references is mentioned in the main article above as “article mills” under “The Audience” section.  It might be difficult to prove, but almost certainly is a factor in some investment articles on the web.  If you are curious about the SA underbelly, here is an article that suggests “influence” may be a motivation in submitting articles rather than income.

      A goal for this article was to clarify the confusion John Petersen seems to encourage between what he is advocating for battery investors and the general poison he injects into the EV conversation.

  • magounsq

    I may have missed it, but do you (BotW) have a professional profile and name?
    Mr. Petersen may be a little acerbic with retorts at times, but only when some commenters ask for it.
    Mr. Petersen has also been quite transparent in his articles and comments.
    Just so I can follow your EV logic and argument, do you go by BotW on SA?

    Some items that remain open in my mind re EV…

    Coal powered

    Range bound
    Non recyclable batteries

    Non competitive in price

    High cost of ownership
    Excessive recharge time frame 

    Costly recharge

    Government subsidized…

    Risk of being “bricked”

    And now extensive due diligence needed to assess safety

    • Breath on the Wind

       –You will find many writings and several profiles under the name “Breath on the Wind” or “BreathonthWind.”  I do not have a twitter account.  Other social media accounts exist but are not active.   
      –being acerbic based upon when someone “asks for it” is a euphemism for saying “when they irritate.”  It really adds nothing.  I hope you will find this article attempts to avoid the acerbic.
      –“transparency” can be another way of hiding when it is only misdirection and it is quite possible for someone to be “transparent” but inaccurate, or wrong.   
      –I am seeing 266 definitions for the unfamiliar acronym “SA”
      If you will click on my name above it will take you to the author page where you will find at least 6 to 10 articles that are partially or completely about electric vehicles.  You will also find some responses to questions in the alternative fuel vehicle section of Yahoo Answers. (YA)

      There are answers for all of the issues you raise.  Some of the issues have been published so often that the answers are now almost common knowledge, “boilerplate.”  For others I have an individual perspective.

      It is clear you have “doubts” about electric vehicles from the many widely published issues you raise.  From the wording of the question and the list of issues, I might assume that your “doubts” are professional rather than personal.

      What is unclear is what you intend next;  a private response?  a public statement?  A longer comment?  A counter article?  By all means, let me know.  If you would care to debate the issues, Cleantechnica looks forward to providing a forum.

      • magounsq


        Re acerbic…we disagree…emotional retorts unproductive.

        Transparency…Mr. Petersen has been very up front. Your “discoveries” of his “conflict of interest”?Again, his background in the public domain for years.

        I was just inquiring of your professional background and contributions for transparency so I can digest your comments.

        You question SA?…yet you know very well of Petersen.
        Hard to reconcile that since many Petersen comments emanate from there…Seeking Alpha…free.

        My issues were “answered” by not addressed…that’s ok…I get it now.
        Yes, my question was of a “professional” nature, not personal.
        I try to keep an open mind and follow logically, not emotionally, as best I can.

        It’s evident that this site is one sided…that’s ok…was just curious enough to learn all sides.

        • Breath on the Wind

          I am sorry that you have discovered a few intense replies to you original comment (that were not to your liking.)  Please forgive me for saying so but it is / was obvious from your comment you were baiting and while you may (or may not) have an ear for responses, someone following the discussion might yet be undecided.  Emotion can be a driving force but can also cloud issues.  I didn’t intend to ignore your issues but was clearly (and only) offering a better forum.   

          I may have offered comments on Seeking Alpha but generally pick up Petersen’s articles as a reprint on another site of possibly 40 to 50 that I may look each week at to absorb current technology.  So naturally I did not immediately think of SA as Seeking Alpha.  It was my error.  I might suggest you have a much closer connection with the site and it is therefore foremost in your mind.  It might be easy for you to assume it is the same with others.

          Weaving an article together is not always a matter of going from one shocking discovery to another.  Often it is a matter of stating the obvious in a pattern that makes a picture of a puzzle.  Petersen’s disclosure is just that, a disclosure that appears at the ends of his articles.  He maintains it is not a conflict of interest and from the perspective of an investor he may be absolutely correct.  However it is clearly the history from which he writes.  Starting the article with the disclosure makes that perspective obvious for non investors.

          I value your questions regardless of their present sincerity.  You represent an audience I also address.  When we try to shout down dissent (or bait the conversation) it may suggest we are not secure in our opinions.  It doesn’t make for a very good discussion.  I do sense some reaching in your questions and am more than willing to meet you 1/2 way, but that always requires if not a truly open mind then at least a willingness to listen.

          Baiting and then receiving a hoped for intense response is not very progressive and probably not a good basis on which to judge a site.  We have much to discuss.  I hope you will stay in touch.        

    • Anne

      “Coal powered” – buy solar panels
      “Range bound” – use a fast charger
      “Non recyclable batteries” – uneconomical is different from impossible.
      “Non competetive in price” – Early adopters don’t mind. You wait a few years until they get cheaper
      “High cost of ownership” – electricity is much cheaper than petrol, maintenance is cheaper
      “excessive recharge timeframe” – Do you stand by and watch it charge or simply go to bed and wake up on a full battery?
      “Costly recharge” – teach yourself some math
      “Government subsidized” – Hurry and buy one while the subsidy lasts!
      “Risk of being ‘bricked’ ” – RTFM
      “And now extensive due diligence needed to assess safety” – No fatalities known due to ‘exploding batteries’.

      • Thanks for all the great rebuttals, Anne! 😀

        • magounsq

          Zach…as editor/director, I thought that position might allow for some balanced discussion.
          I guess not.

          • Not sure what you are referring to. Addressing myths and false problems is a key goal of our site. False balance is not.

      • magounsq

        Well Anne…emotional and sarcastic “rebuttal”, but not productive.
        I thought I might learn something her, but not with that reply.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Anne has provided a most valuable and factual rebuttal.

          If you can’t learn from her posts then you’ve sealed your mind against information that doesn’t support your position.

        • Anne

          Emotional? I think they are simple, clear and to the point. But tell me, what do you want to learn about more?

          • really, no idea what his comments about ’emotional’ were. seemed very odd and out of the blue. but i guess that’s just how he read your words.

          • magounsq

            “Do you stand by and watch it charge or simply go to bed and wake up on a full battery?…teach yourself some math …
            Hurry and buy one while the subsidy lasts! …
            RTFM ”
            This was an emotional tirade, not discourse, nor were issues addressed.
            EVs may be part of the future for masses, just exploring if, when and how.
            I will take my leave since it appears this is a one sided site.
            No problem!

          • I’m sorry, but it’s completely your projection if you read such statements as emotional.

          • Bob_Wallace

            This is a very one-sided site.

            It comes down very hard on the side of facts.  Myths and distortions are treated poorly.

            Enjoy your leave.

          • Anne


            That was meant to be more humorous or blunt than a tirade. But let me clarify those points.

            I had already mentioned the fast charger, and slow charges at home are done overnight while you sleep.

            You see charging costs as a problem. Anyone who would spend just 1 minute calculating the per km energy cost of an EV vs a petrol car would find that the EV wins hands down. You could and should have done that yourself before posting.

            Subsidies are hardly a concern about EV’s, more about the budget deficit.

            RTFM referred to the owner of the bricked Tesla Roadster that failed to read the manual and left it unplugged for two months. The manual clearly states that it is a big no-no (equivalent to never checking oil in a petrol car). So the fear of bricking is unfounded if you simply follow the simple guidelines and take proper care of your car (as you must do with any car, not just EV’s).

            The problem is that your concerns don’t seem honest questions, but rather read like the standard laundry list of people that, for whatever reason, want to spread FUD about EV’s.

          • Furthermore, on the bricked Tesla, that was a very early version of the car that didn’t include emergency automatic notification that would allow Tesla to come and prevent that from happening. After just a small number of such cars, the company started including that (perhaps realizing that some people would ignore the repeated warnings at sale and the info in the owner’s manual).

  • Dragonie99

    Bit of an echo chamber going on in the comments section.

    I’ve been reading Petersen for years and it seems that you’ve misunderstood his writings greatly.

    For those of us who are very much in favor of improving the fuel and cost efficiency of transportation and protecting our natural environment, Petersen has been very good about explaining what is an improvement and what is not.

    Electic bikes are a great improvement over conventional cars.  Electrified public transportation in subways and streetcars is a great improvement over conventional cars.

    Replacing a fuel tank with a battery is a step in the wrong direction – it is not an improvement.

    If you really care about the environment you need to read Petersen’s articles again with an open mind.

    If you really want to stick it to the oil companies and the automakers like I do then get a public transportation pass and/or an e-bike.

    If you absolutely need a car then look for one that optimizes the use of ALL its inputs (fuel and industrial metals used to produce its batteries).



    • Breath on the Wind

       Thanks for your comment Dragonie99.  I think of three major rationals for purchasing an EV:  Environment, economics and strategic reasons.  John touches on the first two with his investors definitions and never touches strongest reason.  True he speaks of improvements but with narrow definitions and a narrow perspective and sometimes stumbles on to a wider view. 

      But I am in favor of getting rid of both the fuel tank and the battery while we keep electric cars, a possibility where we can agree and leave John muttering about materials for batteries. 

    • Anne

      “Replacing a fuel tank with a battery is a step in the wrong direction – it is not an improvement.”

      Just stating it doesn’t make it so, please provide some evidence.

      You are saying that using 200 kg of extra material (battery minus weight savings in the drive train) makes no sense, but burning through 200x as much of a commodity called ‘oil’ does. (10-20 tons is the average life time use of an average car, the idea of the EV has always been that it is powered by renewable energy and thus does not burn anything). To make matters worse for you: the oil can be used only once, the materials in the battery can be recycled indefinitely.

      “If you really care about the environment you need to read Petersen’s articles again with an open mind.”

      I can open my mind as far as I want, but nothing comes in. His arguments simply don’t hold up to scrutiny. For example in one article he states that the 1.5 kWh battery in a Prius makes a lot of sense, but as soon as you add a plug and increase the battery size, the law of diminishing returns sets in and so doesn’t make sense. The mere existence of that law is all his proof! He should be analysing the returns on each additional kWh of battery capacity, but he is either lazy or incapable or both. Also, he only counts the additional battery, but doesn’t subtract the removal of the ICE. That is just plain dishonest.

      An example. If I want to save energy, I can start by putting on a sweater and turning the thermostat down. That costs me nothing and saves me quite a lot of gas. Next I can insulate the roof, but this will cost me some money. After that comes double pane glazing with even higher cost per m3 of gas saved. That is the law of diminishing returns in full force. According to John Petersen logic only turning down the thermostat makes sense, and the rest doesn’t. No analysis needed, just the ‘law of diminishing returns’ incantation.

      It is true that each added kWh of battery capacity adds less usability and less savings, but that doesn’t automatically means the added kWh’s aren’t worth it. It requires a separate analysis to prove that. But John doesn’t do that. Does this open mindedness means an uncritical acceptance of his arguments to prevent him from calling me a closed minded ‘EVangelical’?

      No, I prefer reading John’s stuff with a critical mind.

      And btw, if his arguments are so good, why does he resort to ad hominem so frequently?

      “If you absolutely need a car then look for one that optimizes the use of ALL its inputs (fuel and industrial metals used to produce its batteries).”

      Amen! And if you do that, you end up buying an EV: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/06/lowcvp-20110608.html

      The best part is that from this point onwards, it can only get better. The share of clean, renewable electricity will only go up. Production processes of batteries will only get more efficient. The opposite is true for oil. The easy oil is gone, what we increasingly need is stuff like tar sands and deep sea oil.

      • Anne

         200x should be: 100x

      • Breath on the Wind

         I like your example of the law of diminishing returns using conservation in the home.  There is a calculation to determine what is worth doing and where funds would be better invested elsewhere.  It is too complex for analysis here but you will find it in “Solarizing your Present Home” by Joe Carter starting on pg 49 of the 1981 edition. 

        In contrast John Petersen’s calculation is a measure not of kWh but of material invested in a battery.  His standard is the over simplification of: the average distance a US driver will travel in a day (12500 miles/yr /365 days )  Unlike Carter’s metric it is not tailored to the individual, the house (car) or the circumstances.  It is an average so at the very best it can only suggest what society might consider wasteful and it presumes to suggest that no one should use more materials for a battery than what the average person might use. 

        According to this metric if you were taller or heavier than the “average” you should pay more for a plane ticket or be required to walk.  Perhaps if you used more electricity or water in your home your utilities should be turned off when you hit the “average.”  Or, shutter to think, if you made more money than the average person the government should take the balance.  And then which “average” should we use?  The US? or the World?  Obviously there is a problem with the standard he suggests.  His arguments sound well reasoned but they fail in their assumptions.

  • Captivation

    Further thoughts on John Petersen…  I try (desperately) to avoid reading the opinions of Deniers because they are usually dangerously deluded.  If you examine how he ranks the various electric cars, he gives preference based on how small the battery is and measures the efficiency by dividing the electric range into the typical daily commute.  By this measure, a car with no battery at all is INFINITELY efficient since the denominator would be zero.  Try if for yourself and prove me wrong. 

    • Bob_Wallace

      John is an EV denier in the same sense as others are climate change deniers.
      He starts from a personal belief, “EVs will fail”, and then uses any possible argument to support his belief. He doesn’t require his arguments to be logically accurate nor his statements of fact to be supported by evidence.

      It’s a religious activity, not science.

  • Captivation

    The problem with the fool me once/ fool me twice metaphor is that it stops at 2.  How do we account for people who are fooled repeatedly and never draw any conclusions?  How can anyone not remember buying a computer only to have faster computers quickly make it obsolete?  After enough fool-me-X experiences we all become Kurzweil Klones and start asking about improvement rates.  The improvement rate for battery technology has traditionally been 9% per annum.  Next year’s batteries will offer the same performance for 9% less dollars. Once you know the number, you can figure out battery prices years in advance.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I don’t think you want to risk your money on history repeating itself in this case.

      There are massive amounts of research being done to find new battery technologies for EVs and grid storage.  I really doubt the “9% rule” will hold.

      Grid storage, for example, is all about cost.  There are at least two technologies which seem to be moving along quite nicely and both promise ‘big boy steps’ forward.  Aquion’s sodium-ion battery and MIT’s liquid metal battery are different, not just gradual improvement.  If one or both of those prove out then grid storage jumps.

      The same thing is probably happening with EV batteries, but it’s not being played out in the open.

      • Captivation

        Good point Bob.  But just to highlight how things change…  When I first made my 9% chart about 10 years ago people’s response was that further progress was unlikely.  They thought I was being far too optimistic.  Its nice (and a little funny) that I now appear to be the pessimist.  The same thing happened with solar panels.  My projections were that installed solar capacity was growing at 28% per year.  People said that I was being too utopian.  Now 28% growth for the solar industry seems low.  The good new is that 9% will get us where we want to go for batteries and 28% will get us where we need to go for energy. Following your suggestion, however, in the future I will try to be less gloomy 🙂

  • Bob_Wallace

    John is a black knight?  Hardly.

    More of a Snidely Whiplash.  (Look it up, youngins.)

    • Breath on the Wind

       A big laugh to the middle of my day.  In the article he complains about the “knights of Elon”  There are lots of other possible connections besides the commerce definition: -the lawyer as a “knight….”  -the article format as a joust foreshadowing another project we are working on at this time.  Although the “Black Knight” is simply mysterious and sometimes eventually a good character in Arthurian legend, I try to draw out a different interpretation by switching to “dark knight” at the end. Ultimately, someone who presents a challenge can help us to clarity regardless of their intentions.  

  • Anne

    For too long now I have seen John Peterson posing as the ‘ultimate expert’ on a number of things and talking to his audience as if they are 3-year olds. Mostly his comments reveal two recurring themes:

    1. Superficial interpretation of data without knowing what the numbers represent.
    2. Not allowing for improvements/discoveries/breakthroughs.

    As an example of 2, in one of his recent articles, Mr. Peterson states:
    “but there will never be enough batteries or materials to permit the
    implementation of grid-powered electric vehicles at a large enough scale
    to impact global,”

    Never. Is he God? Never. Does he have a crystal ball? Never. That is a word that doesn’t allow any doubt or uncertainty. That is a word that reveals a religious fervor and belief in your own ideology. The irony is that everyone who doesn’t agree with his NEVER is called an EVangelical. Apart from the obvious ad hominem, a tactic he often uses to distract from the weakness of his arguments, that is of course a brilliant example of pure hypocrisy.

    He is more interested in polemic than a fruitful debate. I have never gotten any worthwile insights from his writings. He is nothing more than a troll begging for attention. Don’t feed the troll.

    • Breath on the Wind

      Thanks for the comment Anne.  Your points are spot on.  Different from some trolls his arguments can seem to hold together.  He knows how to present his arguments.  We don’t tend to dismiss them out of hand.  But this is just the window dressing.  I do tend to agree that we are reaching in our application of battery tech when applied to an EVs.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I can enjoy the rest because it is not as seriously considered.

      Your point about minerals is directly addressed (second paragraph) in another article showing a new supply.

      Part of what we have to consider is simply not to shy away from the force of these arguments.  Much of it is just bluster. 

    • Bob_Wallace

      In one of his outpourings John foretold a coming battle between EVs and grid storage for the limited number of batteries which could be available.

      That was beyond silly.  New battery factories can be built in about a year.  Aquion, for example, who are bringing a sodium-ion grid storage battery to market acquired a building earlier this year and should be delivering their first units before the year is out.

      Furthermore, it’s fairly unlikely that EVs and grid storage will use the same battery technology.  EV batteries need to to be small and light.   Weight and size are not so important for grid storage.  Grid batteries will focus on cost over capacity.

    • nice additional critique.

    • Abualex

      Sorry Anne, John’s right. Unless you want to redefine the planet’s crust  — there is a finite amount of lead, lithium, nickel etc on earth and as for getting it out. He’s merely quoting what most mining experts believe.

      This is worth a look.http://tyler.blogware.com/lithium_shortage.pdfI don’t understand the vitriol in your comments.One of the strengths of his cynicism about point 2 is that he’s mostly right. Large parts of the EV industry believe there’s some kind of Moore’s Law at work but rather than computer hardware power doubling every two years we’re trusting in that battery performance is no longer governed by the rules of electrochemistry. There is both a theoretical and practical limit to the performance achievable from any given battery couple.How many years has it taken for GM to extend the Volt’s range by … three miles!Incidentally the author of the above is incorrect about talking about  GM inventing the term ‘range anxiety’ for the Volt. This was the term used when closing down Ford’s ECOSTAR program in the mid-1990s.

      • we’ve got a video going up tomorrow that includes a bit on Lithium from a top researcher in this field who basically shows why “concern” of a Lithium shortage is completely bunk. Look for it.

      • Bob_Wallace

        John is almost never right.  He’s not as good as a broken clock.

        Unlike oil, all that lead, lithium, nickel, etc. does not get consumed as we drive down the road.  It’s recoverable/recyclable.

        Let me copy over something on lithium in order to show you how wrong John is…

        The 100 mile Nissan Leaf uses 4kg of lithium in its batteries.  Let’s say magic happens and between 2020 and 2040 we put 1.2 billion 200 mile range EVs on the world’s roads, each using 8kg of lithium in their batteries. (And that’s if range increase comes only from more batteries rather than the more likely improved anodes and cathodes.)

        That would mean that in that 20 year period we would need to produce 480,000 metric tons of lithium per year.
        And after that we could just recycle what we’ve already extracted.

        At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance.

        Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Portugal and Zimbabwe have roughly 13,000,000 metric tons of lithium that can be extracted. That’s a 27 year supply.

        Bolivia has 5,400,000 tons. Over 11 years.

        There are approximately 230,000,000,000 tons in seawater.    A 479,167 year supply.

        The cost of extracting lithium from seawater is 5x or less than from lithium salts.  That would take the Leaf battery lithium price from ~$120 to ~$600 or less, or raise the cost of our 200 mile EV by not much more than $1k. 

        Now, did you notice the statement – ” Nickel and lead have about the same abundance.”?

      • John is not remotely right. The battery resource constraint issue was the first of his flimsy myths I chose to rip apart here: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Guest-Post-EV-Myths-And-Realities-Part-1-The-Battery-Crisis/

        There are two things John may be right about:
        1. Tesla may fail
        2. Axion may succeed in the Start/Stop market, and deliver positive returns for its investors.

        However, his track record to date on even those two is appalling – Axion has been a terrible investment for as long as Petersen has been promoting it; while Tesla has just hit a huge home run (with more to come I suspect).

        On most other topics John is provably wrong – he’s just either too incompetent to realize it, or too dishonest to acknowledge it. I suspect the latter.

        BreathOnTheWind – great post. I am going to borrow the black knight metaphor at some point. I find it incredible that someone as fundamentally misinformed as Petersen has established such sway in the realm of EVs, and am delighted to see an increasing number of articles exposing him for the charlatan he is.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Tesla’s not only hit a home run, Tesla has a couple of infield doubles as well.

          Tesla is partnered up with both Toyota and Mercedes to help them bring their EVs to market. Tesla may not be around ten years from now, but Tesla will almost certainly live on inside other car companies that
          are benefiting from their pioneering.

        • Great piece, Nick. Saw that one. If you’d like to post some on CleanTechnica, shoot me a line: zach@uimportantmedia.org

      • Breath on the Wind

        True, but while GM did not invent the term. Range Anxiety” they made it “popular” by using and overusing it for their advertising for the Volt

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