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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Groeneveld & Steinhorst: Optimizing the tech-nomics of EVs

August 5th, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena

If you live in or near Silicon Valley, you’re fully aware of what a Tesla Model S looks like. They’re everywhere, gliding along silently, leaving behind a wake of enormous marketing cache.

My driving costs are lower than yours are, because I drive a Tesla. My carbon footprint is smaller than yours is, because I drive a Tesla. I’m hip and modern, because I drive a Tesla, so get outta my way. I own a) this parking space, b) the right-of-way at this intersection, c) this lane on the freeway, and d) the right to glare at you if you think you’ve got the right to a, b, or c.

Okay, perhaps a little overstated, but I’ll bet you’ve seen some version of this phenomenon. Yet, had you attended the single, most information rich session at DAC 2015 in San Francisco, you would have learned that a lot of the street cred claimed by Tesla doesn’t actually hold up to close, tech-nomic scrutiny.

On Monday, June 8th, Synopsys’ Patrick Groeneveld and TUM Create’s Sebastian Steinhorst offered a lengthy tutorial [“Electric Vehicles – What’s in it for the EDA Folks?”] during which they blew away the feel-good haze that surrounds EV ownership and revealed numerous harder truths instead.

Among their gritty factoids …

** All EVs have an intense amount of engineering behind those shiny facades, but not all EVs are created equal. The BMW i3 battery operating costs clock in at $644/kWh, the Tesla Model S at $524/kWh, but the Nissan Leaf at only $270/kWh.

IMG_2227** How you drive your EV has a massive impact on the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.

** The miles/kWh metric for many EVs are actually quite similar: Prius Plug-in at 2.5 miles/kWh; Tesla Model S at 2.6 miles/kWh; Chevy Volt at 2.9 miles/kWh, Nissan Leaf at 3.4 miles/kWh; BMW i3 at 3.5 miles/kWh.

** EVs pollute in several categories: Brake Dust [although only 50% of that produced by internal-combustion engine vehicles, ICEs]; Tire Dust [20% more than ICEs due to the extra battery weight]; Battery Production Emissions, although “trustworthy data” is not yet available.

IMG_2241** The amounts of CO2 produced by various EVs and hybrids are surprising.

Calculated for driving 31,250 miles per year in Amsterdam [therefore operating within the same power grid] — the Nissan Leaf produces 12,689 lbs of CO2/year; the Toyota Prius hybrid produces 13,750 lbs of C02/year; the Tesla Model S produces 16,105 lbs of CO2/year; the Mercedes E300 Diesel Hybrid produces 16,369 lbs of CO2/year.

** The carbon footprint of EVs varies distinctly across the U.S. as the type of fuel used in the different regional power grids varies widely.

IMG_2235** The cost parity between ICEs and EVs also varies distinctly across the U.S and internationally.

** Calculating the true annual energy costs across all types of vehicles requires assumptions that never cooperate. After all, what does a gallon of gas actually cost?

Over the past year alone, folks who live in Silicon Valley have paid as low as $2.30/gallon and as high as $4.65/gallon at gas stations in the region.

IMG_2232Whether an EV would be less or more cost-effective than an ICE vehicle is highly dependent on those wildly fluctuating gas prices.

Nonetheless, data presented at DAC attempted to estimate the True Annual Energy Costs for 12,000 miles of driving.

These and other shifting, compare-and-contrast factoids notwithstanding, Groeneveld and Steinhorst also offered some definitive positives …

** ICE vehicles are 100% less energy-efficient when operating off of their optimal sweet spot of RPM versus speed, but EVs are only 15% less efficient when operating off of their sweet spot of torque versus speed.

** Strategies for making batteries last at least 10 years are real, and include controlling high temperatures [defined as anything above 30 degrees Celsius]. The Nissan Leaf uses air cooling, while the Volt, Tesla, and BMW i3 successfully use active liquid cooling.

IMG_2224** Relevant to an audience at DAC, comparisons between designing ICs and designing EVs were among the most important presented in the July 8th tutorial.

How to apply the optimization expertise that characterizes EDA to the vast range of design and life-cycle problems associated with EVs is going to be one of the true Grand Challenges in the decades to come.


Editor’s note …

The images included herein are clearly wonky, because they’re only snapshots of slides that I took sitting in the audience at DAC. But they do reflect the incredible level of detail Groeneveld and Steinhorst presented on July 8th.

For better images, and far more substantive discussion, you should contact the presenters directly, as all matters related to the technologies and economics of electric vehicles are of extreme interest to them.


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One Response to “Groeneveld & Steinhorst: Optimizing the tech-nomics of EVs”

  1. Graham Bell says:

    Thanks for the article. I had missed this at DAC. I am a little confused by the operating cost numbers.

    If a Nissan Leaf operating cost is $270/kWh

    and the miles/kWh metric is 3.4

    then I am led to the conclusion that the cost to drive 3.4 miles is $270. This seems high. The IRS gives roughly $0.55 per mile as the operating cost for a car.

    Am I missing something?


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