Toyota's first pure electric vehicle, the bZ4X, was launched in May. A few days ago, some media exposed that it sent a "recall email" to car owners-wheels may fall off during short-distance driving.
For Toyota, the once-unshakable hybrid pioneer, the first all-electric car came too late, and the first scandal came too soon. Looking back more than 20 years ago, the world's first mass-produced hybrid car, the Prius, came out, even Hollywood's hottest star Leonardo DiCaprio was heartbroken.
Toyota has researched nickel-metal hydride batteries and lithium-ion batteries for many years, and knows the upper limit of the energy density of lithium batteries. It believes that hybrid technology can only be used as a "transition", and hydrogen fuel cells are the ultimate choice.
Toyota's judgment is scientific, and the road of development is tortuous. The emergence of Tesla has made lithium batteries, lithium mines and the entire electric vehicle industry the most concerned commodity areas in recent years, and has also contributed to the most promising manufacturing areas under the "carbon reduction" goal of countries around the world.
▲ Five years later, the electric truck Semi is finally available
Recently, Musk announced that the electric truck Semi will be delivered this year, giving another boost to the lithium battery truck industry.
Since the beginning of this year, the price of lithium ore has skyrocketed, and major car companies have been rushing to mine. GAC said that it worked for the Ningde era, and the Ningde era said that the profit was very meager. Without "lithium", hydrogen fuel cells have returned to the public's field of vision.
Toyota vs Tesla, a battle of two lines
In the late 1990s, when Toyota's first-generation hybrid Prius came out, Tesla had not yet been born. Fifteen years later, in 2012, global sales of the Prius range reached 4 million.
In the same year, Tesla launched the Model S, proving that electric vehicles, although expensive, have good battery life, good power, and are perfectly suitable for home use. Since then, the face of "environmental protection" is no longer Toyota, but Tesla, the new leader in green transportation.
Toyota ignores the significance of the times that Tesla represents. While Toyota has also invested in Tesla, it sees the startup not as a threat but as a small player that can complement its own industry chain.
The two companies do not compete in the same field, Toyota is a global auto giant, and Tesla is just a small American automaker. Separately, Toyota sees hybrids as a stopgap, an alternative until hydrogen fuel cells are ready.
▲ The luminous version of the Prius launched last fall
Toyota ignored some seemingly subtle but storm-causing "butterfly effect" factors. It's true that hybrids are just a bridge to clean-fuel vehicles, but Toyota can't figure out how long that bridge is. BlackBerry refuses to imitate the iPhone, and Toyota does not look down on Tesla, because BlackBerry believes that physical keyboards will be needed in the next ten years, and Toyota believes that gasoline will be needed in the next few decades.
A larger context for Tesla's expansion is that governments around the world are eyeing a "green economy" that restricts or bans fossil fuel vehicles. The timing of the introduction of various policies is much earlier than Toyota expected. The large amount of subsidies brought by the policy has promoted the decline in the price of electric vehicles, and the expansion of charging infrastructure has also brought more consumers' favor, while hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not ready for everything.
In order to protect the investment that has been invested, and to stand up to its own judgment, Toyota has been vigorously lobbying governments, especially the US government, to oppose electric vehicles. Since it can't affect the opponent, at least it must affect the referee.
But time is running out. BlackBerry sales continued to grow for several years after the introduction of the iPhone and Android phones. Today, BlackBerry has zero share of the mobile phone market.
The changes in the automotive market are slower than the changes in the mobile phone market, and Toyota still hurriedly launched the bZ4X. "bZ", beyond Zero, stands for "beyond zero" emission electric vehicle; "4X" means a compact crossover SUV, similar to the RAV4 of the same size. The car is built on the e-TNGA platform, jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, and will launch seven pure electric bZ models by 2025.
The data of the bZ4X is not very good-looking, the acceleration is not very fast, and the battery life is not very long. The 0-100 km/h acceleration time is 8.4 seconds and 7.7 seconds respectively for the front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models. Both models are equipped with lithium-ion battery packs with a capacity of 71.4 kWh, with a cruising range of 460 kilometers and 500 kilometers, respectively.
▲ bZ4X sets the steering wheel rotation angle to ±150°, and the driver can complete the steering operation without changing hands and turning the wheel
The biggest highlight, or gimmick, is its solar panel panoramic sunroof, which can power the car for nearly 1,800 kilometers per year. This data has not been verified.
It was too late to verify the practicality of "sunroof power generation". Toyota, with 25 years of electrification experience, was exposed to "drop the wheel", the first electric car bZ4X.
Technology vs politics, behind the line battle
The battle between lithium batteries and hydrogen fuel cells is a struggle between two routes.
Like a hydrogen fuel cell, it can be fully charged in three to five minutes. The lithium battery pack needs to be charged for seven or eight hours. If it is charged too fast, it will burn out. Like lithium batteries, there are generally 500 to 800 charging cycles, and the driver's driving style is superimposed, and the life of the car is seven to ten years. And hydrogen-fueled cars have no problem driving for 20 years.
Like lithium battery electric vehicles, it is more suitable in warm places, but not in high latitudes or cold regions. Before, a Tesla owner in Beijing complained that he had raised an "electric father". One of the reasons was that he had to drive under a blanket in winter – he didn't dare to turn on the air conditioner, and the power lost too fast. And hydrogen fuel is not afraid of extreme cold and heat, and it is necessary for spacecraft to fly out of the earth.
▲ In 1937, the German "Hindenburg" airship exploded at high altitude, which directly led to the decline of the airship industry
The most fundamental issue is energy density. Hydrogen has a high energy density and is the lightest element in the universe, so hydrogen fuel cells have a significant weight advantage. Lithium battery packs are so heavy that they cannot be used in trucks at all, which is why hydrogen fuel cells have been widely used in buses and large trucks so far.
According to the data of a commercial truck manufacturer, a truck with a load of 20 tons has a self-weight of 7 tons, a lithium battery pack of 2.5 tons, and a range of 200 kilometers, leaving 10 tons of space; if the mileage is added to the general value of 500 kilometers, At least three tons of battery packs are added, and then there is only room for seven or eight tons of load – if the truck pulls too little, there will be no profit at all.
Many people want to ask, with the development of technology, will the energy density of lithium batteries increase?
Won't. This is determined by physical principles. The role of the battery is the redox reaction, gaining or losing electrons to generate current. The density of electrons is the density of energy. The five elements suitable for batteries, the electron utilization rate is hydrogen (100%), carbon (66%), boron (60%), beryllium (50%), lithium (33%).
The lithium cobalt oxide battery used by Tesla is already the most "perfect" lithium battery on the market. Compared with hydrocarbon oil, there is almost a fifty times energy density gap; the energy density gap with hydrogen fuel cells is even greater. big.
The energy more "powerful" than fossil fuels can only be hydrogen energy and nuclear energy.
The future of hydrogen fuel cells is so bright, why did Toyota fail?
The first is the difficulty of saving. Pure hydrogen is explosive. The "Hindenburg" air disaster was caused by the explosion of hydrogen. Since then, airships have switched to helium.
The second is low efficiency, because to obtain pure hydrogen, it is either purified and refined by fossil fuels, and the process is not environmentally friendly. When hydrogen is produced, toxic substances such as sulfides are emitted, and there is no effective means of detection; or electrolysis is used, and the efficiency is too low. Losing half of the energy, recooling, transporting, storing, and consuming more energy.
Coupled with the lack of supporting infrastructure, car manufacturers who developed hydrogen fuel cells in the early years also became less interested.
▲ Volvo, Daimler, Traton plan to set up electric truck charging network in Europe
This involves the issue of political line.
European car companies began to deploy hydrogen fuel cells 20 years ago, and Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Nissan jointly developed fuel cells in Canada. The German auto industry is dominant in Europe, but it has always taken the route of clean diesel to meet EU standards. This choice makes the application of hydrogen fuel cells difficult to implement.
After the "emission gate" incident, Europe also began to turn to lithium battery electric vehicles. Volkswagen is the most active because it has neither the accumulation of new energy technologies nor the wealth of fuel cells. Mercedes-Benz has also abandoned the technology route for hydrogen fuel cell passenger cars. Daimler and Volvo jointly develop hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles.
Today, the lithium battery vehicle market has strong strength in the United States and China. The United States has always taken the lithium battery vehicle route. Toyota and Hyundai, which adhere to the hydrogen route, have very small markets in Japan and South Korea. After years of lobbying, they have not been able to impress the main passenger car market in the United States, but they have won the US hydrogen fuel. Most of the market share of commercial vehicles.
China's power grids and oil companies have strong stability, coupled with the huge domestic market, supporting lithium batteries has achieved results. After Premier Li Keqiang visited Japan in 2018, the domestic hydrogen energy market was gradually launched. With the market volume of "internal circulation", it is enough to develop lithium batteries and hydrogen fuel cells at the same time, and lay out the passenger car and commercial vehicle market.
Energy storage battery vs fuel cell, reality and future
On August 10th, North American Eastern Time, Musk announced on social media that the electric truck Semi with a cruising range of 500 miles (long-range version, 804 kilometers) will be delivered this year. This "heavy truck", which has been bouncing since its "face" in 2017, suddenly appeared.
The pure electric Semi wants to repeat the story of the Model S "subverting" the Prius, challenging the heavy-duty truck field of "large load and long battery life" and focusing on hydrogen fuel cells.
According to Musk, the Semi has a 500 kWh battery with a maximum range of more than 1,000 kilometers. Equipped with the latest 4680 full-ear battery, the energy density is increased by 500% compared with the original 18650 battery, and the output power is increased by 600%, but it requires good heat dissipation conditions.
It is equipped with 4 electric motors, and the comprehensive system power exceeds 1,000 horsepower. When fully loaded with 40 tons of cargo, the acceleration time from 0 to 100 km/h is 20 seconds, and it will break 100 in 5 seconds when the car is empty. The head is designed with a "bullet head", and the drag coefficient is only 0.36, which can better reduce power consumption.
▲ Comparison of AA batteries, AA batteries, 18650, 2170 and 4680 batteries
The weight of the Semi's battery pack has not been revealed, and it is currently impossible to estimate its actual cargo capacity and compare it with other hydrogen-fueled heavy trucks. The data that can be referenced is that a Model Y needs about 960 4680 batteries, and the battery pack weighs about 800 kilograms.
In the case of hydrogen fuel cell trucks, according to the operational data of fuel cells and lithium batteries for logistics vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the average daily mileage of fuel cells is nearly twice that of lithium batteries. Under the same battery life, the load of the fuel cell vehicle is slightly higher than that of the lithium battery vehicle by 5%.
It should be noted that on August 9, Tesla just signed a contract worth about 5 billion US dollars to purchase battery materials from a nickel processing company in Indonesia, which is equivalent to "robbing mines". In addition, Tesla also "poached people" from Bosch and SAFT, and those people are engaged in fuel cells and hydrofluoric acid batteries.
▲ Hyperion’s first hydrogen-powered supercar, the XP-1
At present, the application of hydrogen fuel cells is no match for lithium batteries. The most fundamental problem is that the two types are different and the energy conversion is very different. Lithium batteries are energy storage batteries, and hydrogen fuel cells are fuel cells. The latter requires an additional step of consuming energy to refine energy. Unlike the former, which can directly store electrical energy, its efficiency is greatly reduced.
The business logic of fuel cells and energy storage batteries is also completely different. The fuel cell industry is similar to the gas heating industry. It needs to accumulate cash flow through the continuous development of new projects, and then invest in new projects to repeat the roll. China currently has 36 million trucks and 240 million passenger cars, with huge differences in size. It is difficult for fuel cells to make money from a single link.
There is a saying in the hydrogen energy industry that the "valley of death": before the scale of the industry reaches a certain amount, the entire business chain will lose money, and the cash flow will always be negative. Where is the tipping point? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that when 100,000 hydrogen-powered cars are produced annually, they can be parity with electric cars. China's annual output is around 1,000 units.
The stage of "Death Valley" relies entirely on state subsidies, but it is difficult to accurately judge the scale of subsidies and how they will be implemented.
▲ Founded in 2015, Nikola is an American hybrid truck design company, mainly engaged in hydrogen heavy trucks and hydrogen refueling stations
The operation mode of the hydrogen fuel cell company will be like a gas company, "winning" different cities and regions, establishing hydrogen refueling stations and loading vehicles. And it is exclusive. One company operates an area, and other companies cannot operate, which means that once a certain area is obtained, at least ten years of subsidies can be obtained.
Nikola, an American hydrogen fuel cell heavy truck company, has a model that customers buy cars without paying for hydrogen refueling. The company is responsible for setting up hydrogen refueling stations in the warehouses at both ends of the logistics company, or renting cars to customers to ensure that customers who run the line are profitable enough.
Most importantly, reality is reality and the future is the future.
No one knows the upper limit of hydrogen fuel cells, after all, hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe. The upper limit of lithium batteries is obvious, and the mining will one day be exhausted.
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