Published on January 6th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


Huge BYD Storage Project In Lancaster, BYD’s EV Master Plan, Tesla’s EV Master Plan (Cleantech Talk #16)

January 6th, 2016 by  

Kyle Field, Matthew Klippenstein, and I had an extra long session for Cleantech Talk #16. In this episode, we discussed…

… a big huge BYD energy storage project that is supposed to help Lancaster, California, become a net-zero-energy city. (Matthew found out about the 500 MW project on another podcast — storage capacity is unknown at this point. There are more details down in the show notes.)

BYD’s overall approach to electrifying transport.

Bob Lutz making another wild claim.

… and Tesla’s “Secret Master Plan.”

You can listen and subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes or SoundCloud, you can listen by hitting the play button in the embedded player below, or you can download the podcast and then listen.

Matthew puts together show notes, and we’ve decided to share those here now as well:

Story 1 – massive “battery peaker plant”

CleanTechnica has previously featured the city of Lancaster, California, highlighting how its Republican (!) Mayor convinced city council to pass a law in March 2013 requiring solar panels to be installed for every newly-built single family home, as of January 1, 2014.

Lancaster – which enjoys 350 days of sunshine per year – is aiming to be a net-zero-electricity city by 2020, producing as much power within city limits as it consumes, each year. Home to BYD’s North American electric bus manufacturing facilities, it stands a good chance of reaching its stated goal of becoming the Alternative Energy Capital of the World.

And now its chances have gotten even better.

On a recent conference call of West Coast mayors convened by the No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure movement, Mayor Parris revealed that the city of Lancaster is working with BYD on a 500 MW energy storage system. A BYD representative confirmed this via email, taking care to emphasize that discussions were still in the early stages. (A big, big tip of the hat to Alex Smith’s Radio Ecoshock podcast.)

This is a big, big deal.

Greentech Media had projected that cumulative battery storage installations in the United States wouldn’t exceed a power rating of 500 MW until 2018 – and even then, just barely. Some upward revisions may be in order…!

If the project under discussion follows the typical pattern of 4 MWh energy storage per 1 MW power capacity (meaning that the batteries are sized to be able to discharge at 100% of rated power for four hours) that would mean this “battery peaker plant” would involve an enormous 2 GWh of BYD’s lithium-iron-phosphate batteries. That’s 2 million kWh, which is the equivalent of 200,000 Tesla Powerwalls, or 22,000 top-of-the-line Telsa Model S or X 90D’s.

It’s also about double the 280 MW of battery storage that California utility SoCal Edison recently signed up for.

And this project’s size – on par with many legacy natural gas peakers – might make it a milestone we back on years from now, marking the beginning of our transition in earnest to battery peaker plants.

All in all, it’s fantastic news with which to ring in the New Year — and all of us at CleanTechnica (and the Cleantech Talk podcast too) can’t wait to bring you the daily latest and greatest as we accelerate into this epochal transition!

This battery peaker plant should work well for Lancaster, the per-capita solar capital of America. (A comparison from three years ago had them at 130 Watts of solar panels installed per capita, way ahead of second-place San Jose which had 40 Watts. Given the growth of photovoltaics since then, their per-capita lead alone is probably 130 Watts by now…)

City Council had also come out swinging against a proposed 570 MW natural gas combined-cycle generator in the neighbouring city of Palmdale, so the city’s support for the battery peaker could be a case of proving their new proposal better. It would also help them manage any “duck curve” effects they might see from the solar infrastructure they continue to build throughout the city. As such, the battery peaker should greatly enhance the value of Lancaster’s solar electricity – the California Energy Storage Alliance estimates the value of storage-backed solar at 25 cents/kWh!

Story 2 – BYD vs. Tesla masterplan

The contrast in BYD and Tesla business plans makes for a great “pincer” movement on personal vehicles, with Tesla attacking from above (with unparalleled aspirational vehicles) and BYD striking from below (moving up the aspirational ladder).

BYD anticipated sales of 6,000 electric buses worldwide in 2015, roughly on par with the number of buses (of all sorts) sold in the United States every year. Worldwide, there are probably about half a million (500,000) buses in the world, with the number expected to increase as urban centers grow and become more dense.

It’s worth noting that they use lithium-iron-phosphate batteries (LiFePO4), instead of the lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide type (“NMC” or LiNiMnCoO2) favoured by Tesla and many other electric vehicle makers. The advantage of NMC batteries is superior energy density, with the disadvantage being stability. Safety systems need to be designed around them to prevent freak instances of thermal runaway (fires) during recharging. Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries have roughly half the energy density, but are very stable, so need a lot less in the way of protective sub-systems. BYD clearly thinks the savings make their chemistry worthwhile.

A decent high-level overview of litihium-ion battery chemistries is here.

Story 3 – Another Bob Lutzism

The CNN story featuring Bob Lutz pooh-poohing the Toyota Prius back in 2004 is here.

And the infamous Steve Ballmer video pooh-poohing the iPhone back in 2007 or so is here.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Excellent as always. Thanks Zack, Kyle and Matthew. Lutz’ comments on the Volt and the Bolt only show that he is a dolt.

    • Thanks for the kind words, @RawLasVegan:disqus!

  • vensonata

    A few model towns with PV and storage are needed to put an end to the dismissive attitude of the reactionary types. When we can point to an American city (and that is important, since the American lifestyle is famously, um, supersized) that does it in real life, the arguments end.

    • Good point. Looks like Lancaster, Republican mayor and all, is aiming to be that city.

  • subspace

    Reportedly, BYD does not *exclusively* produce LiFeP batteries. The Song Plug-in hybrid will apparently be their first car to use NCA batteries. Possibly they also use these for their mobile phone battery offerings.

    Still, for storage applications they will certainly stick to LiFeP.

    • I recalled reading that BYD would be using another type of battery in some EVs, but couldn’t remember more details. Thanks for the note.

      • subspace

        There’s also the Manganese addition to their “traditional” iron batteries. I believe there was an article on that here on cleantechnica. That’s what they use in the new e6 (and probably other models soon).

  • Karl the brewer

    Regarding grid scale battery storage I would like to offer some anecdotal evidence from the UK if I may. Our electrical contractor told me today that he is doing some work on a house in a village about 5 miles from us. The owner has approx 13 acres of land (52,000m2 approx), is situated next to the local substation and has been approached by his electrical distribution network operator – – to see if they can lease approx 70m2 of land for 10 years. Naturally he asked why and they told him it was for 2 x 40 foot shipping containers. He then asked what would be in them and was told batteries. Renumeration in the order of £100,000 over the ten years, although I’m not sure how accurate this figure is. If this is true and I have now reason to doubt our electrician, then storage is advancing faster than we think. If I hear any more info I’ll post it up.

    • Interesting. Let us know when you get more details!

    • Hi @karlthebrewer:disqus, I think the CEO of Stem said on a recent “Energy Gang” podcast that his battery costs dropped 70% year-over-year. I might have misheard him (maybe he said 17%?) but he was emphatic that costs were dropping faster than solar PV did, back in his days in that industry. So, that’s very promising. 🙂

  • Matt

    Note that this could also be a real interesting grid study. If they go so far as to break their grid into sub-grid that can island, with storage in each sub-grid. You would get much higher up time. But then I don’t know who owns the grid there and if they really want to be that far ahead of the curve.

  • Matt

    With the size of the Lancaster battery peak plant, I can’t wait for more detail. Will it be all in one spot, or are they placing spreading it around at substations to also solve grid congestion issues? Since they are “the location of BYD’s North American electric bus manufacturing facilities” it isn’t a big surprise they went with BYD. Helping a “local” company and that local company might have cut them a deal. Having the largest battery peaking plant in the World (for now) is good for some bragging rights. But then it isn’t built yet so maybe someone else will grab that title away over the next coming years. Let the games begin!

    • Kyle is working on an article. Will see what he can dig up.

  • eveee

    That is an impressive storage size in Lancaster. Bigger than some peakers. The energy density won’t matter for utility storage. Cost does, though. I would like to see some cost estimates to see how they stack up. The last time I looked at Balqon/Winston, their batteries seemed more expensive than Tesla per kwhr. I still think NMC is better for private transport. If I am not mistaken, passenger miles/kwhr goes up as the size of the vehicle increases. Passenger miles per gallon goes up that way. If so, the higher energy density of the NMC is not needed to power a bus, but is needed to power a car. The cost analysis is not simple, either. The cost per kwhr is modified by many assumptions. I am not sure why a bus that meets all performance goals with LiFeP could not meet them with NMC.
    LiFeP batteries have some of the best safety of any Lithium battery. Tesla solved the problem a different way. That seems to turn out cheaper on the basis of range in passenger cars.
    BYDs claim that LiFeP could be safer or less fire prone is generally true, but if its safe enough and fire proof enough, more is unnecessary and costly. Its a question of what the cheapest way is that meets the goals.

    • JamesWimberley

      The “less to go wrong” factor with LiFe could be important for a Chinese manufacturer battling stereotypes of low quality. Compare the export performance of Chinese solar panels (world domination) with Chinese wind turbines (a failure outside the domestic market). Starting with the luxury end of the car market has allowed Tesla to earn a reputation for high quality.

      • eveee

        True. So its pretty hard to use the high end market for EVs with Tesla in the way. That copycat company is trying to do that with a Chinese billionaire.
        On the other hand, buses are completely different. Probably easier to gain market entry there. The Chinese bus entries are pretty impressive, with decent range and performance.
        Hey what do you think, if buses can be made, how far could we be from long haul EV trucks?

        • Rick Thurman

          To what extent does it make sense to understand each country’s entrepreneurs in their cultural context (Here, Tesla vs. BYD)? Each is out to change the world, but each is changing a different world. Tesla is changing the consumer mindset in a primarily suburban country where personal cars are a practical requirement for survival in all income levels; the upper middle class taste-makers he’s evangelizing, due to our historical physical wealth, are used to having marginal demands for acceleration, comfort and even fun met as well. We in the lower classes than them are used to forming our demands in relation to their standards, while facing that same absolute requirement for personal transport. Appeals to rational frugality have been tried in the US since the 1970s at least, and it’s never more than a niche market.
          BYD’s China is essentially a Japan-Korea-Taiwan like coastal economy tacked on to the side of an interior India, that would like to join the coastal Pacific Rim in income levels. When it does become richer though, like so much of the rest of Indo-Pacific Asia, high population density will mean most people at all income levels will live and move in urban to “hyper-urban” cities. From the Amur to the Indus, high speed rail will loom over freeways as the critical transport artery, by simple necessity. Even if families can afford cars and their power, they may not afford parking. This will be especially so as we look down the income scale, if everyone within an income group tries to go “auto.” The higher the higher the density, the higher the income threshold to rely on a personal car.
          This is the world BYD must operate in. Their coastal markets may approach Tesla-like income conditions, but density will shape demand more in Japan-Korea-Europe style conditions. But interior markets are only now reaching the point where they can have their Henry Ford… where decent, affordable buses will still mean more than personal cars.
          For comparison, think of the respective revolutions in personal music players: The US market put eight-track tape players in personal cars, while Sony in Japan created the Walkman. The rural vs. urban divide globally may be replaced by the suburban vs. urban-to-hyper-urban divide.

          • eveee

            I get it. EVs are not the only transport. Trains and public transport are better than private transportation. We already have a huge problem with the US and oil. Even tho EU is better, its the segment where carbon emissions have not budged or is even getting worse. So EVs are a big deal.
            No matter where you are, there is a desire for private transportation.
            I am just saying that cars are expensive no matter where they are. It takes income to buy one in any country. If there is a choice of EV or ICE, that reduces the amount of pollution and carbon emissions. The alternative in a growing India or China without EVs is worse.

        • Hi @disqus_MOZiUpcqXO:disqus, unfortunately I don’t think that’s likely. On BYD’s website they spec the eBus as handling a gross weight of about 40,000 lb, and traveling about 150 miles before requiring a recharge. In the US, 18-wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 lb (in Europe, almost 100,000 lb) and travel longer distances.
          Even as batteries improve, there’d be another challenge in that the truckers would want to supercharge, but the costs of installing that would fall on the warehouses…
          I could certainly imagine delivery trucks (any fleets which aren’t used at night) going at least PHEV, and possibly fully electric, though!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Swap battery packs every 200 miles or so. Should take well under 5 minutes. As time goes on battery capacity will increase and ranges can be greater.

            Diesel is not cheap and 18-wheelers use a lot of it. They also spend a lot for oil changes and other maintenance.

          • Hi Bob_Wallace, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I think there’d be a couple issues for the trucks. One is, where does the battery go? It’d be massive.

            Consider that the BYD bus uses a 324 kWh battery and travels about 150 miles, with a gross weight of about 40,000 lb. (

            18-wheelers can carry up to about 80,000 lb, so you’d need at least double the bus’s battery size, and that’s just to go 150 miles (less in cold weather). To go 300 miles you’d need to quadruple the battery size to about 1200 kWh. At 3 kg/kWh, that’s about 3600 kg or 8000 lb.

            That’s going to be a very heavy tractor or trailer. Either way, the payload is going to get smaller, and that means building more trucks to transport the same quantity of goods. Which is a minus.

            Then, there would be a need for automated, reliable switching of the battery. Going it alone means shouldering all the financial risks; trying to get industry to play together will cause long delays (consider the inability to standardize between Chademo and SAE!). Each station would be very expensive as well, because they’d have to make absolutely sure there were no problems. Trucking companies get penalized (sometimes harshly) for late deliveries.

            This also means there’d be a need to have a large surplus inventory of fresh batteries at every swapping station, which adds the battery inventory cost, as well as the need to lease a larger location. And the need to keep as many batteries fully charged as possible, to avoid running out during high-usage periods (e.g. an accident on one highway causes many trucks to use a different highway) means big charges from utilities, because the trucking companies would be supercharging the batteries most of the time.

            I’d love to see the electrification of trucking — that’s a few percent of demand, right there! — I just don’t see battery swapping as being the likely way that’s accomplished. 🙁 I think Siemens had begun experimenting with overhead wires, so that trucks could basically run like streetcars on highways, which would save a lot in terms of battery weight. The trucks could then carry fairly large diesel tanks as well, so that if anything happens to those overhead wires (weather, mischief…) then the trucks can go on largely unaffected. Hopefully they’ll publish the findings from their early trials, and even more hopefully, they’ll be strongly positive! 🙂

          • Bob_Wallace

            Batteries where?

            Take a look at the Tesla sled (below). Look how thin the battery pack is. Stack them 5 or 6 high and put a cab on top.

            Number of packs?

            My math….

            There are 37.87 kWh in a gallon #2 diesel (Wiki)

            An efficient loaded 18 wheeler can get 8 MPG (RMI), thus is using 4.7 kWh worth of diesel per mile.

            The 18 wheeler is about 45% efficient. Out of the 4.7 kWh used about 2.1 kWh is turned into kinetic energy, the rest into waste heat.

            Running on a 85 kWh Tesla ModS battery pack the 18 wheeler could travel 39.9 miles.

            In order to travel 200 miles the 18 wheeler would need a about 5.5 packs to allow for the 10% inefficiency of the electric motor/drivetrain. Round up to 6 packs per 200 miles.

            Actually this is overkill in terms of batteries. It doesn’t account for the energy recovered by regenerative braking. But let’s stick with 6 packs to be overly safe.

            One claim has been that batteries would be too heavy. The ModS pack weighs 1,200 pounds, so 6 packs would weigh 7,200 pounds.

            An 18 wheeler can carry up to 300 gallons of diesel. At 7 pounds per gallon that’s 2,100 pounds. The dry weight of a Detroit Diesel engine is 2,763 lbs. So at least 4,863 pounds for the ICE version. Add in cooling and exhaust system and you’d be well over 5,000 pounds.


            Leasing would likely make sense. Leasing companies would need about two battery sets per customer. One in the truck and one being charged.

            Swapping is no big deal Both Tesla and BetterPlace have demonstrated rapid battery swapping.

            Something else to throw into the mix, Battery capacity continues to increase. No one is even talking about battery swapping with big trucks. By the time something like this could get implemented range would likely be higher or battery weight lower.

          • Hi @Bob_Wallace:disqus, good digging on the weight there! I only have a few minutes now, but can reply more fully tonight. Briefly:
            – 300 gallons x 8 mpg = 2400 mile range for a diesel truck. Convincing trucking companies their next vehicles can be brought down to 200 miles (90% reduction!) would be psychologically difficult.
            – regenerative braking won’t help trucks that much, because most of their travel is on highways; they don’t stop and start much.
            – leasing companies will need a lot more than 2 sets of batteries per truck. It looks like truckers can work 14 hours per 24 hours, so maybe they’re in motion 12 hours per day. At 60 miles per hour, that’s 720 miles. Which means in a given day, a 200 mile truck would need to be able to do at least 3 swaps. (At miles 200, 400, 600) Which means each individual truck will need at least 3 sets of batteries. The number will be higher because leasing companies will need to store extra batteries for high seasons / busy days. Again, delays cost trucking companies money.
            – getting a truck up to 720 miles might be an option, if you could ensure each truck stop bay had a supercharger. That would require about 20 Model S packs, or 24,000 lbs. Which means payload would decrease by more than 10,000 lbs relative to a diesel truck, which again means more up-front purchase cost because you’d need more trucks to deliver the same amount of goods…
            None the less, very insightful comments! I’ll mull it over more during the day and follow up tonight!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Diesel range has nothing to do with anything. The issue is whether we could haul freight using batteries.

            Trucks accelerate and decelerate on the highway. Some of the acceleration energy can be recovered. Stretches battery range something, perhaps not much. Don’t have any data to use.

            Swap every 200 miles. While driving the next set of batteries is charging. Fully charging Tesla batteries takes 75 minutes.

            Remember. Two hundred miles, about three hours. Pull through swap less than five minutes.

          • eveee

            Its common for long haul truck organizations to operate a fleet with facilities for maintenance and overhaul. Is there some reason SuperChargers or batter swaps couldn’t be done?

          • Hi @disqus_MOZiUpcqXO:disqus, see my reply to Bob above. I don’t think trucking companies are going to want either option, because time literally is money to them.
            Supercharging a massive battery is going to be expensive. Certainly recharging speeds can increase, but then the charging location is going to start using so much power (megawatts) that they’re likely to pay a lot of money from utilities, which will eventually have to upgrade all their infrastructure to deal with the sudden surges in demand.

            As for battery swaps, I suspect the trucking companies would need to store a lot of surplus batteries at each charging station, to be comfortable that they wouldn’t ever get stuck in a situation where a truck is stopped / waiting while batteries recharge. Unlike regular drivers who might be content to wait a few minutes once in a blue moon at a supercharger station if it’s freakishly busy, trucking companies wouldn’t be able to do that, because retailers want them at a particular bay at a particular minute, so as to maximize productivity. If they’re late, they take a cut in pay…

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