Batteries, electrical vehicles (EVs), self-driving cars and car sharing, and solar energy—each one of these is disruptive, but together they enable and accelerate each other. And together they will change all of energy and transportation as we know it, over the next 14 years, says Tony Seba.
Seba was speaking at the Unifi Innovation Lecture in memory of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, on November 7 in Mumbai, organised by the Unifi Foundation.
EVs are disruptive, he says, because
1. They are 10 times cheaper to charge on a per kilometre basis.
2. They are virtually maintenance free as they have only about 20 moving parts.
3. They are way more powerful than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
And they will become cheaper to own as batteries become cheaper, because batteries account for a third of the cost of an EV.
So, in the US, by about 2020, the cost will fall to $30,000—less than what a median new ICE car costs in the US today. So, we will have a $30,000 EV, which is 10 times cheaper to charge, requires little maintain, and is also more powerful.
Cheaper batteries will also change the paradigm of energy. Every home, retail business, building, warehouse, parking lot will have smart, connected batteries. Think of them as an Internet of batteries, says Seba.
What is more, EVs are also power plants on wheels, he says. You can use your EV to power your house. In India, if every passenger car were electric, they could store 37% of the daily electricity demand in the whole country.
Self-driving cars are an even bigger disruption, especially when it converges with car sharing.
We spend a lot of money to buy a car and keep it parked 96% of the time. That is just 4% asset utilisation.
When you combine electric, self-driving and car sharing, the car will be driving 60-70% of the time. It will become at least 10 times cheaper on a per km basis. The cost per mile will go down 10x.
Parking itself will be obsolete by 2030 if the cars are driving more. Car ownership will become obsolete, as will car insurance.
India could use the opportunity to leapfrog, the way it did with mobile phones. This can give access to transportation to every demographic—the poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled.
The fourth disruption is solar energy technology.
The cost of solar photovoltaics have gone from $100/W in 1970 to 40 cents today—a 250x fall in cost. Meanwhile, the cost of every single form of conventional energy—coal, oil, gas, nuclear—has gone up 6x - 16x since 1970.
At the same time, solar has grown exponentially.
So by about 2020, in essentially every large market in the world, the cost of solar plus storage will be below the cost of transmission. At that point it is pretty much over for the central power generation model, says Seba.
Again, it makes sense for India to leapfrog to solar.