Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Giles Parkinson


Fossil Fuels, Utilities & Gas Cars To Be Obsolete By 2030

July 1st, 2014 by  


Last year, in an interview with Stanford University’s Tony Seba, we foreshadowed the remarkable conclusions of his new book: that energy and transportation as we know it will be history by 2030.

That book, the Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation,tony seba book is now published, and it has even more dramatic prognosis: Silicon Valley will make oil, nuclear, natural gas, coal, electric utilities and conventional cars obsolete by 2030.  And Australia – with its high solar penetration – will lead the way be the shape of things to come.

What’s more, Seba says it might happen even earlier than 2030.

He’s not the only person to predict this transformation. Jeremy Grantham agrees, and many in the utilities industry see the same risks. Paul Gilding has made similar predictions.

“Clean energy (solar and wind) is free,” Seba writes. “Clean transportation is electric and uses clean energy derived from the sun and wind. The key to the disruption of energy lies in the exponential cost and performance improvement of technologies that convert, manage, store, and share clean energy. The clean disruption is also about software and business model innovation.”

Seba says the energy architecture of the future will be completely different from the one today.It will be distributed, mobile, intelligent, and participatory and will overturn the existing energy architecture, which is centralized, command-and-control oriented, secretive, and extractive.

“The conventional energy model is about Big Banks financing Big Energy to build Big Power Plants or refineries in a few selected places. The new architecture is about everyone financing everyone to build smaller, distributed power plants everywhere.”

The end of the existing energy business model

The existing energy business model – based on scarcity, depletion, and command-and-control monopolies – will be replaced by abundant, cheap, and participatory energy.

tony sebaSeba argues that given the exponential cost improvement of these technologies, the disruption is inevitable, and it will be swift. “It will be over by 2030. Maybe before,” Seba writes.

“Oil, natural gas (methane), coal, and uranium will simply become obsolete for the purposes of generating significant amounts of electricity and powering the automobile.”

“In twenty years we’ll wonder how we put up with the horrendous consequences of the incumbent, conventional, $8 trillion-a-year energy industry. If Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison rose from the dead, they would recognize the industry that they helped build a century ago — and they would be disappointed at how little it has changed.”

Australia is shape of things to come

Seba argues that the first wave of energy disruption has already begun with distributed solar and wind generation.

Australia, he says, is a leader and the “shape of things to come”. From having virtually no solar in 2008, it now has more than 3GW on 1.4 million rooftops (I’ve updated his year-old data).

If the US, for instance, had Australia’s (end of 2012) 11 per cent solar penetration, there would be 13.6 million solar homes, 50 times its current number. South Australia and Queensland now have over 20 per cent penetration rates.

So what happens to a power utility when users start generating their own solar energy?

1. Demand for utility energy drops. As users generate their own energy, they buy less from the utility.

2. Competition increases. The utility competes with myriad solar installers.

3. Utility revenues drop. As demand drops and competition increases, the

utilities make less money

4. Utility margins drop disproportionately. Solar generates the most energy

during peak pricing billing cycles, which undercuts the power utility’s highest margin products.

All of which we have seen clearly in Australia, and which underlines the opposition to the renewable energy target, and solar incentives in particular, from generators. Networks are now looking to prevent solar being exported back on to the grid.

Seba quotes former GE chief executive Jack Welch: “If the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”. ‘

But the impact of solar – which is competing with the cost of conventional technology in many countries -– is just one aspect.

Other waves of innovation will also sweep through the incumbents. It is starting to occur in electric vehicles, and will continue with the self driving car. Transportation will never be the same again. And the evolution will continue with more intelligent devices

The energy industry and its Kodak moment

To illustrate his point, Seba points to the Kodak experience. The age of film photography did not end because the world ran out of film, or components to make film or film cameras. It was destroyed by rapid improvements in digital imaging and information technologies, disruptive business models, and a participatory culture with which industry leaders Kodak and Fujifilm simply could not compete.

The energy and transportation industries have a business model similar to Kodak’s. Every time you flip a switch to turn on a light, more cash is paid to the utility. Every flip of the switch involves burning coal, oil, gas, or uranium and, again more cash for resource-based energy suppliers.

“Every time you press the gas pedal in your car, you give cash to the oil industry. Substituting natural gas or ethanol for gasoline doesn’t change the business model. Every time you press the gas pedal you still burn fuel and give cash to the energy industry.”

But once a rooftop solar installation is installed, the marginal cost of each additional unit of energy drops essentially to zero because the sun and the wind are free. Flipping a light switch burns nothing and means zero cash for the utility.

In the case of Kodak, the next disruption came from the likes of Flickr, which made it easier to publish and share photos online, and so the marginal cost of storage dropped to zero. Companies like Picasa made it easy to store photos online on or a laptop. Again, the cost of each additional picture was nil.

Next came the social media disruption wave. Facebook became the largest photo publisher in the world. It was followed by smartphone cameras, and Instagram.

The benefits of abundance, innovation and participatory culture

Seba says Silicon Valley will play a central role because companies such as Apple, Google, Intel, Cisco, Facebook, Twitter, and eBay are governed by information economics. These technology companies grow fast and strong because of the economics of increasing returns, and is about abundance, innovation and participatory culture.

Resource-based energy companies are based on the economics of decreasing returns. He cites fracking as the classic example. It needs huge infrastructure in water, transport, pipelines, and factories – and where the returns start decreasing as soon as the oil or gas is pumped. Despite all the talk of abundance and a “golden age of energy,” fracked wells may deplete by 60 to 70 percent the first year alone.8

SolarPV, meanwhile, has decreased its costs by a factor of 154, a classic technology cost curve. The electric vehicle is already better, faster, and safer than the internal combustion engine (gasoline) vehicle, and innovative financing models will reduce upfront costs. The autonomous (self-driving) vehicle will soon be better, faster, cheaper, and safer than vehicles driven by human drivers. The disruptive wave brought about by self-driving cars will wipe the last vestiges of the gasoline car and oil industries.

This will lead to a convergence in which batteries can be used for transportation and for grid storage. Electric vehicles can be charged at work and become a source as well as a user of energy for the home. The result will be a swift transition from liquid-energy transportation to electric transportation.

The self-driving car will benefit from improvements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensors, graphics processing, robotics, broadband wire-less communications, advanced materials, 3D visualization, Lidar, and 3D printing. In turn, These technologies will also benefit solar, wind, and electric vehicles.

“The information technology revolution pushed processing power and intelligence from the center to the edges. We went from the mainframe, to the mini-computer, to the personal computer, to the cell phone and tablet in less than three decades. The nodes are getting smaller, more connected and more intelligent. We’re far from done with this transition. The trillion-sensor world is right around the corner.

“The information technology revolution was not brought about only by the miniaturisation of technologies. This was a transition from a supplier-centric, centralised information model to a user-centric, participatory information model.

Seba says energy and transportation disruption is quickly moving towards a participatory energy model, that will also use a distributed architecture of energy production and usage made possible by software, sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, smartphones, mobile Internet, big data, analytics, satellites, nanotechnology, electricity storage, materials science, and other exponentially improving technologies.

Solar is causing energy production to be pushed to the edges (customer site) from the center (large, centralized, hub-and-spoke power plants). The nodes are getting smaller, more modular, more connected, and more intelligent.

“Welcome to the age of participatory energy, where every end user will be able to contribute to the financing, generation, storage, management, and trading of energy. “

Tesla, a smartphone on wheels

He suggests the Tesla Model S, for instance, is not very different from a smartphone or tablet computer, and as such will benefit from Moore’s Law, or a version thereof, that states that technology improves at an annual rate of about 41 percent.

“If your competitor’s rate of improvement is faster than yours, you’re toast. “

And what of the extractive resources? According to Seba, they will have sizeable niche markets – uranium for weapons, gas for cooking and fertiliser.

“Obsolescence and clean disruption will not put an end to incumbent industries. We still have vinyl records, sailboats and jukeboxes. These niche market products will survive, but energy and transportation will not be the multi-trillion dollar energy heavyweights that they are today. “

Source: RenewEconomy. Reproduced with permission. 

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About the Author

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

  • Doug

    The book is $17. Bring the price down to $10 and I might pick it up.

    • Bob_Wallace

      $9.95 for Kindle – Amazon.

  • Matt

    Because of cycle limitation of current batteries. Expect to see “I need this much charge by 5pm” for EV first. And likely heat/cool storage. This take the extra capacity when PV or wind is making “Too much”. Also load minimization “requests” Where application will wait when possible, for example use the stored cool/heat. Smarts will start slow and then pick up speed as standards start to appear. As stationary batteries get cheaper, big builds will use them to drop from peak power charges.

  • wallybobble

    with global warming accelerating this transformation might still fall short.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “A leaked draft of the (IPCC) report sent to governments in December suggests that in order to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) by the end of the century — the stated goal of international climate talks — emissions need to fall by 40-70 percent by 2050.”

      If ICEVs largely disappear from dealer’s showrooms by 2030 we’ll easily hit the 70% reduction for personal transportation. The Obama negotiated higher fuel efficiency requirements, alone, probably get us to a 40% reduction.

      The 40%/70% reduction is based on 2005 emission levels. In 2005 we were getting 73% of our electricity from fossil fuels. We’re currently getting about 60% of our electricity from fossil fuels. We’re already down 18%, almost half of the 40% minimum.

      The 70% target is very reachable. Between now and 2050 we need to get fossil fuel use for electricity down to 22%. From today’s 60% to 22% takes a 38% switch which means converting just a bit over 1% per year for the next 35 years, and that’s a piece of cake. Over the last 5 years we’ve converted ~3% to wind and solar. We wouldn’t have to do much to boost that 0.6% to 1.1%. Our present rate gets us the 40% minimum. The rapidly dropping prices of wind and solar should make 70+% happen.

      If Seba is even close to correct we’re going to dodge extreme climate change. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer some pain, we already are. We will melt out Arctic Sea Ice and continue to melt the world’s glaciers. We will have more severe weather and rising oceans. But perhaps over the next 35 years we can figure out a practical way to pull carbon out of our atmosphere and put it back underground where it needs to be.

      • Rick Kargaard

        The worlds glaciers will continue to recede without AWG but perhaps at a slower rate. When they start advancing we will have seen the end of the current interglacial period. There is no such thing as static ice

  • Wayne Williamson

    To me the title of this article is not accurate. Looks like most of the posts lean in that direction also. It probably should have been something like…
    “By 2030(just 15 years) the majority of cars produced will be electric”.
    Ok, on reading the title again, I’m lost. I do not believe that Utilities will be gone. As a matter of fact, the transmission “utility” will be one of the most important ones, along with water and sewage. There will probably be a others….

    • Bob_Wallace

      I agree. Those who foretell the death of the grid must have zero experience with being off grid. Transmission is what will make electricity cheap and reliable.

  • wattleberry

    If this doesn’t confirm my Second Industrial Revolution assertion I don’t know what does. Mind you how long did the First take to be so titled?

  • Bob_Wallace

    “.but do we still need a massive network of interconnected grids?”

    Yes. Direct use of wind/solar will always be cheaper than stored wind/solar. Moving power around from grid to grid lowers the need for storage and dispatchable generation.

    We actually need to expand our connections. We need to tie the three major US grids together. The SW should be able to send power to the SE or other regions when needed. Midwest power should be able to flow around the continent. Currently isolated power such as Wyoming wind needs to be brought on line.

    The more we can interconnect, the cheaper our electricity should become. Large scale connection allows for sharing of storage and dispatchable generation, along with the ability to minimize both.

  • Rick Kargaard

    2030, thats 15 years from now. At todays rate of production it would take 15 years to replace todays cars. Thats if all manufactures were building only EVs.
    The use of fossil fuel has not even began to slow.
    These predictions are like most. Almost totally useless.
    Take a look at past predictions. Almost all were way off the mark. Anybody good at prediction of any kind would become very, very rich, very quickly.
    Here are my predictions.
    In fifteen years, many will not even have finished that home improvement project they are planning.
    There will still be 20 year old cars on the road.
    Most current predictions will be proven wrong.
    The world will have changed considerably but we will hardly notice.

    • Evan

      There’s no reason to fear; we don’t live in your past, look at the world and accept it has changed considerably and more take notice each day. When I see someone like you, likely embittered by their baby-boomer, 20th century experience, I’m elated knowing the last wasteful, brutal generation is passing the torch.

      • Benjamin Nead

        Please don’t make this a generational argument, Evan. The one great mistake the Baby Boomers made – and this from the words of 60’s activist, Jerry Rubin – is to tie the idea of positive change to something only youth are capable of pursuing. The “never trust anyone over 30” axiom of that day became instantly obsolete when all who subscribed to it aged and, indeed, more so after a subsequent generation with more conservative values came along.

        Please also remember that many of the Baby Boomer generation were the ones who reinvigorated the environmental movement and continue to do so today. It’s also a cop out for oldsters such as myself (I’m 56) to instantly pigeonhole all Millennials one way or another. I’ve met many who have a great drive for positive change. But I’ve also become acquainted with a good number who are, well . . . positively clueless.

        • Rick Kargaard

          So true. Age has little to do with ones life philosophy. It does have the advantage of much experience which makes us much less likely to believe bullshit, no matter how it is packaged or who is shoveling it out.
          By the way, at 56 you are in the prime of life. I would never call you an oldster.
          It is a sad fact that everyone will be old far sooner than they would like. Those that put down anyone older than themselves will soon be complaining about the younger generation.

      • Rick Kargaard

        I am neither embittered or a baby boomer. I am looking at younger generations that are as brutal and likely more wasteful than mine. MY generation is older than the boomers and did not have the wasteful toys or huge incomes of later generations. If you are one of the millenials you are certainly a nearsighted one I see most of your kind with RVs, dirt bikes and many other toys that we neither had nor wanted. I had little fear until i read your reply. Now I fear for the future of humanity. Perhaps it is not worth saving

        • Bob_Wallace

          Oh, come on Rick. I’m about your age and we would have wanted all that stuff had it been available.

          • Rick Kargaard

            Well, maybe. if we actually had some cash.

          • Bob_Wallace


            Younger folks today are a lot more affluent than we were. In return, we were much more affluent than our parents when they were young.

    • Bob_Wallace

      He’s saying that ICEVs would be obsolete in 2030.

      “no longer produced or used; out of date” – (largely) no longer produced and certainly out of date. Used will hang on until the existing cars are totally worn out.

      It looks (with the Nissan battery pack price announcement) that battery prices might now be under $200/kWh. If that’s the case the we can expect ~150 mile range EVs for under $30k in the next couple of years. And when/if that happens the market switch begins in earnest.

      Higher manufacturing levels = lower battery costs. We close in on $100/kWh batteries. And that makes EVs with ~200 mile ranges the approximate cost of same-model ICEVs.

      If 5 years from now we can buy a 200 mile range Camry for the same price of a gas Camry then 15 years from now ICEVs will be obsolete.

      Rick, you’re old enough to have seen what computers did to typewriters, adding machines, and ledger books. What digital did to film. Even what scientific calculators did to slide rules. Slide rules became obsolete overnight. Both major slide rule manufacturers shut down two years later.

      • Calamity_Jean

        “Used will hang on until the existing cars are totally worn out.”

        Don’t be so sure of that. At some point gasoline and diesel cars will be so rare that fuel will be hard to find. The local gas station will close and internal combustion (IC) car owners will have to go several miles to get fuel. As the remaining IC car owners replace them with EVs, gas stations will be open only select days per week. The last few IC cars will be junked even though perfectly serviceable, because they can’t be fueled. When it happens, it will happen fast. I’m guessing maybe five years from “a gas station in every neighborhood” to “the only gas station within 30 miles is only open on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings”.

        The other possibility is that many gas stations will convert themselves into fast-charging stations that happen to sell gas. They will stop selling gas when oil companies decide that it isn’t worth the cost to keep refineries operating to make fuel.

        • Bob_Wallace

          As with Arctic sea ice, the definition of “none left” doesn’t necessarily mean zero. It means so few that we’re at or under 1% of peak so who cares?
          I think the collapse will happen fairly quickly, not as quickly as film gave way to digital, but less than 10 years for the majority of sales to switch to electrics and then some more years while the majority of the gasmobile fleet gets driven into the ground.

          There’s going to be some ‘stickiness’ for gasmobiles. Their used value will quickly drop to near zero (recycle value) and people won’t have trade in value. If they aren’t driving many miles per year they’ll hang on to their ICEV, tank up on Tuesday evening, and sputter along until repairs start to bite.

          • Rick Kargaard

            You are probably right about the stickiness. I see many farm vehicles that are considerably older than 20 yrs. and they are still useful in a limited sort of way.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Oh, sure, there will be a few gas cars running for decades. After all, there are still steam cars running, kept by members of the Steam Automobile Club (past President, my late father). I could imagine a “classic car” club paying to have a tanker of gas hauled in for a club get-together, or the club members having their own private underground gasoline tanks.

            But the current system of refinery, tanker truck, gas station is not economically viable unless there are a lot of customers. Once EVs are more than maybe 75% of the cars on the road, the routine supply of gasoline is threatened because some link in the supply chain can’t make enough money to stay in business.

        • Rick Kargaard

          5 yrs. Well I might even live long enough to see that. I will hold you to that statement

          • Calamity_Jean

            Great! I’ll meet you back here in 2030.

      • Rick Kargaard

        Very true Bob. However, only engineers had any use for a slide rule, and word processors were around a long time before they totaly replaced typwriters.
        Replacing high ticket items like automobiles is a whole different metric.
        There are a billion cars in the world and tremendous investment in infrastructure. I am sure the system will become absolete. I just think that, given our current position, 15 years is not only overly optimistic but likely impossible.
        Most people, including myself, can not afford to replace their personal transportation just because a new model becomes available.
        At the same time I am convinced of the advantages. I don’t believe most people are. I believe most would be even slower to switch than me

        • Bob_Wallace

          Are you picking up on the “15 years” being the time it may take to change over from what is available in dealer’s showrooms.

          Not 15 years to there being no more gasmobiles on the road.

          Given affordable, decent range EVs it will take (my estimate) about a decade for people to quit buying ICEVs.

          A $25k Camry that runs on “<$1/gallon" electricity or a $25k Camry that runs on $4/gallon fuel and has higher maintenance costs? That decision will be very easy once people see others driving EVs without problems for a few years.

          Perhaps gasmobiles will maintain a <10% market share for another number of years. Some people still shoot film (although color film may be just about ready to disappear from the market).

          Those billion cars have a finite lifespan. (Let's ignore the <0.01% that will be stored away as collector cars.) At some point the owner will be faced with a new transmission/valve job/whatever decision and will realize that the cost of the repair would make a down payment and the "$290/mo" they were spending on gas would cover the monthly payment. Then that gasmobile will head to the crusher a few years earlier than it would have in pre-EV years.

          The trillions invested in the fuel infrastructure will simply become non-performing assets. The equipment will be recycled for the usable materials and the real estate repurposed.

          In the town closest to me I've seen two of the six gas stations close in the last half dozen years. Increased efficiency cutting fuel use? Don't know the reason, but the pumps and tanks are gone. The buildings torn down. And something new built on one spot, the other is up for sale/lease.

          Same as what happened when we moved from horses to cars.

          Slide rules – only engineers? Were you never in a science lab where large numbers had to be crunched in a hurry?

          • Rick Kargaard

            Okay, 2 groups that might find a use.
            Gas stations have been getting further apart in my area for as long as I can remember. There was a time when we were rarely further than 5 miles from a pump. Today they are often 50 or more miles apart in the country. I think the reason is, far more efficient cars, with ranges of 400 miles or more. Gasoline is a low margin product and smaller stations have been unable to compete. But then the same thing has happened to grocery stores and hardware stores
            I agree that electric is the way to go as soon as prices drop and ranges improve. An under 30 thousand car may find some success in the U.S but much of the world still needs cars for under 10 thousand.
            I actually think we will get there. I am just not optimistic about your time frames I don’t think you will find markets changing that fast and I can’t see manufacturers taking the risks in a hurry. After all the total investments involved is horrendously high on a world scale.
            I think it will happen the fastest in the U.S where there is a large and versatile economic engine but I am still not optimistic about a 15 year time frame.

      • mds

        Well said.

    • Burnerjack

      Agreed. “By the year 2001, flying cars will be ubiquitous.”

    • mds

      I’m with Evan on this. Not the generational thing, but you are overly negative. EVs and PHEVs are catching on much faster than HEVs did. The potential for improved economics is far better. They should be easily dominating new sales in 15 years. You are right that completion of the transition and removal of old ICEVs will likely take longer. Still, like cell phones, it will happen much faster than most realize.

      • Rick Kargaard

        Those that know me consider me optimistic, but I also consider myself realistic.

        In 2014 almost 83 million autos were sold. Of this about one tenth of one percent were EV or PHEV. Pure electric was about one half of that.

        Lets make an overly optimistic assumption that sales will double yearly. It will still take nearly 12 years to reach 2014 total auto sales.

        Now I think we can assume that demand and sales of autos will increase yearly. in 2014 that increase was about 3.3 million or about seven times the sales of pure electrics. So far we are a long way from even putting a dent in fuel powered vehicle sales.

        None of this even takes into account the supply side shortages of materials that will likely occur with such a massive swing to a different technology. I see this as a looming problem with battery manufacture. Nor does it take into account a possible reluctance of the public, distributors, and manufacturers to invest in new technology.
        I hope this explains a little better why I am not optimistic about these time frames, and perhaps suggests that you may be doing a bit of wishful thinking based on what you would like to see occur.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “In 2014 almost 83 million autos were sold.”

          Think about the difference between ICEVs and EVs. In one case you install an internal combustion engine and supporting systems. In the other you install an electric motor and batteries. The rest of the vehicle is the same.

          We’ve been making electric motors for a long time. We can increase our electric motor output very quickly.

          New battery plants take a couple years to build and bring on line. Nissan has built a couple recently.

          When there’s a better solution it tends to take over very quickly. Take a look at the graph below.

          Remember, we’re talking about gasmobiles becoming obsolete in the showroom. It will take over a decade more to wear out the gasmobiles sold earlier.

          • Rick Kargaard

            An interesting graphic but most of these items were not a replacement technology. Also in many cases the prices came down very very fast (color tv). Today front load clothes washers are sold side by side with top load with at least as much space alowed for top load. Also much of this technology is just now starting to penetrate the developing world.
            Some tecnologies that make little difference to the consumer but have other advantages are quickly adopted. An example would be Alternators replacing generators in cars.
            Electric vehicles have virtually no penetration as of yet and they have been around for as long as fueled vehicles. It is not new technology and cannot be compared to a digital camera.
            The one thing that could speed their acceptance and sales is a hefty increase in fuel prices. That may be coming. It has only been delayed by the “drill baby drill” policies of your government, and then not much.
            Major upheaval in the mideast is another factor as is Venezualan politics that could affect future prices.
            All in all, I think we had best not lose sight of other fuel saving and emission reducing options.

          • mds

            “Electric vehicles have virtually no penetration as of yet and they have been around for as long as fueled vehicles. It is not new technology and cannot be compared to a digital camera.”

            Again, pessimistic. The EVs of today use high-power solid-state electronics ICs, electronic motors, and Lithium Ion battery technology that in no way was around 100 years ago. It IS new technology and can totally be compared to a digital camera. Get a clue!

            Your statement from above:
            “Those that know me consider me optimistic, but I also consider myself realistic.”
            I don’t care if you are well insulated by the views of friends and family. Consider other views anyway. You are pessimistic. You adhere to several false paradigms of the past. This is one. Consider that. The picture is sunnier than you imagine and nothing succeeds like success. Maybe if you could better see some of the changes that are taking place your voice would help carry us in the right direction instead of helping to spread doubt. …and no, I’m not asking you to be unrealistic.

          • Rick Kargaard

            One final comment..I actually like your optimism and enthusiasm and would like to see you proven right. I am only trying to inject a dose of realism that may lessen the disappointment and dispair that many may feel if things don’t play out as well as expected. I am old and have been surprised many times, but it seems that almost everything takes longer than we would hope.

          • mds

            You seem to be basically a good buy to me. That’s why I haven’t given you a hard time before. You take it well. Cudos. You are cautious. That’s not all bad. I myself am 58, not a young rash buck any more. Calling the shots on what can and can’t be done is tough. Nobody is correct all the time. I’m just calling them as I see them. Don’t forget that despair also happens when people don’t think they can solve problems adequately. I try to be fair and honest about what can realistically be done. I’m used to following Moore’s Law for my normal job, so maybe I see some things differently. …or maybe I’m just wrong a lot. Don’t think so, but that’s part of why I’m putting it out there.
            Thanks for the discussion,

          • Bob_Wallace

            The vehicles we drive today will be replaced with something. If EVs give us adequate range at an affordable price then we will almost certainly switch what we purchase as fast as other technologies were adopted.

            “Electric vehicles have virtually no penetration as of yet and they have been around for as long as fueled vehicles”

            That is a bogus argument. Early EV battery technology did not evolve and EVs were displaced by cheap oil. Now battery technology is rapidly developing and cheap oil is gone.

        • mds

          “Lets make an overly optimistic assumption that sales will double yearly.
          It will still take nearly 12 years to reach 2014 total auto sales.”
          Good point. I ran some numbers. You are right. I concede to your pessimism for now. I still think we will all be shocked at the sudden transition, but I cannot make a good growth case for now. We’ll see.

          “None of this even takes into account the supply side shortages of
          materials that will likely occur with such a massive swing to a
          different technology. I see this as a looming problem with battery
          This is utter nonsense. It is an old nay-sayers lament that has no basis in fact. There is more Lithium than we can make use of. You don’t need rare-earths to make induction motors and these are already being produced. Rare-earths are not as rare as the name leads you to believe. The largest deposits known are completely untapped in Greenland. We’re about to start mining Mars and the asteroid belt for metals. If the metals used to build ICEV become repurposed to build EVs/PHEVs…

          • Rick Kargaard

            I was not questioning the fact that there is enough . The question is can we produce it fast enough and find enough capital investment to do it. There is certainly some catch up needed as most lithium today is a by-product from other types of mining. You said it yourself, many deposits are completely untapped. Just doing all the studies including environmental impact and feasibility takes a few years. then finding investors and building a mining complex takes several more years.
            We may however find other technology where lithium supply is not such a large factor

          • A Real Libertarian

            Right now we’re standing at the edge of a massive reallocation of resources from fossil fuels to renewables.

            That’s really going to change things.

          • mds

            “enough capital investment” Yes, that too is happening. I agree with “A Real Libertarian” on this.

            “There is certainly some catch up needed as most lithium today is a by-product from other types of mining.” This has already been in progress for some time. I don’t think Lithium mining will be as difficult to scale as something like rare earth metal mining, because you can separate it from brines. This is being pursued in the CA Salton Sea area.

            “We may however find other technology where lithium supply is not such a large factor” Yes, absolutely, (Pelion with magnesium?) but lithium will do the job just fine thanks and this is cause for huge optimism. There is a solution at hand.

            I sometimes can get impatient with people saying what cannot be done. I very much liked the Obama slogan of “Yes, we can.” I’m an engineer. I want my small contribution to the world to be about solutions. …and those solutions are out there …including economically viable solutions …thank you God!

  • JamesWimberley

    An ARM executive said that a modern car may have 40 processors, many talking to each other. Embedded processors, mostly net-capable, are the fastest growing processor market – faster than smartphones and tablets. The constraint will be writing the software to make use of all this connected potential. Siri and Nest suggest what is coming – as does the NSA’s PRISM.

  • JamesWimberley

    “In the case of Kodak, the next disruption came from the likes of Flickr, which made it easier to publish and share photos online, and so the marginal cost of storage dropped to zero.” A niggle: it wasn’t Flickr that dropped the cost of storage, but IBM, Seagate and other makers of hard drives, and Google and other operators of server farms that learnt how to scale them up to exabytes.

    Does Seba have a take on the fightback by fossil fuel interests? The Kochs have bought the Republican Party in the USA and prevented any national climate legislation, though they have been defeated many times as state level. In Germany coal interests have secured a considerable slowing down of the Energiewende, and since there’s a consensus that renewables must displace nuclear first, coal won’t start to fall before 2020. In Australia, their counterparts secured a planned full-scale reversal of a progressive policy, though this in turn is meeting headwinds.

    In the end, the revolution wins. But it’s two steps forward, one step back. Germany, Italy and Spain fall back on solar, but Japan, China and the USA take up the slack. If there’s a setback in Japan, Mexico or somebody will step in. The vast majority of the world’s countries have policies for renewables now, including oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is irreversible.

    BTW it’s a nationalistic – even Bay Area – conceit to say that Silicon Valley is bringing the revolution. Cost reductions in solar panels are driven by Chinese commodity manufacturers, and the research on the next generation is all over the world. SFIK no big wind manufacturer is based in California. Tesla is American, but Nissan French/Japanese, BYD Chinese. Even the computer chips that will control all these devices use processors designed by ARM in Cambridge (England) and manufactured by licensees in Asia. It’s a global movement, with no hegemon in sight, thank God.

    • LookingForward

      Some coal companies in Germany are allready allmost bankrupt because of renewables, the energywende hasn’t slowed down because of coal, but because the German government needed to controle the growth and expences (because of incentives) by renewables more. Right now FIT is still dropping in a controlled manner (solar is steady at 2/3GW of anual growth) and there are (new) incentives for storage.
      When the FIT reaches zero renewables will start growing again, the hope is the storage industry (and sales) will be big enough by then to keep up with growth of the power generation peaks and drops of wind and solar.

      • JamesWimberley

        Gemn solar installations are running well below the corridor: only 818 MW in the first five months of this year (link).

        The pickup does not depend on the FIT going to zero. It’s below half the retail rate today, so the economics depend largely on self-consumption. My reading is that households were spooked by the uncertainty generated by the ballyhooed reform of the EEG, sold through an imaginary funding crisis. It the upshot, nothing changes really for them: the low FITs stay guaranteed, and households won’t have to pay any part of the EEG surcharge. The low-cost installers, minimal red tape and cheap bank loans are still there too. It still pays Germans very well to go solar. I think demand will pick up soon and fast.

        • LookingForward

          Let’s hope so

    • jeffhre

      “A niggle: it wasn’t Flickr that dropped the cost of storage, but IBM, Seagate and other makers of hard drives, and Google and other operators of server farms that learnt how to scale them up to exabytes.”

      Another niggle, “IBM, Seagate and other makers of hard drives, and Google and other operators of server farms that learnt how to scale them up to exabytes,” didn’t invent and popularize Flicker 🙂

      • JamesWimberley

        Your point, sir?

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