Recycling Will Be Key To The Electric Vehicle Future

Electric vehicles have become a mainstay in the global automotive marketplace, taking on their gasoline rivals and steadily chewing out their own slice of market share, year after year. Government mandates to end the sale of polluting internal combustion engine vehicles and subsidies on cleaner cars promise to conspire to create an electric vehicle boom.

The result should be much cleaner air, as generating electricity in even the dirtiest power plants is far cleaner and more efficient than millions of individual engines puttering about the place. However, if the electric car is to reign supreme, they’ll need to be built in ever greater numbers. To do that is going to take huge amounts of certain materials that can be expensive and sometimes in very limited supply. Thus, to help support the EV boom, recycling of these materials may come to play a very important role.

Batteries, Motors, and Everything Else

We don’t worry too much about the huge amounts of material that go into creating millions of traditional cars every year, as these supply chains have been largely stable for the better part of a century as the automobile developed. However, the uptick in electric vehicle manufacturing will have us on the hunt for greater supplies of a whole raft of materials. Lithium is a primary candidate, as is cobalt and a smattering of other elements that are used in the manufacture of high-capacity, high-output batteries. Motors and related electronic components will also have an impact, demanding large amounts of copper for windings and rare earth metals for high-strength magnets crucial to their production.

The traditional lazy human response to this problem is to simply go outside and dig up some more of whatever we don’t have enough of. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy. The supply of many of these materials is limited, and often in places that makes maintaining supply over long timescales difficult. Labor abuses and civil rights issues can also raise moral quandaries around supply. As an example, the vast majority of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the Congo, where children are routinely forced to work in dangerous mining operations. And there are concerns about relying on a single source of the materials; China happens to be host to the richest deposits of rare earth metals, currently supplying about 85% of world demand. Large monopolies on supplies can cause shortages and sky-rocketing prices in the event of something going wrong, as companies have nowhere else to turn for vital materials.

The critical nature of these materials to modern technology have led to calls for mandatory recycling of these materials. All manner of modern electronics manufacturing, not just electric vehicles, would grind to a halt if the supply of lithium or rare earth materials dried up, for example. Everything from smartphones, to LEDs, to hard drives would all become impossible to manufacture.

Bootstrapping Recycling Channels

While new mining projects aim to get us more of the good stuff, it makes sense to look at what can be done with the materials we’ve already dug out of the ground. Over 10 million electric cars already roam the streets worldwide. As these vehicles age and retire from service, it makes sense to recover and reuse as much material from them as possible to ease the burden of having to continually produce new raw materials.

Motor windings still rely on copper wire, which is readily recyclable with existing techniques. However, demand is set to increase significantly with the rise in electric vehicle sales.

Of course, depending on the material of interest, recycling can be very, very easy or very, very hard. For instance, copper recycling is a mature industry, and recovery of copper wiring from vehicles is a simple and straightforward enough process. However, other materials are not so straightforward.

Modern batteries are not so easily recycled, as our own Dan Maloney laid out in his article Getting The Lead Out Of Lithium Battery Recycling. Yet reprocessing EV batteries is one of the biggest concerns as far as future supplies go. The problem is that existing cells consist of many different valuable materials all mixed up and crammed together in a tight metal container, which is then further encased in a larger battery pack along with supporting electronics and cooling systems. Few to none of these vehicle battery packs are designed for easy disassembly or recycling, as no recycling infrastructure yet exists. Conversely, no recycling infrastructure exists because the process is too difficult and expensive to be commercially viable.

Modern EV battery packs are highly integrated assemblies that take significant effort to disassemble. Often, individual cells are actually glued into place, frustrating any efforts at recycling or reuse. Redesign for recycling may improve this in future.

However, lead-acid batteries show the way, with 98% of their materials able to be recycled in current processes. It’s likely that with some effort, designs will improve and processes develop to allow large quantities of the valuable lithium, cobalt, and other materials to be recovered from EV battery packs. Australian company Neometals is already working on plans for a commercial-scale plant in Germany that would process 18,000 tons of batteries a year. The intended process works by first shredding and separating out metal and plastic casings and foils, before using what’s called a hydrometallurgical process involving chemical treatment to then separate out lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other elements from the battery anode, cathode, and electrolyte materials. Other options for such processing involve pyrometallurgy operations which use high temperatures to recover cobalt, nickel and copper, though the high-temperature processes aren’t able to recover materials such as lithium or aluminium.

Reclaiming Rare Earth

Rare earth metals in oxidized, powdered form. These materials are crucial in everything from magnets to lasers and even fluorescent bulbs and LEDs. Many a Hackaday reader suddenly flinched at the thought of no longer being able to source their favorite RGB blinkables.

Rare earth metals have similarly seen only limited recycling efforts thus far, as fresh supplies have obviated the need to consider recycling. However, with an eye on future demand and potential risks to current supplies, renewed interest has flooded into the sector. Processing methods are similar to those for batteries, involving chemical and high temperature processing methods to recover materials, though neither have yet become financially viable in the marketplace. Only 1% of these materials are currently recycled, and thus far recycling efforts remain an academic interest rather than a commercial reality.

As of yet, the electric vehicle revolution is only in its early stages. Thus, efforts to improve supply chains and recycling methods remain in the realm of speculative investment, rather than something being developed in earnest. One of the problems with a market-based economy is that there can be significant lag as the rest of the economy shifts around the development of a new technology, often waiting for it to become widely adopted before major players will spend money on the necessary supporting infrastructure. Regardless, the growing pains are likely to remain for some time as electric vehicles become more popular and the demands for the crucial feedstock materials continue to rise.

113 thoughts on “Recycling Will Be Key To The Electric Vehicle Future

  1. I have zero trust in the idea that the need for rare earth metals is going to continue in the long run.
    In a few decades we’ll have something-something-carbon-or-graphene, and nobody will care about rare-earth metals. When we’ll find an old EV battery, we’ll dissasemble it and bury the metals in an old rare-earth metals mine, because we’ll just have way more of the stuff compared to what we need.
    This is just a temporary quirk of technological progress.

    1. EV’s are a 150 year old bad idea. The numerous impossibilities that the idea has make that it will never amount to anything. Currently at under 2% of all passenger vehicles !! it only sells wgen subsidised to the max. There is no and there never will be the infrstraucture necessary to get the electrons to trhese vehicles.
      EVs will also make the U.S. more dependent on China. Electrifying just half of our auto fleet will require, in rough terms, about nine times current global cobalt production, three times global lithium output, and about two times current copper production. As the International Energy Agency noted in a May report, China has a majority share in the processing of cobalt, lithium, and the rare earth elements needed to make EVs.

      EV revolution will be forever in the future, gas is the way to go

  2. I agree. It is about time we get away from the — throw away, disposable mindset. We only have finite number of materials and we need to do what we can to recycle everything we use.

    1. Are you saying that we don’t currently recycle automobiles? On the contrary, the proliferation of junkyards and the wide availability of “refurbished” parts would indicate that we already have a recycling mindset toward automobiles.

    2. >we need to do what we can to recycle everything we use.
      Why does everyone forget about the first two steps? Reduce and Reuse. The first question to ask is, do you really need to own a car/item, the second is why not buy a used car/item.

      Recycling is the last ditch attempt to feel good about polluting via buying unnecessary new things.

      1. FYI, my last car, 1996 MBZ 320, I owned since (..2yr old then) 1998 and I got rid of it since things like my ignition key wore out, had 250K+ miles. I finally got rid of it since my neighbor wanted to sell his 2yr old car. I didn’t buy his but got a good deal on a similar model ( the car dealer wanted to sell it for less than what my neighbor wanted for his.) Most likely, I will keep it for another ~ 20 yrs or so.

  3. Didn’t we once think power-generating wind turbines and solar panel capture of solar energy were going to absolutely revolutionize the ever increasing power needs of the world’s population? Seems like those technologies, like so many others, have found to be not the panacea everyone believed when ALL the technology costs were honestly factored in. Why should we believe EV vehicles–with the dearth of charging stations and supporting infrastructure–will do any better? Seems like EV might just be the latest MySpace.

    Bring it on…

    1. They are on their way to be part of a panacea. Look up the evolution of the cost of solar over the past two decades. The trend is pretty clear: this is soon going to be a viable solution to easily cover all daytime power needs. That’s *very close* to a panacea. For non-daytime times, we’re left with other technologies that are *also* on their way to being panaceas if you take a look at how their cost is evolving.

        1. You didn’t even read the comment did you … ? I explicitely point out *past* evolution of price and techonological advances as supporting my point. And your answer is “always soon, always promises”. If you’re not going to make *any* effort to be intellectually honest, *why* even put in the effort of commenting … ?

          1. The price trend of solar power is like the Moore’s law.

            Tracing back from the invention of the transistor to the late 1990’s, there were a series of technological and social steps that kept accelerating the density of components on a “microchip”. Each of these steps were coincidental, not predicted by the previous development, but they each lifted the technological ceiling up and continued the exponential increase in the number of transistors. The acceleration rate of Moore’s law was actually driven by the society’s ability to absorb and buy the technology, so it tracked more the rate of global economic growth along this period.

            In hindsight but ignoring the individual steps, this looks like one continuous exponential curve that seems to be predicting a technological singularity somewhere… oh… yesterday. It didn’t come, Moore’s law stopped in the 90’s, and people who still choose to believe in it simply re-defined it to mean something else that happens to fit the data superficially. But that’s bad science and magical thinking.

            People can keep doing that for a while because when dealing with exponential growth, you’re dealing with very large scale differences, and the large values from the past mask significant differences and chances in the smaller values of today: they make the present trends look insignificant relative to the historic trend, and so easily ignored. The “big picture” can keep showing a downward trend a looong time after the development has actually stalled or going the opposite way, and the people drawing the trend are simply saying “It’s a temporary blip”.

            Same thing with the solar panels. If you take the long view to draw your trends, you would predict that solar power prices would drop by 80-90% by the end of the decade, but this is a non-sequitur and an illusion. A statistical trend is not a theory, it doesn’t actually predict anything without saying WHY it should go that way, and the “why” is the important bit here that is being omitted. Simply looking at the past is like driving a car by staring in the rear view mirror – you will be successful on a straight road, but you won’t see the bends coming.

          2. Example: solar module prices seem to be following Swanson’s Law which predicts 20% price reduction for every doubling of installed capacity.

            However, residential solar installation prices have stalled. Why? Because the cost of solar -power- is not just the modules. Installation, maintenance, backup capacity, siting and permitting now costs more money than the panels themselves.

            So how will this affect the sales? Well, obviously when the consumer prices aren’t dropping, the market will start to saturate and the doubling of sales slows down, which breaks Swanson’s Law, which wasn’t a real law to begin with. Add the looming materials shortages, the push for more sustainable production, recycling, and you can just as well see the module prices going up as they did in 2002-2005.

    2. Why should I replace my horse and buggy with a gas powered truck when there are so few gas stations? Why should I get rid of my cheap whale oil lamp when it will cost me a months wages to have electric wires installed? Why should I get a telephone when none of my friends have one? Why should I buy a pen when I can just pluck a feather from a bird and make my own? Why should I buy groceries at the store when I can grow vegetables and raise chickens in my back yard? This is what you sound like.

      1. Why should I study when I can become a Tik Tok celebrity? Why worry about the future when I just bought all of those MySpace shares? This Zune thing sure is neat!

          1. You cannot not make choices because choosing to ignore the question is also a choice.

            Also, the illusion that you always need to “do something about it” makes people pick the bad choices, when the good choice would be to do nothing and see how things turn out.

        1. I’d wager you don’t have your own oil well and refinery either, and even if you do, you didn’t made the oil rig yourself… from iron ore up (and dug the mine to obtain it), … etc. so what is the exact objection there?

    3. I recently learned about the Jevons Paradox, a concept in economics that says that in many cases if you increase the efficiency of a process, the use will rise to the point where you end up worse off than when you started (from the standpoint of someone trying to save energy.)
      I found this because I work in LED lighting and what we’ve been seeing is that if you give people lights that only take 1/4 as much energy, what they do is put four times as many lights on everything.
      It turns out this is a major issue for environmental improvements, where you run the risk of losing ground.
      But, interestingly, it also shows up in roadways and other networks (including computer networks) where adding more roadway/nodes can end up slowing traffic down. (Non-optimal Nash equilibrium states.)

      1. In other words, when you haven’t collected enough data to justify your conclusion, blame it on unexplainable magic. Don’t bother to see if supply and demand are only elastic for a narrow realm, just assume straight lines going out to infinity.

        1. The rebound effect is well studied. Even when there’s inelastic demand in terms of one commodity or resource, the savings will leave the person with more disposable purchasing power and practically nobody will just burn their “extra” money. Even when invested, the money ends up fueling consumption somewhere else in the economy.

          Seeing the household as one “process”, improving its efficiency in terms of heating or lighting will see greater consumption in some other respect, such as buying more electricity consuming gadgets, or running the AC to lower temperatures, or more joyriding in the family car, or eating out more times per week…

          In other words, people overall will always live up to their means – and if you give them cheap credit, somewhat beyond.

      2. This is ridiculous. When I changed out my lights for LEDs, I didn’t suddenly decide to put a bunch more up. I replaced them 1 for 1.

        God, the naysayers are literally grasping at straws for anything and everything they can say no matter how nonsensical.

        1. Well its not entirely foolish – when a ‘bulb’ lasts basically forever the way LED do you might put more up to have better lighting for certain tasks, and run some extra light sources for the same reason – what you emphatically don’t do is burn your retina out putting hundreds of excess lumens into the room by having them all on at once..

    4. Same old pro-arguments we’ve heard all along and upon which we’ve spent billions on to promote and implement, all of which have failed. Sure, eventually there will be enough charging stations at every gasoline station for phasing-in of EV, but that will be about the time where a future generation will start to protest use of electric power and you’ll see another paradigm shift. Yup, cell phones replaced land lines for the most part, but look at all the people trying to kill your cell phone usage, the linkage of cell phones to brain cancer, the eyesore cell towers present, the dumpsites filling with cell phones and chargers, (and soon to be filled with non-recyclable batteries alongside decommissioned wind turbines), etc.

    5. You make it sound like MySpace shutting down stopped social media. Social media lived on and is now more popular than ever. I think the same will happen with electric cars. Electric drive is the concept and it’s a lot better than petrol as a concept or even hydrogen because you can refuel it at home, but today’s electric cars aren’t the final form.

      Personally I think smaller vehicles are promising. I commute to work using an electric vehicle that gets 50 miles/kwh (a 30mph ebike with the pedal assist on high). To be that efficient a petrol car would need to get 2100 mpg.

      1. You can charge at home, but for those that are/were motivated, you could also arrange for 250-500 gasoline tanks at the home site as well. Growing up on a ranch, we had a tank at the land head and also by the house so please don’t think your garage charger is a new thing. What about when your home charger fails, rolling blackouts? I suppose if you’re in a larger area city/metropolitan area, you may have several charging stations still close by. But for the next 10 years, I’ll bet there will still be 5:1 ratio of nearby petrol to EV charging resources.

        One might argue whether social media is “popular” or simply tolerated… a discussion for another day. I believe social media as created more problems than solved.

        Your ebike is immaterial to the discussion at-hand.

        1. Your situation is unique to your country and industry. Farmers aren’t that common in the US, even less common in the UK. Here we’ve got more public chargers than petrol stations and don’t store petrol at home (unless it’s in a rusty old lawn mower).

          The topic was are EVs a panacea? They aren’t because they don’t scale to industry. That’s alright though, no one said they had to solve all things for all people. Petrol cars don’t scale to industry or work in dense environments but you’ve accepted those.

          1. Imagine if petrol at the pump was priced by how busy the forecourt was at that time of day.
            Would you fill up at 3am to get the cheapest price?

            Do you fill up on the motorway (UK rip off) or only supermarkets?

            You’re going to love on demand pricing for charging your EV when you’re desperate to go somewhere but the grid has been sucking the battery dry all morning due to excessive demand.
            Of course, they charge you 20p/kwh for using it, but when they want it they only give you 15p/kwh. But now it’s peak and because it’s for your EV (smart meter haha) it’s going to be 30p/kwh…

            EV’s, proliferation of smart meters, and the lies that the adverts push. It’s tech to be used against us.
            It’s going to be an utter con job. It always is.

            I just look forward to ripping them off in return as usual. it’s a fun sport. Conning the utilities (any big business) at their own game.

          2. “More public chargers than petrol stations, in the UK” is a random, pointless statement and is no better than comparing the number of plug sockets in a house to the number of water taps.

            A petrol pump dispenses significantly more energy per unit time than any current charging point so a better, more useful parameter would be to compare energy dispensed.

  4. I wish HAD would stop using terms like “polluting internal combustion engines” unless they want to be fair and call electric vehicles “polluting external combustion engines”. Trust me, the power to run an electric car does not come without pollution. And before you say solar or wind, what do you think it takes to make them? Solar is not a clean process. I have yet to hear of a solar powered solar cell factory. Funny that. But even if they could pull it off, that is just one small aspect. Gathering of all the raw materials and disposal of all of the spent chemicals etc..

    1. This is such a tired argument. Nobody past 5yo thinks renewables are zero impact, the point is they are somewhere bellow 100% (that’s ICEs), and as technology evolves, moving towards the bottom of that range.
      The false equavalency fallacy here is so annoying and counter-productive…

      1. The pollution from an ICE depends entirely on the source of fuel.

        The future and continued use of the ICE is well set on the fact that the only way to capture surplus renewable energy economically is to store it in chemicals – including fuels.

        The embedded cost of a battery means poor efficiency for long term energy storage and stockpiling. If a battery is set out to stockpile energy over a six month time span at a time, it will only run up to a handful of charge cycles within its technical shelf life. The cost of the battery (ESOEI) is around 5-10% of its maximum lifetime throughput, or the maximum number of charge cycles which may number in the many thousands. When the embedded cost of the battery is equivalent to around 300 cycles, and the actual use you get out of the battery before it expires is in the 30 cycle range, your energy efficiency is about 10%, not to mention charging losses and self-leakage.

        There is no sense in charging up a battery in the summer to discharge it in the winter. It will cost you ten times as much energy than you get out of it. Even if you slash the cost of making batteries by a factor of 10 it’s still going to be just 50% efficient. The only way to store massive amounts of energy for long periods of time, economically, is to make synthetic fuels like hydrogen, methane. Then, to make them easier to store, you turn them into liquids such as butanol which is basically synthetic gasoline.

        When the ICE ban dates start to approach, the governments will find that electric cars still haven’t cashed in on their promises, battery technology isn’t able to meet the hype, and the electric car itself will face stiff competition from abundant “blue fuels” which are basically synthetic fuels derived out of renewable electricity and air.

        1. All this would be well and good, if you choose to completely ignore the fact that efficiency/price/environmental impact is on a steep improvement curve for renewable technology, and mostly stagnant for fossil-fuel technology. This is all either on it’s way to being irrelevant/obsolete argumentation, or already so at this point.

          There’s so much wrong and incorrect with what you just said (seriously, the only long-term storage is synthetic fuels ??? do you think people reading this are 10… ??? ), both on the factual and more general conceptual level, this would be yet another hour-long rebuke and I’m not doing that today. I just urge anyone convinced by what you just said, to actually go look up the fact themselves.

          1. >on a steep improvement curve

            That’s saying pretty much nothing. Magic happens and then everything will be super duper!

            >mostly stagnant for fossil-fuel technology

            We’re not talking about fossil fuel technology, but about things like power-to-gas synthesis that turns wind and solar energy, plus water, plus air, into methane that can be pushed right into the gas grid OR into the tank of a CNG bus.

          2. > That’s saying pretty much nothing. Magic happens and then everything will be super duper!

            That’s something you can only say if you’ve never actually looked any of the facts about this up. Look up the evolution of the price and abilities of solar panels or batteries, compare to the same curves for nuclear or synthetic fuels.

            There is no reason to think those curves are going to suddendly change. And if they don’t, everything will indeed be super duper, by today’s standard, the same way everything is super-duper today by 1960s standards….

          3. >seriously, the only long-term storage is synthetic fuels ??? do you think people reading this are 10… ???

            I just showed you why that is the case. See the ESOEI of manufacturing batteries. If you can’t comprehend what was being said, maybe you are?

            The problem with any other approach is that it’s either going to be massively lossy or massively costly, or not scalable to the massive amounts of energy that we use as societies. Pumped hydro doesn’t scale up, CAES is inefficient and difficult to scale up, batteries are grossly inefficient…

            Or perhaps you just don’t understand the scale of the issue we’re talking about here. All the other kind of schemes you need to store energy in the tens and hundreds of terawatt-hours run into the ridiculous, such as damming the Gibraltar or sawing 1 km wide plugs out of bedrock and lifting them up and down with hydraulics…

          4. >There is no reason to think those curves are going to suddendly change.

            There are pretty big reasons to believe so, such as the global shortage for minerals supply and the inability of the industry to scale up rapidly without increasing prices to pay for the expansion.

          5. > On the contrary. I have, you haven’t.
            > The problem of your kind of “singularist” approach to technology is that you mistake the trend for reality, so you can’t see where it might stop by running into the limits of physics.

            Thanks for demonstrating you’ve never actually looked at a study on this, since they include/take into account these sorts of limits (among others), and you’d know that if you’d actually read them.

          6. > There are pretty big reasons to believe so, such as the global shortage for minerals supply and the inability of the industry to scale up rapidly without increasing prices to pay for the expansion.

            Yes, it’s not like there are studies that have actually looked at all this and made actual predicitons. Guess we’ll have to rely on whatever you pull out of your ass.

          7. >it’s not like there are studies that have actually looked at all this and made actual predicitons.

            Yep, and they’re warning us of supply shortages. Example:


            The drop in prices is leveling out because the industry can’t meet demand, and technological progress just isn’t advancing at the pace you and others are hyping. There are no magic bullets, and exponential trends never continue forever.


            Both the IAE and the EU officials are warning that essential minerals are running low and production capacities are failing to meet the increase in demand. More and more items have moved up onto the EU’s critical list since a decade ago.

            When we’re talking about increasing production by a factor of 60-70 in the next 30 years, we’re talking about growth rates of 15% per year. The last I saw, the global mining industry was going up in value by 12% a year reflecting the increase in demand, but the production output of various metals and minerals was growing just 3-6% per year. When demand growth exceeds supply growth, eventually the prices turn around and take on an exponential trend upwards.

          9. Also note that the cost of a battery in dollars is not the same as its cost in energy.

            And that the dollar prices can keep coming down (for some time) even as energy and material prices keep going up because the factories are moved to countries with cheaper labor and less rules about where you can dump the wastes, such as what happened with solar panels.

            Looking at the dollar price trend is missing the point. We’re talking about real cost. For example, you may save a dollar by using less materials, but more energy to process them in some advanced way, because the energy is cheaper than some rare mineral. However, that also means your embedded energy cost goes up and the overall energy efficiency goes down.

          10. > Both the IAE and the EU officials are warning that essential minerals are running low and production capacities are failing to meet the increase in demand. More and more items have moved up onto the EU’s critical list since a decade ago.

            PLEASE, *I beg of you*, set on your electronic calendar, to email 20 years from now (note a link to here in the calendar item so you can remember what this was about). Let’s talk about this once we can trivially see who was right, instead of doing whatever we are doing now. I’ve done as much effort on this as I’m going to this decade, let’s have the rest of the conversation when it’s easy to have it.

          11. @Dude >’CAES is inefficient’

            It certainly can be, but it really doesn’t have to be – CAES experiments have gotten efficiencies in the same range as chemical batteries energy in to out, in terms of lifetime energy throughput they are about the best for efficiency possible, being simple and cheap to maintain basically forever.

            About the only thing you can really say categorically against them is they have to be very large for the same energy stored. But its a big planet, and there is lots of wasted space in cities that such technologies could potentially be fitted…

            Sure their efficiency is also rather more tied to the power draw rate than some – you can crank a high output design up and get massive bursts but with rather more significant losses or draw at a more modest rate and get the greater efficiencies.

            But ultimately efficiency of energy stores is almost irrelevant – we want them to be good if we can, but with the massive oversupply (that is only set to get bigger) of ‘renewables’ when they really spike just getting any of that energy back later is a win. Getting it back cheaply and with low impact easy to maintain systems like CAES even if the efficiency was awful (which it doesn’t have to be) is still a win over higher maintenance, high embodied energy systems, and systems with higher costs…

            Carbon capture fuels should have a future, but its not really an ideal system – what it is good for is keeping the decades old ICE powered stuff running when it makes sense to do so, and allowing continued use of new ICE powered if/where there is a need (perhaps in the regions where it remains cold enough batteries and electronics in general really don’t fair well)…

          12. > Why? There would be nothing to add. Stop playing stupid games.

            Because you clearly have more free time than I do. I didn’t answer you to start some kind of formal debate, just to give my two cents and let whomever whenever answer whatever objection you might have. If you really want to talk about this with me, I’d be happy to, a decade or two from now, when it’s *much* less labor to talk about this, because most of the answers will be self-evident.

            I remember 10 years ago talking to people about where solar prices were going. I was right, but it was impossible at the time to convince anyone I was despite having good evidence, and it was SO MUCH FUCKING WORK to show that evidence to people, and 95% of the time, that evidence was ignored, which was the worst fucking feeling ever. I’m not doing that again, I’m not doing that with you when you’re showing all the signs of the people 10 years ago who weren’t convinced even after I put in the work.

            So if you want to talk about this, add my email to your calendar 10 years from now.
            If you don’t want to, that’s fine, please consider you’ve won the argument (or wait for other people to stumble upon this thread and do the work I’m not ready to do now).

          13. >I was right

            My experience of your type of people, who wish to say “I told you so”, is that they don’t even remember what they told you, or they made such vague claims (like you have) that it’s impossible to prove them wrong unless reality went the complete opposite way. Coming back ten years later will see you say “I told you so” almost regardless of what happens, because you’re only fooling yourself.

            It’s basic Kurtzweilian fortune telling: make vague predictions about exponential growth trends, get 9 out of 10 predictions wrong, still declare yourself the winner because you got one right by luck and nine “just a few years off”, and your basic premise of exponential growth was still completely unfounded and irrelevant.

            Yes, the solar power prices went down, but also the reason why they went down was that China started cranking them out unsustainably on coal power to monopolize the world market, which was not taken into account by the people who said solar power prices would not come down (as much as they did). Lucky you – you got the number somewhat right, but not the theory behind it, so your original prediction was and still is irrelevant. Something came out of the left field and made your goal, which you didn’t predict, but you still took the credit.

            Protip: when you use exponentials to draw your trends, you’re always ignoring physical and practical realities about the “carrying capacity” of the system. Exponential growth only works in the very short term. Over the long term, it results in predictions where new technologies can arrive in less than half the time, or prices fall over twice as fast, than any realistic model of the system.


            The fault is always in assuming that we’re not anywhere near the limits of the system because you can’t see them or you don’t understand them. Using the correct logistic growth prediction would require you to guess what the limits are, so you end up placing them arbitrarily high so that the logistic growth curve becomes the exponential growth curve and we’re back to square one.

            So if you want to come back in 10 years, please write down an EXACT prediction and the REASONS why you predict that to be true and where you place the limits. Only then is it sensible to come back to examine how accurate you were. However, you still wouldn’t need me to be there other than thumb your nose at me and declare yourself the winner anyways, and I’m not playing that game.

          14. >But ultimately efficiency of energy stores is almost irrelevant

            On the contrary. Efficiency is one of the most important factors, because it affects what portion of our gross national products we need to use to produce energy. Think of it as a sort of social EROEI where the society has to spend some of its activities back into the production of basic resources to keep going, and the greater the portion it needs to feed back, the less surplus you get for keeping up social complexity. In other words, the lower your efficiency, the lower your living standards.

            Alternatively, if you intend to keep the same living standards despite the low efficiency, your environmental impact goes up because you need to double and triple the economy to support the same number of people.

            Assuming we can just massively overbuild wind turbines and solar panels is again ignoring the practical limitations to support such infrastructure. These technologies are not cheap to the point that you could ignore the cost, and overbuilding them ten times makes them ten times “not cheap”, and then adding the inefficient storage technology on top will make it another ten times, to the point where you end up spending nearly all of your resources just to make energy to make energy.

          15. @Dude “>But ultimately efficiency of energy stores is almost irrelevant

            On the contrary. Efficiency is one of the most important factors, because it affects what portion of our gross national products we need to use to produce energy. ”

            I can sort of agree with your point – except it just isn’t possible to store enough on cost or carbon cost grounds to meet the carbon reduction targets developed nations are setting. Or to regenerate enough to restore that stored energy in the potentially small better weather windows without massive oversupply on the renewables.

            And when you must have that much cheaper in both money and carbon massive oversupply of renewables the efficiency of your energy storage mediums matters much less – more is still nice, but it isn’t as required as even a mediocre day weather wise is probably filling the stores up anyway – which is actually good news for your love of ICE and burning captured carbon fuels – as those generally have woeful efficiencies, not great in the making but really not good in the later burning either…

            In short – you will actually need less fiscal, rare metals and carbon commitments to even more massively oversupply the power generation than provide high efficiency energy storage – though you will still want some of it – it is as always a balancing act to find the optimal solution.

          16. > to meet the carbon reduction targets

            Who cares about that? This is a question of making the system work at all over any time frame.

            We’re going to have to pull all the tricks to balance a modest over-provision of generators with the most efficient means of storing energy we can. Otherwise the cost of energy goes too high to sustain modern life and we’re heading for a system collapse or totalitarian regimes.

            Or we could pull our heads out of our collective asses and build more nuclear, like, right now.

          17. > ICE and burning captured carbon fuels

            What’s more likely is a transition from ICE to FCEVs without heavy batteries, where round-trip efficiency is around 30% at today’s technology and 40-45% with foreseeable advances. Much better than any battery scheme.

          18. Serious @Dude?
            me > to meet the carbon reduction targets
            Dude “Who cares about that? This is a question of making the system work at all over any time frame. ”

            We all better bloody care, as it is the carbon reduction targets are probably about half as agressive as they should be (and even that is rather slack, its just there is a limit to how fast you can shift). Just look at the weather – more unpredictable, vastly more hostile to life and its pretty much all humanities fault… This isn’t some pointless target but a requirement if anything resembling life as we know it is to continue – heck if we don’t get our act together soon I might well live long enough to see civilisation collapse, the children of today certainly will…

            And a working renewable powered system isn’t actually that hard – some of the really high draw industries will have to manage work to the supply (which they do anyway to get cheaper rates and make it profitable to do the job – though a few more industries might have to join in), you need some short term energy storage to level out the day night cycle and short term weather patterns and enough renewable to reasonably expect to meet the minimum – the actually essential load over each day accounting for whatever losses there are in the short term energy stores – which isn’t actually that hard, and being a more distributed system should actually end up being harder to harm – you loose one major powerstation now and that is quite possibly going to crash the whole grid, you can loose vast numbers of renewable generators output and not even notice, even more so as to smooth out the short term cycles renewables go hand in hand with short term rapid response energy storage…

            Also really doesn’t matter how much overprovision you have – worst comes to worst its just wasted for no gain, but when the generators are so cheap that is much easier than trying to bare have a minium over provision with massive storage – cheaper too. It cost a fair bit to install the tiny solar setup here, its true, but its already looking like it will pay for itself fiscally inside of 3 years as things are going, could still take longer, but its a tiny system – as it has to be to fit on a fairly normal sized European house, and even that is enough that will a little extra effort and some more energy storage it would be enough to go off grid entirely for us a pretty heavy electric consumer (compared to average here at least – but then workshop from home, and barely any gas use, so its not surprising). Also there are industries that can sink nearly as much power as you can give them – like desalinating sea water, creation of hydrogen, steel foundries, none of those industries have to work at full capacity, they can however rapidly crank up when there is a glut of cheap energy to make some useful product with…

            Nuclear certainly can be a solution, and I for one have no objections to building more of them. Though I don’t think its actually ‘needed’ its a valid path to reducing our impact on the environment that can be implemented relatively fast and does provide a great backbone to a power grid. Not sure now that nukes can be implemented fast enough though – renewable are really easy to build, less security and geology issues to deal with and production has been ramping up for ages – it takes years just to construct a reactor, and years more actually getting it funded and approved, adding a new reactor to an existing site where practical maybe but not wholesale replacement of the fossil fuel stations…

            I do somewhat agree with you on Fuel Cell tech – however it still has major longevity and production troubles, where battery and ICE power sources are in a much more developed state. Fuel cell certainly can become the dominant mobile high output power storage device, but its not there yet. And even if it was with how you have bleated on about Hydrogen in the past, and all this around renewable by your own arguments its clearly unsafe/not viable to actually move to fuel cells… You can’t have it every way at once…

            Also worth pointing out there is nothing wrong with battery powered vehicles at all – they have been in use for ages, and now are practical for many more use cases. Just needs some standardisations to make recycling and repair easier – in the same way spare parts for ICE cars have been produced to make it simple for ages. I’d also argue pick a less power dense but more durable battery chemistry for some models too – not everyone needs that 300 mile range, some folks just need a shopping/supply runabout, daily driver that can do 50, 80 maybe 100 miles reliably, so being able to do so for many more years trouble free would be good – hard to market though, oh buy this one it will do you for some more years or more miles total than those Tesla, but won’t take you as far on a charge…

        2. The storage milestones are:
          1 day – peak shaving (batteries are here now)
          1 week – average out wind power output
          3 months – current strategic reserves of fuels
          6 months – seasonal shifting, enabling fully renewable energy systems
          12 months – taking out year-to-year variations in renewable energy availability (e.g. dry years for hydro)

          Batteries with their present and foreseeable energy cost structure can only scale up to 1 week span. Even 3 month span is going to be massively wasteful. There’s only two ways around this problem: synthetic fuels, or build massively more nuclear power.

          1. > There’s only two ways around this problem: synthetic fuels, or build massively more nuclear power.

            There are hundreds of avenues of research currently on these issues, the fact that you single two of your favorite ones just because they are currently established technologies, is so typical…
            Techonological progress in these areas is showing pretty clearly where we are headed, and it’s not synthetic fuels or nuclear power (nuclear power has *orders of magnitude* less reduction in price decade-to-decade compared to renewables and batteries).

          2. > Like what?

            Like look it up. Scientific research isn’t just at the fastest it’s ever been: it’s accelerating. That’s why the price of solar has the evolution it has had for a decade. Just for batteries there are *hundreds* of candidate technologies for improving state of the art, where a few decades ago there were dozens only at any given time. That’s why we see the changes in price and efficiency we are seeing, and why it’s going to keep going (where tech like nuclear has reached its peak a while back and we’re not seeing a very high rate of improvement in comparison. price of reactors is going down extremely slowly, where price of solar panels goes down an order of magnitude a decade or so).

          3. > Burden of proof.

            This is like talking to an anti-vaxxer and hearing there’s no research that says vaccines are safe. At that point you can either take the time to take their hand and guide them to where the research actually is, which is painful work, or you can just give up on stupid.

            Guess which one I’m going to do.

          4. >Just for batteries there are *hundreds* of candidate technologies

            Yes, and anything on the lab bench today is going to take 10-20 years to market maturity, if they solve their outstanding problems such as being nowhere near the durability or capacity needed for real world applications.

            We’ve been reading magic miracle battery news since the 70’s.

          5. >This is like talking to an anti-vaxxer

            Look, you’re making disingenuous arguments. You say there are hundreds of battery technologies ready to take on the world. Give me your best candidate.

          6. > Look, you’re making disingenuous arguments. You say there are hundreds of battery technologies ready to take on the world. Give me your best candidate.


            If you’re not going to do the work of looking any of this up, or have any curiosity about this, which you clearly don’t, I’m not going to do it for you.
            Feel free to consider this means you won an argument.

          7. >If you’re not going to do the work of looking any of this up

            But that’s just not how this works. I can’t just “look it up” because if I don’t come up with the answers you like, then you’ll say I just didn’t look hard enough, or that I’m deliberately omitting results. You’re playing games instead of making honest arguments.

            If you say so, then it’s your job, not mine.

          8. >or have any curiosity about this, which you clearly don’t

            How on earth would you know that? You’re merely assuming I haven’t already looked up the information up and come to the opposite conclusion from yours.

            You are claiming there is information which disproves me, but you refuse to hand it over. You’re simply trolling.

          9. >(nuclear power has *orders of magnitude* less reduction in price decade-to-decade compared to renewables and batteries)

            That’s because it’s already cheap. The great scale of the projects masks the fact, because everyone’s looking at the ten billion dollar price tag and forgetting it’s going to run flat out for 60 years making energy night and day, rain or snow.

            Meanwhile, nuclear power competes in price with primary producers like solar and wind, whereas battery power is any power price plus battery price, multiplied by any loss of energy caused by the battery.

        3. “The embedded cost of a battery means poor efficiency for long term energy storage and stockpiling. ”

          Here in hockey country, we skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now. I mean you are really telling us that batteries are not going to get cheaper, which is ludicrous. These same arguments have been used over and over again to argue against every technology innovation. The 8080 is underpowered and overpriced so why would anyone want a computer. The Model T is underpowered and unreliable, why would anyone want a car. Etc. You really have to find better arguments

          1. Yes, that is the essential prediction.

            Eventually we’ll be getting over the hump and batteries may become cheaper, but if we’re pushing to ban ICE cars by 2035 and zero CO2 emissions on the grid by 2050 then the prices can’t come down because the supply can’t keep up.

          2. And no, even if we could have cheaper batteries, the efficiency problem still remains until batteries are WAY cheaper.

            For the six month scenario, the present battery embedded cost vs lifetime energy stored sit at 10:1 and we want it to become 1:10 which is a factor of 100x less energy to make batteries in the first place. If you try to mine the minerals, process them, manufacture and distribute, and recycle the batteries and re-make them at 1% the energy we use today – very good luck to you sir. You’ll need a miracle.

            Being highly optimistic, we might reach 2:1 cost of storage (80% energy cost reduction) in the next decade, but even so we’re still better at making and using synthetic fuels than charging batteries using the crude power-to-gas and power-to-liquids technologies available right now, today.

          3. > You’ll need a miracle.


            We know we have miracle tech coming, we just don’t know how to produce it for cheap yet. But if somebody believes we’re not going to get there, I don’t have a very high opinion of them.

            And you know the best part? It’s all carbon. No mining. In theory very little pollution.

          4. >Graphene.

            Yep. Bullshit bingo. I was wondering when you’d come up with some buzzword as if throwing that out explains or proves anything.

            > It’s all carbon. No mining.

            Well, carbon IS mined out of the ground as the cheapest way to produce it in bulk. Industrial processes that need pure carbon, such as refining silicon metal for solar panels, typically source the carbon out of natural gas that they burn anyways to run the process.

            However, graphene itself is extremely energy intensive to make in any large amount regardless of your source of carbon.

          5. > if somebody believes we’re not going to get there

            It’s not a question of “getting there”, but always about when and how. If you need to build an army of nuclear power plants to make energy cheap enough that you can electrolytically exfoliate graphite rods to make magic batteries…. but wait, you already built the nuclear power stations and solved the original problem.

            Going from plain carbon to graphite is something nobody knows how to do, except under atomic force microscopes where you can move individual atoms. All the processes involve starting with graphite, which is a form of carbon that is not readily found except in fossil coal deposits. Making graphite is extremely wasteful. For example, you start with silicon carbide and then boil away the silicon at 4,150 C.

            The more you know about what’s actually involved in working with these materials, the less confidence you have in any miracle solution actually leaving the lab, and you can see that the talk is more or less just hype to fool investors and pump stocks, or to publish papers and make money for your institute.

          1. Not all, or even much, energy storage needs to be ‘long’ term.

            You only ‘need’ long term for a small amount of the load in a greener renewable powered grid, if you need any at all – most of the required storage is very very short term balancing out the changes the weather – in every 24 hour period solar goes through a relatively predictable but large output cycle, wind is a bit less predictable but over large distributed grids will be relatively constant, the dips and peaks being both smaller and probably of vastly shorter duration than however long its dark. Tidal is almost perfectly constant in power and timing of the cycles, which are more rapid than the day/night cycle – which is both good and bad as it means they sync up less well with demand, but being a rapid cycle the energy need not be stored long before the next cycle kicks in..

            Yes seasonal changes exist, but largely when solar drops because the days are shorter the winds are winder, the rain more frequent – so a mixed grid of renewable doesn’t all loose performance at the same times of year. Obviously there can be a need of a nuclear backbone, demand shaping, or rather vaster oversupply that seems practical to have no need of longer term energy store (though with how cheap and reliable some forms of green energy are compared to longer term storage that stupid level of oversupply perhaps isn’t crazy), but as long as you connect up a big enough distributed grid it averages out quite well with only short term stores.

            So no energy storage medium should be written off as a joke – if its a few of safe, cheap, maintainable, easy to recycle, requires no exotic materials to build, scales well, rapid response, high sustained/peak output, efficient (and whichever other ones I’ve missed) it probably has a part to play in the future.

            The power of giant flywheels is not to be sniffed out – they meet quite a few of the criteria above, particularly in the peak output and speed they can get to that peak output, but also reasonably cheap materials wise, recycling them shouldn’t be an issue when the time comes either.

          2. >You only ‘need’ long term for a small amount of the load in a greener renewable powered grid

            On the contrary. Renewable energy has relatively large monthly and yearly variations that need to be addressed if we are ever going to run a 100% system. The US yearly electricity consumption is around 3,802 terawatt hours and is set to double as consumers switch from gas appliances and heating to electricity.

            Even if we’re talking about just 10% of the total production, that is 380 terawatt hours. With flywheel storage systems, the unit sizes are in the megawatt-hours, and they lose energy at a fast rate so they’re totally unsuitable for year-long storage of energy. There’s a factor of 1,000,000 difference in scale over what needs to be done and what the technology can reasonably scale to.

            People just don’t understand the sheer scale of this problem, so they think they can solve the energy storage problem by some simple tricks. The reality is you’re trying to pull off a moon shot with a bottle rocket.

          3. > requires no exotic materials to build

            Actual flywheel storage systems have to face with tremendous centrifugal forces, and are made of specially constructed carbon fiber laminates, shaped into thin wall cylinders running under high vacuum with permanent magnet levitated bearings. Mechanical or hydrodynamic bearings would lose all the energy within a day.

            Once you get serious with flywheel energy storage, it’s nothing but exotic. At higher energies they also become extremely dangerous to operate – imagine a gigawatt-hour of spinning flywheels – and still the practical energy density is just about 1/10th that of batteries.

          4. Also, the reason why at least 10% distributed strategic reserve is a minimum we should strive for is because if there’s a major natural disaster that severs a main interconnect, it can take months repair and resume normal operation.

            Renewable energy is distributed but not dispatch-able, so it needs to be highly interconnected over very long distances. That makes renewable energy systems without long term energy storage extremely fragile and vulnerable to both natural effects and man-made attacks.

          5. Dude you really don’t need much if any year long storage – even on the shortest day of the year here my tiny solar array will output enough to power the house for most of the day if its not also overcast – even enough to refill the pathetic sized battery so the house is powered for some of the ‘night’ too (the battery isn’t actually big enough to power the baseline load over an entire night, and the panels are fixed so early evening they start to really drop off) – but this array would be enough for most folks energy useage even on that shortest day for the full day – we are somewhat heavy users. And this is a tiny array, heck most American houses being massive in comparison to ours could easily accommodate triple the number of panels, and if you go through the effort to fit one, you fit as many as you can – the scaffolding and electrician costs etc mean you don’t waste your time putting up the very bare minimum that might power your house most days, you fill the space you have available. So that rather rapidly snowballs into what to do with all this extra energy – those massive sprawling cities that don’t have as much ability to catch the sun will be powered externally much of the time, the land area covered by houses with solar on the roof means only a fraction of them will ever be under meaningful cloud..

            Even when the sky is almost black with cloud you still get something from solar too – lowest I’ve seen is around 50W… Which is really really pathetic, but its still contributing – and the same is true for most renenewables, even on a bad day for them there is some energy generated – order of magnitude lower than the peak it can produce but still gives you something. Which reduces the amount of energy you have to get from a store, and as the conditions that ‘shut down’ one renewable often boost another, and generally don’t last more than a day or two anyway – most of the energy storage needs are in the very short term, for much of it less than 24 hours… Quite possibly even less if you create a numerous enough grid of generators that spans enough area – in the USA and Canda you have how many timeszones, so the sun hasn’t gone down on all your solar power at once – that means most of your energy storage can be used in an even shorter time span.

            The longer variations in output definately exist, but its so cheap and easy to catch energy compared to store it efficiently long term the expectation is that oversupply will happen even in the off season, less often and less of it but still enough to really reduce the need for long term storage. And probably eliminate it entirely if you can slightly shift the lifestyle and thus demand to match supply.

            Energy storage density really doesn’t matter much at all where power grids are concerned – if at the base of every wind farm, or their onshore node you have a large warehouse or two holding any method of energy storage nobody would notice the land use, its all in use already for the wind farm.. Loosing the tiny upper ‘floor’ of every skyscraper with those uninhabitable spires that are usually just waste space with maybe a little water store and pressurisation for the floors beneath..

            We have vast vast vast spaces that can be used for energy storage without visual changes at all, and even more vast areas that can be filled without much impact, the planet is mindboggling vast, even just one city has enough area within it that can be used… Storage density almost only applies to moving objects…

            Flywheels are clearly never going to be ideal for longer term storage, though you could use them as such, but they do fit very well with the needs of such a complex distributed grid in their reaction time and burst power output – they are a great stabiliser, and can hold significant energy from the day time solar over supply peak and spread it out quite effectively.

            Best form of long term storage in a renewable grid is hydro – build the dam and let nature fill it for you, all that power held for later and let out as needed. With long term forecasting there is a fairly predictable refill rate – it just needs managing correctly, both in power output and water flow – don’t want to actually kill the outlet river. The big downside is not everywhere has convenient geography for it, but when it exists (and you can get it past the ‘green’ hypocrite crowd that are anti any changes in land use, nuclear, but live that wasteful westerners life) its a good choice.

          6. > Dude you really don’t need much if any year long storage – even on the shortest day of the year here my tiny solar array will output enough to power the house for most of the day if its not also overcast

            *YES*, thank you!

            That “renewables aren’t feasible because we don’t have good enough year-long storage options” is such a terribly fallacious argument, it hurts my brain each time I hear it. And boy do I hear it … it’s a favorite of the anti-renewables crowd.

            But it’s so broken, so bad …

            So it goes: renewables power output vary year/month-wise, therefore if you go full-renewables, you’ll be missing some power during some seasons/at any more-than-week-long timeframe. We don’t currently have good year/month-long storage technology, therefore it’s not a good idea to go full-renewable.

            The problem with this argument/fallacy is *so* obvious, though: it presumes you limit your renewable production ability to a level at which this is a problem. Increase the renewable production ability, and this problem completely goes away. Install enough solar panels/windmills so that you produce enough even in winter, and the problem is instantly solved.

            This costs money, obviously. But so does year-long storage. So does a coal, gas or nuclear plant.

            The point is you *have the option* to build enough so that this is a problem, therefore this does not HAVE TO be a problem (yet it’s so often presented as if it HAS TO be a problem, an unavoidable one, when it’s obviously and easily avoidable). That’s where the fallacy is.

            Yes, it costs more, but increased cost-savings from mass-production, and improvements in the technology, both are going to help with that moving forward, it’s not like the costs were increasing or something, that’s not the world we live in.

            We’re living in the golden age of science: we have more and more scientists, with better and better tools, doing more and more science and discovering more and more. It’s not just improving: it’s accelerating. The speed at which we discover things is getting faster and faster. And it’s going to keep getting faster as poverty goes down worldwide, and the tools scientists have access to improve.

            But people who argue about year-long storage think of technology the way we used to in the 1930s, as a slow crawling process with very limited impact/helpfulness. It was already not true at the time, but today it’s just a ridiculous way of seeing things. Renewables are going to keep improving, as will our ways of storing power, and our ways of transmitting it (it doesn’t really matter what season it is, if you have super-conductors allowing you to transfer power from one side of the planet to another, for example ).

          7. >Dude you really don’t need much if any year long storage

            Again, even just 1% of the total yearly demand in the US is 30-60 TWh of energy storage needed. We are talking about truly gargantuan numbers here, and even “not much” is a LOT.

          8. >We don’t currently have good year/month-long storage technology, therefore it’s not a good idea to go full-renewable.

            You’re arguing against someone else there. I’m simply explaining what it takes, and what are the options to do it.

          9. > Install enough solar panels/windmills so that you produce enough even in winter, and the problem is instantly solved.

            The peak to average production ratio out of solar panels is about 8:1 and 4:1 out of wind power, so to “install enough” on a simple estimate would mean overbuilding the system by a factor between 4-8x which obviously means power prices need to go up 4-8x. We don’t want that.

            Arguing that we don’t need ANY long terms storage because we can overbuild and pull superconducting cables around the world is ignoring the practical economic realities of the situation and how these technologies work in the first place. Yes we could, in theory, but we won’t.

            >”the energy storage capacity that would be required to supply the electrical energy for the United States for a year given that the source of the electricity is from solar, wind, or a combination of the two, is in the order of 10%-20% of the total annual demand.”

          10. Er… brainfart… the peak to average ratio means that we already need to overbuild the capacity by 4-8x just to meet the average demand on a 100% renewable grid.

            What you’re doing by over-provisioning the system is simply raising the peaks higher. Both wind and solar are “peaky” in that they put out most of the energy in short periods of time and almost nothing at all otherwise. You have to catch the peaks to make the average, for which you need batteries. If you don’t, then you’re tossing away nearly all the energy you could produce and you’re just adding cost.

            >Strategies for the reduction of energy storage capacity for high penetration of wind and solar power
            > the amount of storage required for a 100% wind and solar energy portfolio would correspond on average to approximately 4.5% of the load energy for the year.
            >using 20% over-generation of solar and wind, reduces this fraction to approximately 0.03%

            0.03% out of 3,800 TWh per year is still 1.14 TWh of batteries. I consider this to be the absolute minimum, because it’s basically living hand-to-mouth without any provisions for disasters or other disturbances.

            Then there’s the factor to consider that we need to generate hydrogen and carbohydrate molecules anyways to replace fossil fuels in fertilizers and plastics, lubricants, solvents, etc. so we need to stockpile energy in the form of chemicals – so any surplus renewable energy you got has a ready market in making what also counts as synthetic fuels.

          12. Dude you are not wrong in needing large energy storage capacity – a capacity that sounds mindboggling even – because the load of an entire nation is like that – but it doesn’t need to be long term storage at all. Even on the worst day you can possible image for renewable energy sources across a vast decentralised grid you will be getting a good amount of energy, so that day doesn’t need to be entirely from storage. And that day won’t last, day after, maybe at worst day after that and your going to be spiking massively over needs again and your storage capacity saturated shortly afterwards…

            You don’t need to store much if any energy particularly long term. Heck I could go off grid here on a single source – entirely on a pretty small solar set up, and wouldn’t need more than a few full day of energy store – even on the shortest days of the year when its not also overcast there is enough energy captured to do more than that days needs, and even common overcast you get enough out of the panels to meet about half the constant power draw during the daylight hours (averaged out a bit as fixed mounts mean you get much more than the baseline for an hour or two and less the rest of the time). Put the two together, and consider that really solid overcast poor solar weather lasts usually less than one full day and you don’t need much storage duration, just enough capacity to cover that day or two – mostly the food cooking load, when it is too dark to fully meet the demand.

            Also worth pointing out that when the wind is low odds are good you are stuck in a cloudless high pressure bubble so the solar output is going to be peaking, and when its cloudy and stormy so the solar is dipping the wind is likely to be peaking. Its not a hard and fast always that way relationship, but it is a meaningful trend that makes the two good compliments to each other.

      2. Yeah, no, those people are about as rare as flat-earthers. People with *any* idea exist, no matter the idea, rule-34-style, but people with ideas this stupid are incredibly rare.

        The issue is you’re not listening to actual pro-renewables or actual BLM activists, you’re listening to the straw-man cherry-picked version that the media you agree with/consume likes to show you instead of showing you reality.

        I remember my short stint as a 9-11 truther as a teenager, and how those people represented their opponents. Then one day, out of an urge to be sincere with myself, I thought I’d just go look at what they (the opponents) *actually* say instead of what my fellow truthers tell me they say, and my world changed in a matter of minutes.

        If you think the people you disagree with sound like a caricature (which you clearly do), it is likely because you’re listening at them through a filter that caricatures them.

        Go ahead, show me examples of people who are over 5yo and who really think they are zero impact, if they are so common, that should be *trivial* for you to do.

        1. > show me examples of people who are over 5yo and who really think they are zero impact, if they are so common, that should be *trivial* for you to do.

          How would you even pose the question? It’s almost universally agreed that renewable energy is the method to eliminate carbon emissions to the point of it being a dogma. There are no alternatives in the public discourse.

          Also what you won’t find in the public discourse is, among others, a) the dumping of nuclear waste (uranium/thorium) from mining rare earth minerals, b) the dumping of silicon tetrachloride waste from producing solar panels, c) the re-growing ozone layer hole thanks to releases of illegal-in-the-west solvents from factories in Asia, d) the use of cheap fossil fuel power to manufacture all the materials for renewable energy with no processes in sight to close the production loop from renewable energy back into renewable energy.

          With the omission of this discussion in the public media, how can people form informed opinions? The point is rather that people are never told about the externalities and impacts of renewable energy other than at the level of, “windmills kill birds but that’s just bad people exaggerating things.”. Everything else is just a side note, quickly brushed aside.

          You’re trivially right – nobody above 5yo thinks there’s exactly zero impact – yet very few people really know what the impacts are because this discussion has been put aside and declared the talk of luddites.

  5. Those believing in the technology fairy without understanding what’s involved are bound to be disappointed.

    For LEDs maybe somethingsomething graphene can work out (I’d bet more on somethingsomething SiC, but hey).

    Good luck making strong permanent magnets out of somethingsomething graphene.

      1. What you link to is an induction motor, which is not news. Synchronous AC motors with axial transformers to excite the rotor field are a very old invention, going back to Tesla’s times, and they’re pretty much outdated since we can use vector control algorithms to do the same thing with a regular squirrel cage AC motor, which is far simpler and cheaper to build.

        The reason why they’re not used is because they’re very inefficient at low speeds. Things like wind turbines can’t use these because they are trying to get rid of the fragile and maintenance-intensive gearboxes, so they use strong permanent magnets to do away with the field excitation current that would otherwise suck up more energy than they produce at lower wind speeds – not to mention the extra cooling requirements to run the current.

    1. The kind of person who chases the technology fairy without understanding the technology is not bothered by the fact that it rarely if ever pans out the way it’s advertised. These optimistic science fanboys thrive on the sunny rising slope of the Gartner hype curve just around the point where R&D is transforming into the first startup companies that utilize the technology.

      It’s the point of optimism where any technology you pick looks like it’s going to go to the moon and solve world hunger while making your socks smell nice at the same time. Once it starts looking like it’s perhaps not going to do the sock thing after all… but hey there’s this new technology that’s just picking up wind!

  6. I think what’s missing most is a feedback mechanism. A significant part of the recycling costs should land in the manufacturer’s bottom line: they do have a lot of say on how recyclable their products are designed in the first place.

    As it is today, those are externalities, and either some start-up deals with them, or they end up in a landfill.

    1. We already recycle most of our automobiles, it is already profitable to do so. Usable parts are stripped out and resold, the steel and lead are recovered and recycled. No doubt there will be a salvage market for whatever cars are made of, copper, rare earths, etc if the market is there then they will get recycled.

    2. Without regulation I’m not sure there’ll be much recycling. With most assemblies ease of removal/breakdown also means ease of repair which every manufacturer seems to be resisting with everything they can muster.

      Could be I’m just being pessimistic. I hope so.

      1. When recycling is cheaper than producing new materials, companies will recycle.

        While this is not the case, companies won’t recycle.

        That also says a lot about what role recycling will do in meeting supply shortages of battery manufacturing. Battery prices would have to increase for recycling to make economic sense to the companies, but if battery prices stay up then the adoption of electric vehicles slows down and there’s no need to recycle since the existing supply will suffice – and also that we’ll miss the 2035 deadlines by a wide margin.

  7. I’m not buying into the future is electric until I am able to have my very own nuclear generator in my backyard and another one in my car.

    And both be turned back in like coke cans.

    An no matter what brand of car/house I get, the reactor just fits and not have to deal with different models and plugs, etc.

  8. There is a Canadian company called Li-Cycle that is already recycling Li-ion batteries at a decently large scale. From what I can tell, their current recycling capacity is about 10,000 tonnes per year, at two facilities. I believe they are already selling the purified metal salts (of Li, Ni, Co, and Mn) back to the market.

  9. I think the recycling is going to have difficulties unless the manufacturer has to do it (so that they have an impressive to put it in the design in the first place).

    I think a direct parallel is current mobile phones – the manufactures have done everything in their power to make batteries not swappable so that a phone has a fixed life of roughly 3 years and then you have to get a new one. This is despite the fact the rest of the phone is fine, and there is no other reason to buy a new one.

    The electric cars appear to be the same, on a slightly different time scale. They should be making the batteries 1) easy to replace, 2) easy to upgrade, 3) easy to recycle. Instead they want you to buy a new car when the battery goes! This will be generate more cash for them ie more expense for us…

    Yet an electric car (properly done) SHOULD last (apart from the battery) as long or longer than a petrol one does – after all they don’t have the complex engine/fuel system/ etc etc.
    I have no hope of that actually being the case though, they are probably making the rest of the car match the life of the battery (ie the soldered in flash card write count…). So while I can happily (and do) drive a petrol car around that is more than 20 years old and has done over 300,000 kms, I’m going to be pretty surprised if I can do that with any of the current electric cars.

    Instead, they will be like phones. Buy them, use them a bit, then chuck. Ooops, how is that environmentally friendly??

  10. It wouldn’t surprise me when giant mining machine start moving into the local garbage dumps, to mining them for the rare earth metals dumped by past generations. Often the ore that is mined from a traditional operation are extremely low percent of metals, less than 3-10 percent. When so many elements can be extracted from a soft soil and recovered with minimal effort. It will be a win-win. Maybe they even find more copies of ET.

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