German Engine Expert Doesn’t Believe In The Battery, Calls For A “Return To Sobriety”

Electric car proponents keep insisting that breakthroughs in electric car battery technology are just around the corner, and that soon electric cars will no longer be hampered by limited range and long charging times. Thus we should start banning internal combustion cars soon.

Leading experts, on the other hand, are far less optimistic about the prospects of battery powered vehicles. For example, the online Badische Neueste Nachrichten (BNN) here presents an interview with Prof. Albert Albers, Director for Product Development at the German Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), where he researches vehicle and machinery drive systems.

Too much green populism

Albers says he is annoyed by media and policymakers who insist electric batteries are feasible, and who cite “phony experts” who do not know the subject material very well. The result he tells the BNN:

For this reason the citizens instead get too few facts and too many populist opinions.”

Battery’s huge ecological fingerprint

On the subject of electric cars and batteries, he notes that the ecological fingerprint of an e-car with battery “is not so good at all“, reminding readers that after everything gets calculated, “the ecological expenditure is 60 percent higher than that of a combustion engine auto.”

According to Albers, the driver first has to run the vehicle 80,000 km before it catches up to the internal combustion engine, a point where the lifetime of the battery is pretty much exhausted, he says.

No manufacture today is ready to guarantee a battery for 200,000 km (10 years) which is what is normal for regular combustion engines.”

Pleads for a return to sobriety

On the future for electric mobility, Albers pleads for a return to sobriety, saying that by 2030 there’s going to be “significantly more internal combustion vehicles on the roads than today”, and that for this reason “it is highly dangerous when policymakers villainize a technology.”

Despite all the anti-diesel rhetoric now being loudly expressed in Germany, Albers thinks the diesel engine still has a future, because there is still room for much improvement in diesel combustion technology.

“Considerable” fire and short circuit risks

The Karlsruhe researcher doesn’t believe there is future for batteries as a widespread solution, citing that the infrastructure challenges are too great and that there’s a “considerable risk” of short circuits involved with the use of lithium cells.

Overall Albers believes that “we have to remain open” to all solutions, for example synthetic fuels, power-to liquid-technology, or hydrogen gas powered engines. He does see a use for battery technology, but  in certain niche markets.

Albers says a more rational solutions-oriented discussion needs to take place, and there’s a need to get away from the generation of attention grabbing “populist headlines”.

800,000 German automotive jobs at risk

We must not discuss the issue in a state of daily panic and campaign populism and put the 800,000 jobs of the German automobile industry at risk.”


18 responses to “German Engine Expert Doesn’t Believe In The Battery, Calls For A “Return To Sobriety””

  1. Curious George

    I am disputing Prof. Albers, but the “huge ecological fingerprint” of a battery is not a valid point. We don’t have a good battery yet. We may never have it. We can only speculate about an ecological fingerprint of a nonexistent battery – or of a nonexistent fuel cell.

    1. Bone Idle

      Quote : Albers says he is annoyed by media and policymakers who insist electric batteries are feasible, and who cite “phony experts” who do not know the subject material very well. Unquote.

      Here’s your problem George.
      Non expert opinion far outweighs the reality. 95% of people know nothing about electrical physics or electrical chemistry. Those who do know and have worked in the industry for 45 years plus have facts that are ignored.
      Elon Musk is a dangerous salesman who has the ear of science ignorant politicians and the general populace. According to 95% of people whatever Musk spriuks must be reality or future reality. Musk is good at raising other peoples money and wasting it.

      1. Bitter&twisted

        Tesla and the Muskrat are an Enron waiting to happen.

        1. John

          It won’t be too long before that happens…

    2. Anji
  2. tom0mason

    On another tack is the safety aspect of the EVs on public roads.
    Given that there are about 30,000 fatal road crashes on European roads (from currently it is of course to the manufacturers’ good name, and for the safety of the public to make these vehicles as safe as reasonably possible.
    However EVs are not seen as particularly bright stars among current batch of vehicle when subjected to insurers’ safety tests in the USA,

    In the 2017 model year, 38 vehicles have won the “Top Safety Pick-Plus” designation, including two plug-in hybrids: the Toyota Prius Prime and the Chevrolet Volt. But no all-electric vehicles are on the list. The institute hasn’t yet tested the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which went on sale at the end of 2016.


  3. tom0mason

    Another comment just vanishes when [Post Comment] is pressed.

    1. John F. Hultquist

      A gremlin is a mythological mischievous creature.

      Gosselin — Gremlin
      See the connection?

      Happens frequently near the Full Moon phase.

      1. Nigel S

        Fremlin’s brewery apparently involved too. The local Fremlin’s replaced by a supermarket and flats unfortunately.

  4. UndercoverInAK

    The key statement, in my opinion. We must remain open to all solutions. Including gas, diesel, battery, new battery, etc.

    The most cost effective one will win. It always does which is why gas and diesel are the most common right now, and may also be the most common in 25 or 50 years.

    Continue to research, but do not legislate. Innovation may or may not happen. But research should continue. If innovation happens, I will guarantee it will become common place, like the smart phone did within a decade worldwide.

  5. yonason

    Just a reminder about how morally bankrupt the battery making process is from the outset.

    Even if it were possible to build enough efficient, powerful and affordable batteries, as long as it rests on slavery it is profoundly wrong to do so.

  6. John F. Hultquist

    Thanks for this one.

    This fellow makes sense.

  7. Juergen Uhlemann

    The estimated reserves of Lithium are not enough to build a world wide and long lasting transport future.
    A boom could use the reserves in “less than a 17-year”

    I did a rough calculation not long ago and found that the reserves would only allow about 250 million Tesla car batteries. If you consider backup systems, smart phones, and other devices then you can see that after these 17 years not only the end of EV’s but also the end of many other usages.

    1. John F. Hultquist
  8. Chrisedwards

    This man is quite correct! he doesn’t address 2 points, Firstly tax, car fuel is taxed well north of 50%, when that tax is applied to EVs they become very expensive indeed to run, Secondly where on earth will the electricity to recharge all these cars come from? in Europe the kingpin supporting all of the renewables has been condemned to die, without Frances Nukes England, Germany, Holland, Denmark and others have a huge shortfall in capacity (as does France) now add another 200-300% to charge cars? its just not happening, in Europe until the EU collapses they can ration power air night so the elite can charge cars and heat palaces but elsewhere in the real world?? Cvs just can never happen, just as well was they are failing for the same reason they forced IC cars to be developed, they are no good and the laws of physics dictate that!

  9. Dr. Reiner Hennig

    Anyone being able to build a storage for electrical energy that can keep the energy content of 1 kg petrol at a weight of 2 – 5 kg could become one of the richest persons world wide. If there would be any realistic chance for it, the big companies like Siemens would have invested a lot of research into that technology and would have come out at least with some promising prototypes. If the physics and chemistry don’t allow it, no amount of research money can produce the desired result.

  10. edmh

    When the energy – weight ratio is contrasted and compared, it becomes clear that battery technology and electric vehicles are inherently at a substantial technical disadvantage
    Watt hours/Kg
    Diesel / Fuel oil 13,333
    Jet fuel (Kerosene) 12,777
    Gasoline (petrol) 12,889
    Lithium-ion battery 170
    Alkaline battery 139
    Nickel-metal hydride battery 80
    Lead-acid battery 47

    For large scale take up of electric vehicles a very significant increase of consistent and reliable electricity generation with wide availability will be required to recharge electric vehicles.

    Note that batteries do not make electricity, they can only store it and inevitably there are substantial energy losses involved in every energy transfer, for battery charge and discharge.

    Peak Lithium and peak graphite. The main materials used for batteries may be a limited and self-limiting resource for electric vehicles and all large scale battery installations.

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