Asymcar 17: 27 Quadrillion BTUs


Part I is a review of the “automotive stack” and note how there is no singular event that seems to affect disruptive change. From changing jobs to be done, modular design and manufacturing processes, powertrain evolution, urbanization, environmental interests, regulation and taxation.

Part II is a review of a framework of analysis based on sources and uses of energy.  Inputs, efficiency/losses, network effects and inertia, what can change and what can’t change.

For a shot of theory, Horace reflects on the dichotomy of efficiency vs. efficacy when it comes to predicting change in the sector.

29mb mp3 about 61 minutes.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Estimates of US Energy Use

  • JPS

    Dear Jim, dear Horace,

    my question is: How do you follow the car industry news? Do you visit a specific news site like Bloomberg, or can you recommend specific rss feeds or blogs you follow?

    Thank you very much in advance,


  • Oliver Bruce

    Excellent discussion, especially on the difference between what is effective and what is efficient when it comes to energy sources for transport.

    If thinking with the energy-as-a-lens perspective, I’d highly recommend checking out the transport section of Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air, which was cited by Steve Crandell in the last episode:

    It compares all current transport options on a energy-per-unit basis, and finds that (surprise surprise) electric cars are generally better, but bikes and mass transit win hands down.

    He’s generally skeptical of hydrogen as a fuel, mainly because it’s not particularly useful even as a battery – requires lots of storage space even if liquified and suffers big transformative losses at each step (40-50% loss from CH4 to H2 then ICE is 25% efficient/fuel cell ~50%). (

    Also, Horace you were looking for the plug-to-wheel efficiency of electric cars – Tom Murphy at Do The Math has a great post on this here: (effectively between 70-90% – but then you need to consider fuel source of the electricity).