Battery Scientist Shares Her Electrical Automobile Buying Course of

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Jill Pestana is a California-based battery scientist and engineer who lately shared on X that she was researching electrical autos as a result of she supposed to purchase one. It’s fairly uncommon to have a possibility to see what a battery scientist is likely to be contemplating when conducting EV shopping for analysis, so it appeared like alternative for an interview.

Fortuitously she agreed and shared some observations and insights with CleanTechnica. (She additionally has narrowed her choices and yow will discover out which EVs curiosity her probably the most.)

What car do you could have at the moment, and why did you resolve to analysis electrical autos to buy one?

I at the moment drive a Hyundai Elantra 2013. I purchased the automotive utilized in 2014, and it’s starting to have extra technical points, so it’s time for a extra dependable automotive. As a battery scientist and engineer, I’ve needed an EV for the final decade, however lived in rented flats with out residence charging and the choices have been a bit out of my value vary on the time. Now that I need a new car, have residence charging, and a better revenue, I made a decision to analysis electrical autos to buy one. As a scientist and marketing consultant within the EV and battery business, in fact I took this chance to analysis my choices to study extra concerning the present state of EVs in the marketplace.

As a battery scientist and engineer, what have been your main electrical car battery concerns, reminiscent of battery chemistry, battery measurement, degradation, charging price, and many others., and why are they essential to you?

As I went by way of my course of of choosing an EV, I created a spreadsheet to trace specs. I needed to worth facets of the car like battery format and chemistry (as I geek out over the applied sciences), however as I evaluated my choices I discovered sure issues stood out from a sensible standpoint concerning my way of life wants. 

Dwelling in Santa Barbara, California, I am going on month-to-month street journeys for work and household visits to the Bay Space, San Diego, Yosemite space, and presumably additional. Vary and cost time in addition to charger availability turned concerns for me. Fortunately, after doing analysis, battery degradation was not a giant situation within the fashions that me. The fashions in the marketplace for probably the most half handle the battery properly. 

One factor I did want was a low voltage battery. I’d want below 400V as a result of the upper voltage designs have a better danger of thermal runaway as a consequence of corrosion harm and different pack-level failures. Lucid EVs have been undoubtedly not for me with the excessive price ticket and 900V battery design, as an illustration. 

Which electrical autos did you contemplate, which did you check drive, and if in case you have chosen one, which is it?

I check drove Kia’s EV6 and Niro, Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 and 6 in addition to Kona Electrical, VW’s ID.4, and Tesla’s Mannequin 3, S, and Y. I nonetheless have but to check drive Ford’s Mach-E! I’m 90% certain I’ll be getting a Mannequin Y long-range, although I’m reluctant to pick this one as a result of it’s fundamental and I’ve by no means been a fan of Elon. 

Why did you select it?

I’m 90% certain concerning the Mannequin Y long-range for a number of causes. After check driving, I used to be very torn between the EV6 and Mannequin Y. Each had quick cost and the vary I’d like, and each have been very enjoyable to drive. I additionally like their look, inside and outside. When it got here down to picking between the 2, just a few components broke the tie. There’s a service station for Tesla near the place I dwell. The closest Kia dealership is nearly an hour away. Plus I had an terrible expertise there test-driving the automotive and by no means wish to return. 

The Mannequin Y is made within the USA (and I do have pals who work at Tesla!). I additionally like Tesla’s charging community, although I do assume that different chargers can be found in my space and on the routes I’ll frequent. I do actually just like the EV6 and people I do know who drive it are pleased with their resolution, so it actually got here all the way down to ease of serviceability. Plus, it has the decrease voltage battery! 400V in comparison with the EV6’s 522.7V. I nonetheless wish to drive the Mach-E earlier than making my last resolution.

Out of your battery scientist perspective, what do you assume laypeople misunderstand about EVs, and what do you assume it would profit them to know?

I believe some consider the danger of thermal runaway (or battery fires) is excessive. Statistically, ICE automobiles catch hearth extra usually than EVs. Additionally, there are fears across the battery dropping capability over time, however the information reveals that battery capability loss is commonly lower than what’s even predicted. 

What actually amazed me once I’d go on EV road-trips with pals is that an EV adjustments your way of life in comparison with an ICE. To me, it feels such as you’re dwelling sooner or later! I felt myself breaking out of ingrained and limiting perception techniques the extra that I skilled EVs, and I see buying one as a step towards a extra wholesome way of life. The ICE automotive is like the phone, and the EV is sort of a smartphone. It’s reworking and redefining what a “automotive” is basically, which is thrilling!

From the identical perspective, are you anticipating that EV batteries will proceed to regularly enhance in vitality density, vary, and price?

Sure. One of many fundamental targets within the near-term is to decrease the price of battery cells in order that general car value decreases. This requires establishing a sustainable provide chain of battery supplies, enhancing manufacturing efficiencies, utilizing lower-cost battery supplies like LFP (lithium iron phosphate cathodes), and enhancing the vitality density of cells. There are numerous new battery chemistries in growth that purpose to enhance on present cell expertise. I used to work as a senior scientist researching and creating a kind of “next-generation” battery chemistries. These new battery chemistries could be promising, however do require years of growth and many capital funding to scale manufacturing, which is a significant technical and financial problem. 

Vary is an odd specification to maximise from a practicality standpoint; most individuals don’t want greater than a 60-100 mile every day vary. I used to be, actually, content material with a variety of ~230 miles to get to and from my dad and mom’ home on a single cost. Choosing an extended vary Mannequin Y is extra of a luxurious than a necessity. Nonetheless, folks need a longer vary than even an ICE automotive, so that may be a goal for EV producers. Lucid is engaged on making automobiles with a 500+ mile vary. I can’t think about driving 500 miles with no lavatory or meals break! It sounds uncomfortable. 

What EV incentives can be found to your EV buy, and about how a lot will they cut back the sticker value?

With a Mannequin Y, I might qualify for the $7500 tax rebate. It was attention-grabbing when wanting on the numerous incentives and reductions how EVs that don’t qualify for the tax rebates are nonetheless discounted by the seller by that quantity. Once I was at VW, the salesperson was saying how if I lease the ID.4 I might instantly get $7500 off the worth, however he was utilizing ALL the gross sales techniques on me so I felt prefer it was a rip-off to buy the car. I had a extremely depressing expertise at all the dealerships I went to apart from Tesla! Jasmine on the Camarillo, CA, Tesla dealership redeemed my test-driving expertise. Additionally, over summer time Costco was providing a reduction for some EVs that didn’t qualify for the tax rebate, which was attention-grabbing. It’s fairly wonderful how one can get 1000’s of {dollars} off whether or not you qualify for the federal government incentives or by way of different means. I wouldn’t belief dealerships to supply data on value reductions. Looking out on-line for car costs and the assorted reductions is a greater strategy to go so that you could go to the dealership ready to barter!


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