Yes, it will be sticker shock – about $70,000 right now without the CA ZEV credits and rebates. But Altairnano has solved the technical limitations of batteries that haven’t really budged in 150 years:
The batteries will last 20 years without significant loss of charging and discharging ability (an independent lab has put them through 15,000 charge-discharge cycles with no loss). That means no replacing the expensive battery pack for the life of the vehicle.
The batteries can be recharged at the high voltage/amps level charging station in about NINE MINUTES.
More importantly, where you have cited a problem there is actually the most important breakthrough: it is not necessary to have an infrastructure of charging stations in place before this technology becomes viable for most car drivers, because the second generation packs (available in 2008, they say) will have double the 120 mile range of the present ones (itself a huge range breakthrough compared to previous lead-acid battery thresholds of 40-60 mile range).
Charging your car overnight in your garage (or at the motel) will give you 240 miles of driving — more driving range than most people use daily even for trips away. And it will be nearly painless for charging stations to be built or added on to gas stations. 3-phase 480 volt connections are old hat. Unlike hydrogen, the infrastructure is already in place – it’s the grid! And, yes (anticipating the next objection) studies of the electric grid indicate it will easily handle the shift to electric cars.
Adding electrical generation capacity will be infinitely more cost effective than having to build a fuel-cell based hydrogen creation and supply system from scratch. The price of these batteries (batteries which exist NOW) will plummet as production moves to the mainstream. Lithium is plentiful, and can be reused indefinitely. Although many people are still stuck in “batteries don’t work” mindset, the fact is that we have reached the solution point for electric vehicles.
I am way ahead of you on most of these points. If you read my article on ‘Why We Need Electric Cars,’ you’ll see I agree with most of your sentiments regarding the advantages of electric over hydrogen. But $70K for an all-electric SUV is a non-starter for several reasons:
1. Without a network of high voltage fast refuel stations, it will be doomed to daily commuter use, and maybe local niche business use. I think people would pay $20K or so for an electric local use only car, because they’d have to get a gas powered minivan or SUV for longer trips. But if you target market is local businesses I guess you’ll be OK – until they perform an economic analysis.
2. The solution point for widespread adoption is the plug-in hybrid. If you give someone 40-50 miles of electric-only capability, plus a series-hybrid diesel engine for longer trips, you serve both needs simultaneously without the need for the high-power recharge stations. Plus, the vehicle cost is much lower. When the high power stations come about later, and battery cost has dropped sufficiently to allow a 300-400 mile range, then you can move to more all-electric offerings.
I think both Altairnano and A123 are moving things in the right direction. I think A123 is better suited for mass production due to their power tool battery line experience.