“Wall Street loves electric cars, America loves trucks,” Tesla news, cobalt cliffs, lithium landslides and real disruptive innovation.

Guest musings by David Middleton

#BUSINESS NEWSOCTOBER 27, 2017 / 12:47 AM / 4 DAYS AGO

Wall Street loves electric cars, America loves trucks

Paul Lienert, Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) – Wall Street may love the shares of Silicon Valley electric carmaker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), but Americans love big, fuel-thirsty trucks like Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) bestselling F-Series pickups and are paying ever higher prices to buy them.

The auto industry is at a crossroads, with the future of legacy automakers like Ford, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) uncertain as governments float proposals to ban internal combustion engines over the next two decades.

But in the present, consumer enthusiasm for trucks and sport utility vehicles is strong, especially in the United States. And that is providing Ford, GM and other established automakers with billions in cash to mount a challenge to Tesla.

 Tesla has ambitions to boost annual sales to 500,000 vehicles a year. But it is wrestling with the sort of production problems that old-line automakers have largely put behind them, and has reported a net loss of $666.7 million through the first six months of 2017. Analysts expect the company to post a third quarter net loss of $380.4 million when it reports results next Wednesday.

Electric cars are money losers…

[…]

Reuters

How much do Americans love trucks?  This much:

Ford_v_PEV

Figure 1. U.S. Annual sales, Ford F-Series pickup trucks and PEV’s – all makes and models combined. 2017 totals extrapolated from Jan-Sept. sales.

  • Ford F-Series (F-150, F-250, F-350 & F-450) Sales Data: Wikipedia and Ford
  • Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Sales Data: InsideEVs

Total U.S. PEV sales are on track to catch up to the Ford F-Series pickup trucks as soon as 2033, with total PEV sales exceeding 500,000 vehicles by 2030.  However,  Tesla has indicated that they intend to boost production to 500,000 vehicles per year as soon as 2018… Which is probably one of the reasons they slapped a “gag order” on all Tesla Model 3 purchasers…

Tesla Muzzling Model 3 Buyers

Oct.25.17 | About: Tesla Motors (TSLA)

Summary

  • Rumors of requiring NDA’s to be signed by Model 3 buyers are everywhere.
  • Restrictions already existed on transfers of reservations.
  • Newly uncovered terms are downright ludicrous!

Since the first Model 3’s were handed over to employee buyers in late July, rumors have been rampant of restrictions being demanded by Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) It would be perfectly understandable if Tesla was giving these cars to employees to test drive and evaluate. But they aren’t. Tesla continues to insist current buyers are paying full retail just like any other outsider. That being the case, what gives Tesla any authority to dictate terms to these buyers?

[…]

1) Buyers are restricted from posting anything negative on social media.

[…]

2) Buyers must retain ownership of their Model 3 for at least one year. 

[…]

3) Buyers are prohibited from selling their Model 3 for more than the original purchase price.

[…]

This gets really crazy when it comes to enforcement. Not only does Tesla threaten employees with disciplinary action up to and including termination, they threaten the future buyer! Here is a copy of a portion of the actual form buyers are being required to sign.

(Source: CleanTechnica.com)

So Tesla is actually threatening to “reduce or disable” a second buyer’s purchased car! Seriously? How on earth could this be legal in this country? Retaliatory actions by a manufacturer towards a product legally purchased by a buyer!? God forbid Tesla does something stupid that results in an accident.

Were the recent firings a shot over the bow?

Tesla recently fired hundreds of employees. Tesla said they were for “poor performance”. However, in recent press articles quoting some of the fired employees, there are claims employees were called by phone or emailed not to return to work. No exit interviews explaining Tesla’s decision were conducted. Prior performance reviews were glowing. So what happened to change Tesla’s perception?

[…]

Conclusion

Tesla is pushing the legal limits of force that can be exercised over employees here in the U.S. In the last few months we are seeing an increasingly aggressive posture by Tesla towards its employees. It has not gone unnoticed by the NLRB. The organization already slapped Tesla with a complaint in late August for how it reacted to employees interested in union organization.

[…]

Top management missteps just seem to keep on coming. Next Wednesday’s conference call should be a real eye-opener. If investors thought today’s price action was bad, then they need to buckle up for next week. A much better option would be to sell ahead of earnings. That was also my recommendation at $360 which was $35 ago.

Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA VIA PUT OPTIONS.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

[…]

Seeking Alpha

Let’s face it… Membership in a cult does tend to come with cult-like requirements.

Speaking of Tesla’s recent mass firing of employees on the basis of performance reviews…

Tesla cites performance reviews as it fires SolarCity employees, though workers say reviews never took place

  • Mass firings at Tesla included SolarCity offices across the U.S.
  • Ex-SolarCity employees said planned performance reviews never happened, but Tesla cited performance problems as reasons for their dismissals.
  • The company was already in the midst of laying off 205 employees from SolarCity’s Roseville, California, office.

Lora Kolodny | @lorakolodny
Published 11:45 AM ET Wed, 25 Oct 2017

Employee dismissals at Tesla are continuing at its SolarCity subsidiary, according to six former and current employees, and are affecting SolarCity offices across the U.S.

Echoing reports from earlier this month, these SolarCity employees say they were surprised to be told they were fired for performance reasons, claiming Tesla had not conducted performance reviews since acquiring the solar energy business. Earlier this month, Tesla began firing hundreds of employees after it announced a recall of 11,000 Model X SUVs.

All the people spoke under condition of anonymity, citing fears of retaliation from Tesla.

[…]

CNBC

It sounds like Tesla might fall a bit short of that 500,000 vehicles per year goal…

Tesla Slashing Model 3 Parts Orders From Supplier Hoya Due To Production Bottleneck — What Are The Implications?

October 30th, 2017 by James Ayre

Tesla will be slashing orders for parts from the Taiwan-based auto component manufacturer Hota Industrial Mfg. Company by around 40% from December onwards, according to reports from Economic Daily News.

That report quotes Hota Chairman Shen Kuo-jung as saying that Tesla informed him that firm orders would be slashed to 3,000 sets per week down from 5,000 a week starting in December — owing to a “bottleneck” in Model 3 production that apparently can’t be quickly resolved.

[…]

Back to the news, the change makes for a fairly significant drop in orders (down 2,000 a week). Presuming that the reports are accurate, are things even worse as regards Tesla Model 3 production than has been publicly acknowledged? How much of a disparity between Tesla’s official Model 3 production goals and actual production numbers will there be over the coming months?

[…]

Clean Technica

Prior to falling 83% short of their Q3 2017 Model 3 production guidance, Tesla had forecast “1,500 Model 3 sedans in September and grow that to 20,000 vehicles a month by December.”  Tesla will be reporting their October sales numbers as early as tomorrow, but right now it looks like total Model 3 deliveries has barely exceeded 500.  JPMorgan has halved their Q4 2017 Model 3 delivery estimate from 30,000 down to 15,000 vehicles.

UBS takes an even dimmer view of Tesla’s prospects…

UBS slashes Tesla profit estimates predicting more Model 3 problems

  • UBS reaffirms its sell rating for or Tesla shares, saying the electric car maker will continue to have issues producing its Model 3 cars.
  • “We believe the market should not ignore fundamental challenges that persist with regards to Tesla’s Model 3 profitability, stationary storage & solar businesses, and eventual need to raise cash,” the firm’s analyst writes.

Tae Kim | @firstadopter
Published 10:37 AM ET Mon, 30 Oct 2017

Tesla’s disappointing Model 3 production ramp is a troubling sign, according to one Wall Street firm.

UBS reaffirmed its sell rating on the electric car maker’s shares, predicting Tesla will continue to have issues producing its Model 3 vehicles.

[…]

“Not only does the [Model 3] miss undermine the credibility of future Model 3 targets, but it increases the near term risks,” analyst Colin Langan wrote in a note to clients Monday. “We believe the market should not ignore fundamental challenges that persist with regards to Tesla’s Model 3 profitability, stationary storage & solar businesses, and eventual need to raise cash.”

[…]

The analyst lowered his financial results estimates for the company due to the “slower Model 3 ramp.” He reduced his Tesla results forecast to a loss of $6.40 per share from a loss of $5.30 for 2017 and to a loss of $3.30 from a loss of $1.60 for 2018.

“With limited Model 3 profitability, infrastructure expansion needs, & Model Y capacity build (late 2019), we believe TSLA will eventually need additional outside funding,” he wrote. “We see increased pressure on demand as luxury automakers launch competing products in the 2018-20.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNBC

And… UBS is actually upbeat about EV sales in general, with EV’s (including hybrids) comprising 13.7% of global passenger vehicle sales by 2025… (but only 5.1% of US passenger vehicle sales in 2025).  UBS forecast of BEV (battery electric vehicles) and PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) topping the Ford S-Series as soon as 2022-23.

UBS_Ford_v_EV

Figure 2: UBS EV forecast vs. Ford F-Series.

This brings us to…

Cobalt Cliffs and Lithium Landslides

In my previous post, we visited the “Cobalt Cliff“… an impenetrable obstacle standing in the way of Tesla building 500,000 Model 3 vehicles in 2018.  Of course, now it appears that Tesla won’t have to worry about the cobalt cliff anytime soon.  However, a cobalt cliff is out there, as is a lithium landslide.

The USGS is a great source for data on mineral production, proved reserves and resources.

Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States

Statistical Compendium

The UBS article included a graphic of incremental metals demand in a 100% EV world.  The graphic was reproduced here:

Figure 3. The Impact Of EVs On Commodities In One Chart (Mining.com/OilPrice.com)

The graph makes a very simplistic assumption:  If all vehicles were currently VW Golf’s, how would it impact mineral commodities if they were all replaced with Chevy Bolt’s?  Simplistic, but a useful exercise.  I took the incremental increases of lithium, cobalt and rare earths and calculated the amount of material per vehicle based on 2015 mineral production and made the assumption that there are currently 1 billion passenger vehicles in the world.  I then estimated the mineral commodities demand that UBS’s 2015-2015 EV production forecast would yield.

EV_Minerals_01

Figure 4. Projected US EV sales (UBS) and minerals demand 2014-2015.

EV_Minerals_01b

Figure 5. Projected EV sales and minerals consumption as % of 2015 global proved reserves.

EV_Minerals_02

Figure 6. Projected EV-driven mineral demand relative to historical production. (Minerals data from USGS).

EV_Minerals_03

Figure 7. Same as Figure 6, with a logarithmic y-axis.

Electric vehicle aficionados and other “futurists” like to use the word “disruptive” a lot.  To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  The increases in mineral production required for just 45.6 million EV’s would be rather disruptive.

disruptive

Proved mineral reserves are not fixed numbers.  They are generally the “P90” number.  There is a 90% probability that the proved reserves can be economically recovered from existing, developed mineral deposits.  The total resource potential is much higher than the proved reserves.  However, companies generally try to replace their annual production to maintain, or preferably increase, their proved reserves.

If UBS’s global EV production forecast is accurate, lithium and cobalt production will have to roughly double relative to 2014.  The cumulative consumption of lithium from 2014-2015 will be equivalent to 69% of 2015 proved reserves.  Cobalt consumption will be equivalent to 47% of proved reserves.  This sort of production is not impossible; but it will be highly disruptive, particularly since most cobalt production is a byproduct of copper and nickel mining.  According to the IEA…

“In order to limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the number of electric cars will need to reach 600 million by 2040”.

600 million EV’s would consume 907% of the 2015 proved lithium reserves and 615% of the 2015 proved cobalt reserves.  That’s a lot.  That’s disruptive.

 Historical Mineral Production + EV Consumption
Lithium Cobalt Rare Earths
2015-2025 Totals (metric tons)      9,643,510                3,266,267        1,672,179
2015 Proved Reserves (metric tons)    14,000,000                7,000,000    120,000,000
 % Consumed @ 45.6 million EV 69% 47% 1%
 % Consumed @ 90 million EV 136% 92% 3%
 % Consumed @160 million EV 242% 164% 5%
 % Consumed @ 600 million EV 907% 615% 18%
 % Consumed @ 1,000 million EV 1512% 1024% 31%

615% of 7,000,000 metric tons is over 43,000,000 metric tons.  This not only exceeds the 2015 proved reserves of cobalt, it exceeds the identified terrestrial resource potential…

Identified world terrestrial cobalt resources are about 25 million tons. The vast majority of these resources are in sediment-hosted stratiform copper deposits in Congo (Kinshasa) and Zambia; nickel-bearing laterite deposits in Australia and nearby island countries and Cuba; and magmatic nickel-copper sulfide deposits hosted in mafic and ultramafic rocks in Australia, Canada, Russia, and the United States. More than 120 million tons of cobalt resources have been identified in manganese nodules and crusts on the floor of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

USGS

Mining manganese nodules from the seafloor sounds really cool and disruptive!

Disclosure:

I am neither short nor long on TSLA or F, nor do I own an F-Series pickup truck.  I make my living finding oil & gas and drive a Jeep.

Addendum Nov. 1, 2017

F_EV_Market Share

U.S. Market Share Ford F-Series and EV’s.

Addendum Nov. 2, 2018

EV sales cratered in October, down by nearly 7,000 vehicles from September (21,332 to 14,598).  Tesla only managed to cobble together 145 more Model 3’s.

Inside EV’s

And Tesla just recorded its worst quarter EVAH!

After releasing its worst quarterly figures ever, Tesla said it will delay the full-scale production of its Model 3 to early 2018, from December this year. Now, the company plans to churn out 5,000 Model 3s weekly starting some time in March next year, after announcing a total production of just 260 cars of the affordable model in the third quarter and deliveries of 220. Plans were to produce 1,500 Model S between July and September.

Oil Price Dot Com

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172 thoughts on ““Wall Street loves electric cars, America loves trucks,” Tesla news, cobalt cliffs, lithium landslides and real disruptive innovation.

  1. ” Tesla has ambitions to boost annual sales to 500,000 vehicles a year.”

    But still struggles to make 100 a month.

  2. If Tesla is telling the world that the people it fired were fired because of poor performance, and Tesla can’t prove that, they are opening themselves up to a class action libel suit.

    How would you like it if you had to go to a future employer, with Tesla on your resume as your most recent employer?

    • speaking of fired….

      Terrifying moment 35 firefighters struggle to tackle an enormous blaze after a Tesla Model S crashes in Austria and turns into an INFERNO

      The fire started after the 19-year-old driver crashed into a motorway barrier
      35 crew members battled the blaze while wearing special breathing equipment
      Electric car fires are especially hard to put out because the often relight
      The battery must be cooled enough to cut the power supply

      Huge amounts of water are needed to cool the battery, then the power cables must be cut – which puts firefighters at risk of electrocution

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4997486/35-firefighters-tackle-enormous-Tesla-Model-S-fire.html

    • They’re lucky they were only fired. In Spain they would be jailed and maybe put on probation. Look at what happens if you protest against the EU CAGW elite in that country. I think death is a little extreme for not wanting to believe in the Religion of Climate Change?

    • If they were fired because of proven poor performance would you want to purchase a product manufactured by them, were they the ones who installed the brakes, the fire hazard batteries, assembled the steering, air bags, or whatever?

  3. It can generally be assumed that current production of any mineral resource is from the lowest cost sources.
    As production demands increase, higher cost sources have to be tapped.

    • No doubt. Do we think that will have any effect on prices of the final product? Or do we think Musk will just eat that cost? (Him and the stock holders.)

  4. “In order to limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the number of electric cars will need to reach 600 million by 2040”.
    I wonder if they have noticed that the earth has started cooling again. What will this do to their projections? Maybe we all should instead be buying F-series trucks to help stave off catastrophic cooling!

  5. Why oh why do we have this constant anti-Tesla stuff on this site? If you scrape around you can find bad stuff about anything or anybody.

    • Why do you object to the truth being told? Is your income being threatened?
      BTW, if it weren’t for the huge subsidies, nobody would care how badly Tesla was missing it’s targets.

    • “Why oh why do we have this constant anti-Tesla stuff on this site? If you scrape around you can find bad stuff about anything or anybody.”

      Why, oh why are liberals unwilling to allow non-compliant news about their heroes or their pet agendas to be discussed?

      Tesla makes an interesting car. But Musk’s claims about the future of EV are always hyperbole and never tempered with minuscule facts…like actual production vs claimed, like requirements for rare mineral quantities that don’t actually exist on planet, etc.

      If you want a one-sided, sunny view of Tesla, read newspapers that lean left. If you want the actual truth, then you must go elsewhere. This is one of those places.

      • Hey Patrick, but at least in South Australia he’s building them a fantastic new battery. By my calculations based on publicly available data, it will last a whopping 3.5 minutes!

        What’s not to like? (apart from everything about it, including bursting into flames if they really do try to drain it in 3.5 minutes.)

      • In Norway TESLAs are heavily subsidised. And the average annual salary for a buyer here is above USD 160,000,- (true!).

    • Why anti-Tesla? Well, if Tesla was privately funded then there wouldn’t be such an issue. But Tesla consumes large quantities of US taxpayers’ money …
      http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html
      https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2013/06/03/teslas-success-is-the-result-of-political-favoritism
      … and that makes the US public entitled to criticise when they think it is warranted. With Tesla acting dubiously and not getting even remotely near their own targets, surely criticism is warranted.

      BTW, I think all the stats about Cobalt, Lithium, etc, are off the mark. I doubt that EVs in future will carry a battery for all their energy needs. Electric trains and trams don’t. I suspect that future EVs will receive their energy as they go along, as electric trains and trams do.

      • There is simply no way to electrify roads the way a few railroad tracks have been.
        Isn’t practical and it’s way too expensive.

      • There is a reason why much of the supply to trains and trams are out of reach of humans and along corridors. Simply would not work for personal EV’s, you may as well simply expand the rail network.

      • Tesla could build a car model with a small tank of liquid hexanes powering a ICE generator to run the drive motors.
        In fact, Some people could be convinced that as revolutionary.

      • The warmunists do not want to to drive cars. They want you to be limited to mass transit so that they can control when and where you travel. Just like wind and solar, electric cars are shiny baubles designed to distract you from their grand plan to impoverish and immiserate the middle class. In fact electric cars are century old technology that is not economically viable. This is not a bug for the warmunists, it is a feature.

      • @MarkW,

        You forgot too dangerous. Touching the electrified rail for an full scale electric railroad can be fatal. And they only have a few motors running on any one line at any one time.

        What happens to pedestrians trying to cross the road when it’s carrying enough power to run tens of thousands of cars all at the same time?

      • Yes, but as other commenters have noted, it’s not practical to electrify all the roads. The solution is simple though – only electrify a small number of highly traveled roads, such as urban freeway HOV lanes. Forget pure electric vehicles – use hybrids with either small or no batteries that run electric when on an electrified road and switch to gas for other roads.

      • Amazon recently patented the ridiculous idea of drones flying alongside EVs to recharge them as they drive. Not kidding.

      • Tesla could build a car model with a small tank of liquid hexanes powering a ICE generator to run the drive motors.
        In fact, Some people could be convinced that as revolutionary.

        Just tell them it is hexane from carbon-neutral sources.

      • 1saveenergy: Ought to be fun when the metal gets wet.
        Coefficient of friction, close enough to zero that the difference doesn’t matter.

      • The “Top Gear” TV program did a show devoted to E.V., they found all models unreliable so they modified one, a extension cable 2 miles long helped some of the problems.

    • John H

      Tesla is a great idea that is not working. Not to say that it couldn’t work, just noting that they are a publicly traded company and they have never made a profit that I know of.

      Seeking Alpha is a stock advisory and discussion platform. He is giving advice. No one has to take it. Personally I will not advise buying Tesla stock for more than their assets divided by the number of shares, times 0.8.

      • Seeking Alpha publishes many contrasting views. There are also very well-written pro-Tesla articles on Seeking Alpha… just not many lately.

    • Because fairy stories are often funny, and the Tesla story is very funny. I have ridden in a Tesla, very smooth, but I wont buy one because I drive long distances and guess what, it takes a lot longer to charge an electric car than it does to fill one with gas, assuming that you can find a connection point. Then there are the power generation problems to put those tricky little electrons into the power cable. (I live in Australia where our politicians cant keep the lights on for much longer and diesel generators are selling like hot cakes – so much for CO2 emissions and global warming outcomes.) Frankly, Tesla is the gift that keeps on giving, such is the difference between the promise and the outcomes.

  6. Well at least all of those minerals can be extracted and process without any impact to the environment. Oh, wait…

    • The author neglected to mention that Cobalt (at least in Africa) is ‘extracted’ by child slave labor. I guess a lot of people want to look up at the sky and whistle by that particular ‘inconvenient’ fact.

      • That’s because it’s not relevant to how much cobalt would be needed to manufacture large numbers of EV’s.

        100% of all cobalt production could be “ethical” and there still wouldn’t be enough terrestrial (as opposed to seafloor) cobalt to manufacture 600 million EV’s.

      • Dave Middleton makes the assumption that cobalt will be needed to make 300 million EV’s. Dave Middleton forgets that cobalt is not needed to make lithium-ion batteries based on lithium iron phosphate or lithium ion manganese oxide.

      • I also didn’t expound very much on recycling. However, right now, there are no commercial substitutes for cobalt. Nor are any substitutes on the near term horizon…

        Substitution effects?

        Substitution may be a better long-term solution than scouring the earth for limited cobalt supplies. There are already efforts to produce different types of battery chemistries that don’t rely on cobalt or other relatively rare metals and minerals.

        CRU, an information service for mining and related activities, projects an undersupply of cobalt globally from 2015 onward. With the potential for Tesla and other EV and stationary battery manufacturers possibly straining cobalt supplies in the coming few years, let alone in the long term in a more serious way, there may well be a shift away from cobalt-intensive batteries.

        Rebecca Gordon of CRU states in a 2015 piece that several R&D efforts for new and improved batteries “are well advanced and are not planning on using cobalt, so the concern is that if one or two [of these non-cobalt battery] projects come to market in the next two to three years, Tesla could switch from cobalt to one of the other chemistries relatively easily.”

        That said, most lithium-ion battery chemistries use substantial amounts of cobalt, so it is unlikely that the market will shift entirely away from cobalt anytime soon.

        https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/can-cobalt-supplies-scale-with-massive-ev-market-growth#gs.kXqJYzc

        Cobalt will be a major bottleneck very soon (2022-25), particularly if UBS’s production forecast is accurate. If Tesla’s production forecasts were meaningful, the Cobalt Cliff would be reached next year.

        Lots of things can change in the future; however fairy tales about EV’s dominating the market or even driving ICE into extinction by 2030-2050, totally ignore massive raw materials supply chain obstacles.

      • Super capacitors will run all chemical batteries off the market in a few years and there is an endless supply of ceramics to make them from.

        Don’t invest in lithium anything short or long term unless you are a day trader. Cobalt is an absolute requirement to run a modern economy: tools and turbines, my friends.

      • “Super capacitors will run all chemical batteries off the market in a few years”

        Yes, and fusion will make electricity too cheap to meter in 10 years.

      • @Crispin – Ah, lovely things, capacitors are. Especially for a kid who had no idea of what he was playing with. Blew up several micro Farads; really loud noise and bits flying off several inches…

        When they blow, they release all of their stored energy at once.

        I don’t even need to get the calculator out to figure what would happen when a capacitor storing, say, the equivalent of 20 gallons of gasoline would do when failing. You can make that much gasoline blow just as fast as a capacitor, with a bit of work – the military guys call it a “fuel-air bomb.” Just the thing when you want to scatter an opponent over a couple acres of countryside.

      • Rob Bradley assumes that Tesla could easily switch their battery factory to making lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo) or lithium ion manganese oxide (LiMnO) based cells. They can’t. He also fails to mention that LiFePo cells have lower power density and lower discharge rate, which would necessitate either lowering the cars performance or adding more cells to make up the difference. As far as I know, nobody is making commercial quantities of LiMnO cells, and for good reason: they have much lower power density than other Lithium chemistries. So they are not viable for EVs. Besides all that, you still have the Lithium limitations, so even if you found something to replace Cobalt with, it’s still an impossible situation.

        I’ll be generous and assume that Rob didn’t know any of this when he criticized David Middleton over the Cobalt availability.

      • @Writing Observer … from the “mine’s bigger than yours” department, I once constructed a 1.2 Farad capacitor (no pico’s, no micro’s, no milli’s) to launch model rockets. Very effective. We were tired of the usual 20-50% failure to launch rate using the Estes igniter systems, so I figured Michael Faraday could help us out. Turns out a +1 Farad capacitor charged to 12 volts with will turn 20 AWG wire directly into plasma, which is a very effective ignition source.

  7. Tesla also likes to hire far too many engineers for projects that are a bit pie in the sky. One of their biggest risks is the automated driving, guaranteeing a level 5 is insanity when you aren’t even close and won’t listen to people that tell you this, but fun on the hype ride. Elon doesn’t seem to care about money, much like many “disruptive” startups that give away free apps and sort out the details later when they are bought out by a bigger company. The problem with Elon is his companies are too big to be bought out, if Tesla was 5 Billion, someone would have picked them up but at 50 Billion they are too expensive, perhaps when they fall to 5 Billion dollar valuation it will set things in motion. Don’t give much hope for Tesla to figure it out before the boom, their expenses are too high – when the money taps are turned off someone will pick up the pieces but the 12+ Billion in debt and probably another 5 Billion coming before people stop giving them money is at very high risk as well as much of the investor equity.

  8. so let me get this straight….@90m ev produced it will require approx. 100% of the existing proven lithium and cobalt reserves in the world. currently there are about 60m total vehicles produced a year. so the existing cobalt/lithium could only sustain 1.5 years of total vehicle production. and it is estimated the world needs 600m ev to save the planet from a co2 caused burnup? and some countries and states are considering banning IC engines? so what will people drive it IC’s are banned and cobalt/lithium runs out after 90m ev’s

    right, that all works out just fine.

    • actually closer to 88m cars+light trucks annual production, and don’t forget the whole push for electric cars was due to the 2012 EPA mandate of 54.5 (reduced to 51.5) mpg rating for fleet average by 2025 (technically impossible for ICE, even motorcycles don’t meet that requirement!) without that, none of the majors would be doing any electric push on a meaningful level…and new EPA mandate due out next summer, probably will set the tone back to reality, 27mpg or so fleet average

      • MarkW,

        Sort of like the World’s largest e-waste dump of old computers and circuit boards in Ghana.

        NIMBY.

      • Lots of things can be recycled, if only somebody will buy the stuff. In Australia we have mountains of glass ready for recycling, but China has stopped buying the stock, so it just builds up in huge heaps in the country. And meanwhile, everybody keeps carefully separating the glass for “recycling”.

      • the lithium costs 5x more to recover in recycling than it does from mining it raw, so all ‘recycling’ of lithium sees it being dumped into cement production. That’s not really recycling to my way of thinking. The few components that are recycled are generally to do with the casing of the battery and associated controller electronics.

      • Yep. Lithium has to get a lot more expensive before recycling Li-ion batteries becomes practical.

  9. “cash flow” is the problem when ANY company needs to lay off hundreds of workers on short notice.
    Investors beware.

    • Signs of a cash flow problem: People having problems getting deposit refunds. Purchasers of the fully autonomous driving feature ($8000) that is not yet available (with no schedule as to when it might be) having trouble getting refunds (class action lawsuit in progress).

  10. And remember, this is Elon Musk, not someone shy when it comes to hyperbole in salesmanship.

  11. Yah, well Wall Street is notoriously fickle. And the truck market is the truck market. Last I heard, Tesla makes (or tries to make) cars. Never the twain shall meet.

    • The EV predicted production curve looks a lot like an IPCC future global temperature curve, and equally likely to occur

  12. Regardless of Musk’s brilliance and innovation, there are a lot of car builders than make good electric cars as good as and cheaper than Tesla–without subsidies. The battery is the challenge.

    As regards IC engines, I predict that self driving cars in 10 – 15 years will result in registration fees for non-self drive, IC cars being ~$250 more than self-driven electric cars. The main reason is that self-driven cars will result in a lower rate of collisions per mile- by lots! than owner-driven, and the battery fires will tend to be a worse problem for the non-self driven cars.

    • There’s an acceptance problem with self-driving cars. Fatal car crashes are hardly newsworthy now, but fatal car crashes caused by the machine will be closely monitored by the news media and consumer groups. Even if the fatality rate drops by a factor of 4 (likely) there will be a lot of hand wringing over those. I can imagine the tort lawyers will have a field day.

    • If it turns out that self-driving cars are less dangerous (not a fore gone conclusion), the the insurance companies will provide all the incentive necessary.

    • Normal cars in Singapore require a license to drive and a permit to register. Currently it costs about $60,000 for a permit to buy. A motorcycle permit is like, $5000.

      Plus the vehicle of course. Is that everyone’s future?

      I visit China a lot. I see hundreds of electric vehicles in a typical day. I have never seen a Tesla.

    • “The main reason is that self-driven cars will result in a lower rate of collisions per mile- by lots!”

      Anyone who thinks this is seriously delusional IMO. Under certain conditions, possibly (e.g., interstates). I can’t imagine, though, an autonomous vehicle being able to safely navigate a wet mountain road at night with fog and the paint lines virtually non-existent from age and wear.

      • I believe that they will be able to do that eventually. However I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime.

      • MarkW
        I don’t know your life expectancy – or mine, really.
        But my guess – GUESS – is –
        “an autonomous vehicle being able to safely navigate a wet mountain road at night with fog and the paint lines virtually non-existent from age and wear” within twnty years – maximum.
        I nearly typed ‘ten years’ – but I reckon AI is advancing so rapidly that – to be safe – 20 years – so by start November 2037.
        My Guess.

        Smiles
        Auto

  13. “Total U.S. PEV sales are on track to catch up to the Ford F-Series pickup trucks as soon as 2033” see fig 1. Love those linear extrapolations. EVs have already picked the low hanging fruit customers so don’t hold your breath. Until charge time, charge availability, and range can be improved EVs will remain a niche vehicle. That niche has been met.

    • Extrapolation is often/usually stupid. link

      Possibly the greatest wisdom I learned in school was a comment by a prof. that students, given an equation, will try to apply it no matter how inappropriate it is for the situation. I have since learned that the phenomenon carries on quite late into some people’s careers.

      Applying linear regression to the Ford pickup truck sales is, at a glance, flat out crazy.

      • The linear regression of the Ford F-series sales exhibits no meaningful trend. That’s why I posted the R-squared. However, it, coupled with the nearly perfect R-squared of the EV sales, demonstrates the earliest year in which EV’s could catch the F-series… based on historical sales data.

      • Dave, eyeballing the graph for the relevant comparative period – the start of the EV line – the Ford F-150 (one model of light truck, not to mention light trucks are only part of the total “bigger vehicle” market) line is rising FASTER than the total EV line.

        I seem to remember learning in one math class or another that divergent lines do not ever cross? (At least in Euclidean space. Maybe that is what the Green minds are actually living in – a Klein bottle.)

      • I looked at that as well… But the rise of F-series sales since 2009 just reflects the overall recovery in auto sales since the recession. F-series pickup trucks have fairly consistently captured 0.5-0.6% of the US market. EV’s are slowly, very slowly, increasing their US market share.

        I’ll zero in on the post-2009 period and add an addendum to the post.

      • The only reason the F series trucks projection is going downward is that it’s sales are still recovering from the 2008 recession (brought on by the housing bubble collapse). You don’t need to be a wall street wizard to know those numbers are going up from here.

        ~¿~

      • David,

        You said, “Ford F-series sales have very little upside for growth from where they currently are.” That claim isn’t reflected in the post-2009 truck sales line in Fig. 1. I think that the only justifiable comparison with PEVs is for identical years. That is, there is currently no reliable historical data to warrant a claim of PEVs catching up to F-150s.

      • The F-Series is on track to capture 0.43% of IS market share this year. It’s never captured more than 0.46%. The average is 0.40% with a standard deviation of 0.04%. The F-Series market share is almost as flat as EV growth has been linear.

      • David,
        Let’s do this another way. Do a scatter plot of truck versus EV market share. Handle the pre-2009 data any way you see fit.

      • If I plot market shares since 2012 (when EV data start), EV’s catch the F-series in about 2097, at just under 1%. The EV trend has R² = 0.8895. The F-series has R² = 0.2958.

        If the EV market share trend holds and F-Series stays at 0.4% (+/-0.08%), EV’s catch up around 2047.

        Even if EV’s catch up to the F-Series in 2035, that’s still an insignificant accomplishment for EV’s/

  14. “However, companies generally try to replace their annual production the maintain, or preferably increase, their proved reserves.” True, to do otherwise is to work their way out of business. Minerals do NOT reappear in the same spots – ever again.
    David – I find no mention of recovery of Lithium (for example) from used (and recycled??) EV batteries. I don’t know of the technology exists to do so at a realistic price but the law of supply and demand being what it is, as lithium gets really scarce, the price will climb accordingly (given similar demand).
    Good article.

    • Most minerals, particularly metals, can be recycled. About 15% of cobalt production is through recycling.

      Lithium is still very cheap and Li-ion batteries generally don’t contain enough lithium to warrant recycling. If I remember correctly, recycled lithium is 4-5 times the cost of mined lithium.

  15. Solid state batteries will spark an EV revolution in the next ten years. We’ll see this in phones in the next three to five years. Twice the charge in less than five minutes.

  16. Tesla proves one thing . When you throw enough tax payer debt at a business
    you can make almost anything fly for a while . Wall Street loves Tesla because they are the only ones that can afford them .
    When the subsidy game ends soon they will be making their last stand with Asian labour and blame it on Trump .
    Corporate welfare bums need to hit the road .

    • So you really think that when people plunk down nearly $100K (or more) for a car that a $7500 tax credit (taken by the buyer) made any difference in their decision? Of course they take the credit; everybody takes all the credits and deductions they can at tax time. But I think you will have a hard time finding even one Tesla Roadster buyer that says they only bought it because of the tax credit. Now if you want to talk about the Leaf and the Volt, then you may have a point. But I don’t notice anybody excoriating those companies and accusing them of “subsidy farming” (a term usually used to describe companies that get money directly from the government).

  17. “Total U.S. PEV sales are on track to catch up to the Ford F-Series pickup trucks as soon as 2033”

    What a crock and misuse of statistics. It’s not like the dip in 2009 would not have affected PEV’s as well. If you start in 2012 when PEV’s started and compare the slopes, PEV will never catch up as the F-series slope from 2012 to the present is greater. See how the dip in 2014/2015 tracked?

    • The sentence was actually written in English. The phrase “as soon as” has a specific meaning. Based on actual historical sales trends, 2033 is the soonest that the combined total of EV sales could catch up to F-series sales. By definition, this means that parity with the F-series will occur later.

      The EV trend is very linear, with an R-squared of almost 1. F-series sales exhibit no meaningful trend. To the extent there is a trend, it’s slightly negative. The dip is the recession. Sales have been recovering since 2011. But they are still below the pre-recession peak.

      If I started the F-series in 2012, I would actually be misusing statistics.

      All of the data indicate that EV sales will eventually pass the F-series. UBS predicts this happening much sooner, based on automaker production forecasts. However, their forecast looks wildly optimistic.

      As I’ve said many times, “wake me up when EV’s catch the F-series.” I doubt that there will be a need to wake me up before 2033, most likely much later.

      Bear in mind that EV’s, as a class of vehicle, catching up with one automakers’ pickup truck series in total sales, is an insignificant accomplishment.

      • David,
        The misuse of statistics is claiming any significance to the intersection of a 5 year trend with a 25 year trend. It’s apples to oranges.

        From a practical standpoint, EV’s will likely never catch up to F-series trucks. Not even when we run out of fossil fuels since by then, F-series trucks will be EV’s. With subsidies going away, the EV demand will adjust to the reality of economics. Once the truth about climate science is more widely known, the green guilt complex will disappear and that will reduce EV sales as well.

      • EV’s will continue to grow because their niche market is fairly large… But not nearly as large as EV aficionados believe it is.

        The economics and utility of EV’s will continue to slowly improve.

        And idiotic government bureaucrats will do everything they can to drive up the cost of ICE vehicles… even if AGW is proven to be 100% mythical.

        It’s inevitable that EV’s will eventually exceed 0.5-0.6% of US auto sales. The Ford F-series represents about 0.5-0.6% of US auto sales.

        The bar I set for EV’s is very low.

      • All the major auto companies will soon be selling decent versions of EVs for urban areas. Fleets, especially city and county vehicles, will be major buyers of these. With those EV sales the companies will have better internal economics and Tesla will have poorer economics. The cost of big high margin pickups can come down (or not increase faster). Tesla is facing a many headed monster. Pickups, both short and long boxes, have many uses including, among others, pulling trailers or hauling construction material. Because they are useful and needed the demand will remain.

      • Hate to do it – but CO2 is absolutely right. You do not, not, NOT compare trends with two different starting points.

        Caveat – you can, but only if you are able to provably guarantee that both series are taken under conditions that are exactly the same, and you ADJUST the later trend to start at the same T0. For example, you can start a bacterial culture in a lab a week later than your comparison culture – but any graph you produce had better relate the two growth rates (or shrinkage rates, if you’re doing an antibiotic study) as if they had been started simultaneously.

        Not that it matters here – the conditions are not identical. Even comparing the two from the same inception point, they are guaranteed to change, and not in the EV direction. Tesla’s subsidy is just about exhausted – and others will also exhaust in the future. At which time, even without a recession, EV sales will take a big plunge.

        Assuming that we know all of the unknowns, of course – who knows, it might be President Hillary in 2020, with a big Democrat advantage in Congress. Pardon me, I need to find the brain bleach…

    • Long before PEV sales start to approach the level of the Ford F-Series, congress will no longer be able to afford the subsidies that drive PEV sales.
      Dropping the subsidies mean an immediate and very drastic drop in PEV sales.
      That inflection point is not built into any of these charts.

      • The subsidies will start expiring for Tesla, GM and Nissan next year. None of the other automakers are even close to 200,000 EV sales.

        The Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf will do OK without the Federal tax credit. The Tesla Model 3 probably won’t.

        The EV sales data are extremely linear. There’s no indication of any ramping up or levelling off. EV sales will probably catch the F-series in the 2030’s

  18. Oh, the insanity of it all. There has got to be much more important (to humanity) uses of these scarce elements than batteries. Plus, batteries ore finite life, so there’s a “sustainability” aspect. What percentage of these valuable elements are recoverable? I don’t know but someone out there might.

  19. I wrote this piece a year ago:

    Who Will Become the First Master Builder of Clean Energy?

    By Steve Heins, The Word Merchant

    Many have probably heard a lot about Tesla lately, including the latest dust up with the “Autopilot” accidents. Beneath the headlines, the recently announced Tesla and Solar City merger will be an interesting experiment: Can massive government spending stimulate its own economy, without the usual worry about return on investment or real market demand. Stated differently, can the public sector make “better” and more clean energy choices than the private sector?u

    First, with so many phrases being bandied about by the energy and environmental communities like “sustainable,” “clean,” “renewable,” and “environmentally friendly,” a broader meaning is required: “Clean energy” is energy efficiency, solar, wind, large scale battery storage, new gas/natural gas pipelines, new state of the art transmission lines, geothermal, hydro, improved and cleaner coal power plants, wave, new or updated nuclear power plants, and new natural gas power plants. They are all a part of a global greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy that at a minimum doesn’t damage the 3 billion people living in poverty, and 1.6 billion people still living without clean water, reliable electricity and inadequate telecommunications.

    A necessary measuring stick is that all “clean energy” must share the ability to be measured and verified over time. Also, instead of the many imperfections of the cap and trade platforms like the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme (and its ilk) and the carbon tax, the plan should be all inclusive. Renewables would not be treated as the only tradable emission credit, voluntary or otherwise. This notion reflects a sense that a 100 % renewables world isn’t a sacred goal nor is it even desirable.”
    Frankly, when it comes to global economic development, the political class has proven, at their best, that they are enormously vulnerable to the Chinese menu of human frailties. Conversely, the private sector corrects its own historical mistakes, if only for economic survival.

    Even the most recent example of a successful federal program, the Internet itself, only became commercialized and successful, after the heavy-handed regulation by the federal government was supplanted with technologies developed in the private sector. The TCP/IP protocol was established in 1983, and the invention of the browser by Marc Andreesen in 1993. Unlike the inevitable ossification of any large government entity, the private sector has the ‘machinery for change”, as Leonard Cohen put it.
    One could argue, as the Wall Street Journal does, that Telsa and Solar City are both taxpayer subsidized companies. In fact, neither company has returned its first dollar of profit.

    Essentially, the public sector, including well-funded politically active environmental groups, have decided that the solar industries, coal capture, electric cars, and large scale storage batteries are some of the best investments for the future of energy, economic development and environmentalism. “Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently,” as stated in a recent Tesla blog, “but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.”

    Lost in Tesla’s quote is the fact that the solar industry, coal capture or battery storage business cannot yet be defined as a “clean energy” sources, at least until they can prove they have the profitability and scalability to create the enormous amount of capital necessary for the global infrastructural investments, and all without the kindness of governmental assistance.

    Currently, the public sector seems awash in money for renewables, studies and reports dedicated to the environmental community by the environmental and energy agencies. In addition, there is large amount of money that is being donated by individuals and foundations to environmental organization, which receive public or private funding.

    At a minimum, there must be full disclosure of all public sector funding, when these funds and grants are received and expended on these environmental and economic debates. In a world flooded with funding biases and dubious economic claims, material facts help Wall Street and global investors keep the world in economic perspective no matter what is being said in public about energy and the environment.

    After the failures of Solyndra, SunEdison, FutureGen in Illinois, the Kemper Project of Mississippi, Telsa and Elon Musk must grow from being great marketers to becoming a master builders of energy sustainability. If Telsa fails, they certainly will do irreparable harm to the credibility of federalism, renewables, and clean energy.
    ####

  20. I was the first one on my block to own an aluminum F-150 in 2015. I replaced my 17 year old 1999 F-150 with 307,000 miles on it, which I’d still be driving if it hadn’t rusted out. I don’t expect that problem with this one. But lemme tell you. My truck does everything a car and most SUV’s can do AND everything a truck can do. I’ll never own a car ever again, ever. I think a lot of Americans feel this way.

    What really brought the desirability of trucks over the edge was when Detroit figured out that equipping trucks more like cars with automatic/AC/cruise control and other features, they appeal much more widely. This awakening occurred in the mid to late 90’s.

    • I drove a Ford Ranger and GMC Sierra before catching Jeep fever. I don’t even like riding in cars, much less driving them.

      If you combine Ford F-series with Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra sales, it dwarfs anything US EV sales will do before 2050. Although, total EV sales did top the Sierra last month.

    • US auto makers are actually good at trucks, the cars are average at best in the global market but the trucks are great.

  21. It should not be forgotten that Nicola Tesla(though an undoubted genius) died in poverty. Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if a clown like Elon Mush ended up the same way?

    • Tesla means adze as we (I at least!) learned a little while ago. Elon means oak. So that would add to the schadenfreude. Something to ponder …

  22. The resource potential vs measured reserves of Cobalt in Katanga Province, DRC is much, much higher than it is in developed countries. The mineralization belt is 70km x 250km in area and straddles the ZAMBIAN-DRC border. Some of the largest mining companies in the world operate there – the favorite picture of Congo mining is poverty- stricken villagers scratching at the soil. Not in the Cu-Co business! I’m consulting on exploration for a small company that has both cobalt and lithium in greenfield projects in Katanga.

    • “This kind of failure is happening at a ridiculous rate on these cars and yet few owners have filed complaints. This may be due to the fact that most Tesla owners are also shareholders.”

  23. $14,000…that’s what you get in rebates from the fiscally stressed taxpayers of Ontario if you buy one of these vehicles.

    Ontario’s educated and political class are no different than the rest of the world’s “enlightened”. I wonder what Bertrand Russell would have to say about this nonsense. It seems the more educated you are the more likely you are to believe in Al Gore’s message.

    I like Darwall : “Global warming’s success in colonising the Western mind and in changing government policies has no precedent.”

    In Ontario the Green Energy Act is directly responsible for $100 billion down the drain….and the deals are legal …they can’t stop the flow…madness, just insane madness.

    • The good people of Ontario have nothing on the good people of California. In California they are contemplating passing a ‘subsidy’ bill to make EVs competitive with gasoline cars by providing a rebate of up to $75,000/car. The poor/middle class are going to fund the riches ‘virtue signaling’.

      • I’m soon to become a climate refugee by moving out of California to Nevada. Not because the climate is getting bad, but because the local and state governments are brain dead. I can’t in all good conscious give them any more of my money to waste on frivolous green initiatives and the other insanity promoted by these far left politicians more interested in making them feel better about themselves than making the lives of their citizens better.

    • Serves Ontarians right for electing Liberals.

      But we’d better build a wall before they all come flooding out West, trying to escape their collapsing economy.

  24. RVs outsell BEVs in the US.

    I point this out because there is a niche market for people who love the environment and get out and enjoy it.

    • I recently bought a new car in North Carolina. I was intrigued by the Hyundai and others plug-in hybrids. Turns out there wasn’t a single one from any manufacturer that I could drive in the entire State of North Carolina. The closest Hyundai plug-in was in the northeast. The sales rep told me they might get 1-2 plugin hybrids per year and nobody bought them.

      • I keep seeing electric car charging stations. Empty ones.

        There are a couple right outside the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando that have never, as far as I can find, been used, except as advertising when “green” groups have shows there.

        One of my friends was actually talking about buying a pure electric car, just so she could always get free parking near large buildings under the guise of “charging.”

  25. I suspect there will be a new chapter in the Tesla/Musk story in the next couple years. Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 maybe.

  26. The problem with Tesla and other “Musk Industries” is that Elon Musk IS an Afrikaner, i.e. Socialized after birth into the Afrikaner World.

    Just because he migrated with this parents to Canada (avoiding legal and money fraud problems?) then illegally migrated to U.S.A. (avoiding more legal and money fraud problem of his own?) on a Tourist Passport and never bothered to “Update” i.e. a “Green Card” and not even going through that dreaded of all dreaded “Nationalization” because he has enough money i.e. “Cash” to bribe his way around does not make him a citizen of the U.S.A.!

    Therefore the Boring Company, SpaceX and Tesla operate from the psychology of an Afrikaner! Musk Is That Afrikaner!

    QED

    • SpaceX is his only viable company in the long term. There is a real reason so much smart money is short on Tesla. Its corporate paper (bonds) are rated deep into Junk territory. The bond ratings companies use sound financial analysis principles to evaluate a company’s long term ability to repay bond holders. They have spoken on TSLA.

      Musk keeps SpaceX well insulated from Tesla. SpaceX would be a very lucrative and desirable buy for a private equity group. It is a very valuable asset for Musk.

  27. “I was the first one on my block to own an aluminum F-150 in 2015.”

    I can tow your truck with my motor home. It has Freightliner chassis, Cummins diesel, with 6-spd Allison transmission.

    When we were new to living in a motor home we thought the idea was to tow a little car that good mileage to use when the gas guzzler was parked.

    What was I thinking? The idea is to tow the biggest truck you can find and put the biggest dune buggy that will fit in back which is holding three dirt bikes. All this while driving 80 mph.

      • Not likely unless you commute from Winnemucca to Battle Mountain.

        As a snowbird, I avoid the freeway and truck traffic. What is the point if you are in no hurry and driving slow. Driving 65 mph gets 12 mpg and reduces the risk of a blow out.

        There is an Tesla EV charging station where I buy diesel in Winnemucca. Never seen anyone there in the 5 minutes a year that I spend there.

        I know someone was cursing me coming south. I also avoid driving at night, driving at night in the mountains, and especially driving at night in the mountains when it snowing. I pulled into a deserted rest stop on a deserted Neveda highway at dusk. My wife was concerned that we might be stuck in this non-garden spot because of weather.

        My wife wanted to keep heading south, so after a snack and nap we headed out. Later I going really slow because of blinding snow (33 degrees F so no ice) and the cursing moron with bright headlights tailgating me. After he passed, he found out he could not drive any faster if you can not see.

  28. “More than 120 million tons of cobalt resources have been identified in manganese nodules and crusts on the floor of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.”

    Wasn’t mining “manganese nodules” from the seafloor the cover the CIA used when they built the Glomar Explorer to covertly recover the sunken Soviet sub K-129?

    • My brother in law worked on that project when I was was first in the navy. He would ask me questions about radiation but I never made the connection.

      He always had great stories to tell but suddenly stopped talking about the interesting things going on at work. When pressed all he said is that I might read about one day.

      One Sunday just before graduating from college, I picked up the paper to see the headline, ‘Russian Submarine, CIA, Howard Hugh’.

      Later he told me that he got a visit from two well dressed men who offered no identification. At the kitchen table, they played a recording of story telling in the kitchen. “Mr C, you have two choices. You can stop talking about the project and continue to work on the projects, or you stop talking about the projects.”

  29. Does anyone have the back of the right envelope to guess what happens to the price and adoption rate of electric vehicles if the resource consumption estimates are right?

    • Personally, I think it prevents EV sales from ever doing what UBS forecasts. The growth won’t ever approximately an exponential function. The supply chain can only support slow, linear growth.

      • Have not read all of this so this may be a repeat, but one should not quote an r squared for six data points. Has no meaning. Need at least 30 points for any statistical validity. Students’-t distribution.

  30. Say goodbye to your nickel pocket change when the price rises. The nickel in nickles already is worth more than the face amount.

  31. It’s not that hard to build an electric car- Leno says there were 15,000 of these in NYC a the turn of the 20th century.

  32. Still seems strange that I never hear about any concern that the heavy metals in these batteries vaporize during charge and discharge. How soon before someone like the scientist that discovered the problem with the lead emissions from vehicles was causing serious damage to health and the environment – that is still causing problems – and we have to contend with all of the problems created by these “Green” batteries? 20 years in the US Navy Submarine service, we always vented overboard when charging batteries.

    • Well, yes, but the real reason to vent overboard while charging the huge lead-acid submarine batteries was to diffuse and get rid of the hydrogen being generated inside the hull. The usual trickle charge/float generated far less hydrogen, and that smaller amount could be gotten rid of safely in the AMR.

  33. The top graph in this post, where the trendlines seem to indicate that electric vehicle sales will catch up to Ford F-series truck sales around the year 2032, is highly misleading (particularly the F-series truck trendline).

    For plug-in vehicles, the graph only has data from 2012 to 2017, so that an apples-to-apples comparison would require calculating the trendline for F-series trucks over the same period, from 2012 to 2017 only. From the graph, if we estimate 650,000 F-series trucks sold in 2012 and 890,000 sold in 2017, the slope of the trendline would be (890,000 – 650,000) / 5 = +48,000 vehicles / yr^2. This is nearly twice the slope of the trendline for PEV (24,687 according to the graph).

    Extrapolating these trends into the foreseeable future, the sales of PEV will NEVER catch up to those of Ford F-series trucks.

    The graph also shows that the sales of F-series trucks hit a high in 2004, then declined sharply to a bottom in 2009, then increased ever since. Since F-series trucks consume relatively high amounts of fuel, the decline from 2004 through 2009 was in response to spikes in oil prices during the Iraq war, but the use of fracking to increase domestic oil production in the United States after 2009 reduced the price of fuel, allowing the sales of F-series trucks to increase from 2010 on.

    • Starting the F-series in 2012 would actually be extremely misleading. The rise since 2010 is due to the recovery from the recession. The F-Series market share has varied within a very narrow range since 1997.

      F-series market share 1997-2017 = 0.4% +/-0.08%.

  34. Well, my F150 was recently totaled while parked. My home projects are on hold. I’m feeling disoriented. I must buy another F150 sooooooon!!

  35. I’m sorry to say this to David Middleton after all his hard work: your lithium numbers are spectacularly wrong.

    I’m not sure what you have done but the historical production data available is an order of magnitude lower than what you have given. You may need to check the use of units: some commodities use speciality units like MTUs, or the numbers can be in lbs or kg. Furthermore lithium is commonly expressed as tonnes of Li2O or Li2CO3. The latter, which is the main pure product for the battery industry, may be a reason for the discrepancy since Li2CO3 contains only 19% Li.

    According to the USGS 2017 survey the world annual production of lithium was 49,400 tonnes in 2015. That is in keeping with my experience in the mining industry.

    If you look at the table on the last page of the linked report you will see there is about 400 years worth of lithium in known reserves at 2016 production rates. I suspect that is an underestimate as our Australian miners have been finding vast amounts of spodumene ore in Western Australia lately. Probably approaching half a billion tonnes of newly discovered ore at 1-2% LiO2 in the last couple of years alone.

    We’re not going to run out of lithium anytime soon (note that I used to think that would be a problem…until geologists started looking for the stuff, which turns out to be rather common.)

    The fad with EVs will crash long before lithium becomes a problem – although the cost issue is quite real because of the processing required, the high purity needed and the development bottlenecks. It can take 10 years or even more for a mine to be established due to green and red tape.

    As to cobalt that isn’t really an issue since the EV manufacturers can easily use LiFeP batteries instead. The capacity is about 10% lower, which is why Mr Musk is trying very hard to avoid that move (Tesla “range anxiety” is already a big problem for him). We aren’t ever going to run out of iron and phosphorus for batteries.

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