Absolutely. No matter how much we want to "Save the planet", we probably aren't going to pay a bunch more for a car that is lacking in one of the most important features of transportation (distance).
These latest versions have been impressive in their ability to rival gas powered vehicles for daily use, but many people still have a bad taste in their mouth and visions of 30 mile maximum distances in their head.
An electric car makes a lot of sense for short distance, stop and go driving, in a place like NYC where I live. Beyond that, the equation changes. Electric cars don't have the distance capabilities gasoline engines have, the charging infrastructure doesn't exist, and you can refill a gas tank a lot faster than you can recharge an electric car's batteries. If I were someone like Zipcar, I might consider getting some to rent, but I'm dubious about how many locals might buy one.
And while I expect the technology to improve, I don't ever expect to see an electric 18 wheeler.
I know one guy who owns a Volt, and I'll have to ask him about his reasons and experience. He's a tech. so I suppose the geek factor was a major reason.
Another question for him will be the impact of charging on his electric bill.
... are motivated by pride, not reality. Pride in the need to be right.
GM over estimated the size of the early adopter market and the premium that people would be willing to pay. At issue as well, is they were asking a significant premium for a car that is a compact and lacking the status of "Status Symbol". If this had been first to market before the Prius was cool, they probably could have gotten away with it, but in some ways it shows some maturity in the tech that it had to sell exclusively on its merits.
Any customer doing an ROI analysis would realize unless they did 30 miles each way to work and charged at each end, then they would not achieve the savings required to justify the car. Take $5000 off and that starts to make sense a lot earlier.
I am tempted ... can almost justify it and if gas keeps going up well ....
Last month, the Energy Department launched the eGallon to let consumers compare the cost of fueling with electricity vs. gasoline. Since electricity prices vary from state to state, the page allows consumers to get information specific to their own state. For example, an eGallon is $1.53 in California (compared to $3.98 for gasoline) and $1.13 in Texas (compared to $3.33 for gasoline). eGallon prices are available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia onEnergy.gov/eGallon.
I do not live in the U.S. so I cannot make direct use of this tool, however, I have done the comparisons and looked at the ROI.
With the price drop and the lowest cost model of the Volt, the breakeven is very very close for me and my driving patterns. If gas prices go up over the expected 6-8 years I will have this vehicle I will likely come out ahead. More northern climate, so my battery life will be extended, but not so cold that I will have my capacity impacted that much after a bit of battery self warming.
My real complaint about this car is that the mileage on gas alone is only so-so. I wish that was class leading as well. Ideally I would have liked to have seen a small displacement diesel or better optimization but we can't have everything. Maybe gen-3?
We can't forget that it is a great real world learning platform for GM and the experience they are gathering is invaluable. Costly yes, but what in automotive is not.
The e-gallon I do not believe is an accurate measurement though as it assumes an equal comparison in efficiency between both fuels for all vehicles. In theory that "works" when ratings are taken into account, but the reality is +/- 20% which in ROI terms is HUGE!
However I strongly disagree with this new metric for evaluating EV efficiency. So the DOE now has two numbers for citing EV efficiency. The Tesla Model S now has a combined mpg-e rating of 89 and a 38 derived from the new fangled way of defining an e-gallon. Just adds to the consumer confusion and is totally unnecessary. Instead of reinventing the wheel they should of stuck with an e-gallon definition of 33.7 KWh's.
The price drop, no doubt, will create a great incentive to consumers to own an EV. To me, the price drop is not an indicator to the failure of the movement. Rather, it is a pre-emptive move to gain market share ahead of Tesla Model X which is scheduled to release in early 2014. In addition, there have been evaluation of government incentive program to EV. Who knows when the subsidiary is taken away. In investors' point of view, to ensure long term success of EV push, they'd better get enough hens to lay eggs. Hopefully, the price cut will give enough reason for infrastructure development, i.e more charging stations.
With the "surge" of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids (it is 2x that of last year), it would be interesting to revisit the energy footprint of personal vehicles versus certain forms of public transportation when viewed in energy/person mile and carbon foot print/person mile.
Public transit is just assumed to be more environmentally friendly, but diesel powered buses and even diesel hybrid buses and diesel powered trains start to lose their shine when compared to pure electric personal vehicle especially when you have more than one person in those vehicles.
It is likely a good time to revisit this topic and would be a good discussion point.
A price drop will certainly increase sales, but mostly to those who want an electric car. For mass market success, the total cost of ownership must be competitive with gas/hybrids, without government subsidy, free charging, good parking, and other effective subsidies. Outside of winter climates, the range of EVs is fine as a second car for most people, who just charge them at home.
It has been a while since I calculated it, but if you leave out subsidies, the difference in purchase price cannot compensate for lower operating costs. I recently did a calculation between a hybrid and regular Honda Civic, and calculated that for my driving (mostly highway), keeping the car 10 years and driving 15k miles/year as I normally do, gas needs to be at least $6/gallon to break even. I estimated that in the time I would own the car in Texas, that is unlikely to happen. I did a similar calculation for a Ford Fusion regular and hybrid, with similar results. This analysis is complicated by the fact that hybrid models are often loaded up with features that are not in the basic gas models, so you have to factor that into the comparison.
My point is that I think the cost and performance of EVs have dropped to the range where they are attractive to those who want an electric car for environmental reasons. But they have a long way to go to compete with gas vehicles.
@Hank: I appreciate your running the numbers. It is certainly my experience that the many Prius owners I know had the money to spend on their motivation for being more environmentally friendly and saw the car as a statement of values and an investment in a social direction.
What do we need in the technology to make it just plain good econmics?
Total cost of ownership is a good way to consider whether hybrid/ EV is good for you. If nothing else, it will at least give you an idea of how much you will spend on owning the car of your choice. I have done this calculation everytime I consider buying a car. It's a good way to pace out your budget over a long term ownership of the vehicle. Yet, the calculation can never be completed because there are a couple things that we will inevitabily miss out, for example, CO2 emission and more difficultly, the environment impact of the material uses to build the vehicle.
Over the last few years, I have a couple discussions with friends about Hybrid/ EV and sustainability. The most common argument I have heard is "If we don't lower the emission of green house gas now, we may not have a chance to do it anymore." Battery may introduce land pollution because of production and disposal. Yet, if there is 1 thing we can to slow down global warming, we should do it. Does it?
There is a very good article from IEEE Spectrum July issue, http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/unclean-at-any-speed. If you are interested, you can start from there and dig through other responses. Most of them brought up good points.
The one thing no one talks about is that a 100% EV uses more fossil fuel than a normal gas powered vehicle. It takes energy to charge your EV up and more than likely that comes from a coal powered electric plant.
The ony reason Honda, GM and FORD et Al. are pushing EVs are because of laws. They are literally giving them away on CA because there is a state law that X% of a company's cars have to be zero emission or they cannot sell regular cars in CA. The EV is not ready for prime time. It is being forced on the public by laws that are impossible to follow except by selling EVs below cost.
The price reduction indeed makes the ROI and total cost of ownership closer to combustion engine cars & hybrids, but whether it is compelling enough depends on so many other factors. How long will the tax break continue? Better buy one before it expires. Do you have access to public or employer-provided free charging stations? That certainly tips the equation very favorably toward buying an EV now, but how long will it be before free charging for early adopters goes away?
Besides the costs, there are the inconvenience factors -- range, accessibility of charging stations (free or otherwise) and time to charge.
Among all the plug-in EVs, I would find the Tesla Model S very compelling -- if only they could find a way to make a profit on it at half the price!
When I first came across a quote by Jon Bereisa, CEO of consulting firm Auto Lectrification and the systems architect for the Volt during its creation, saying:
People forget that this was brand-new technology. Of course the price will fall... The price of your smartphone doesn't go up. It goes down.
I said to myself, "Well...not quite."
What makes the debate on EV more challenging is that bringing the EV's cost down is not as simple as bringing down the cost structure of a smartphone. There are so many new innovations and breakthroughs that are still needed for EVs. In contrast, smartphones have already gotten to the point that the falling price is really a normal course of business.
We want to purchase an electric hybrid. We have solar panels and plan to charge our car with them. We are happy with our current cars Honda and Toyota which we drive for over a decade without many problems. Honda and Toyota were an obvious choice. However, they do not offer the same range on electric as the Volt does. Even the 2014 models seem to have very limited range compared to the Volt. Everyone we talked to agrees, that they wished the Japanese would offer electric hybrid with much wider range. But they don't. Why is that?
Actually even if manufacturers are giving a cut on the price of EV vehicles, they still be making good profit, the sale price would never be lower than the production cost. EV is not very popular due to performance issues. Atlease government can take it for all official purpose if the sales are not very attractive.
@GoGoGeek, I think Japanese carmakers are divided when it comes to addressing the hybrid market. Some car companies clearly want to take a different path than Toyota, so they deliberately put more focus on all electric vehicles than hybrids.
But I need to investigate further to understand their thinking.
Thanks Junko! The message for the Japanese car makers is that they are losing two loyal customers because we can't get the electric hybrid from them we look for. There may be even more people thinking like that. Is this only in the US? I wonder if there are any electric hybrids offered in Japan with wider range than the ones in US.
I think GM's EV strategy has been a disaster from the start. So they now plan on even losing more money by further lowering the price of the Volt. Contrast this with Tesla which has recently raised its price on the Model S on its way to establishing a 25% gross margin and should be profitable according to GAAP accounting by the third quarter.
GM should of positioned its EV model as a premium product in its Cadillac line whose clientele are not as price sensitive. This would of established its EV as a prestige model and made it far more desirable in the eye of the consumer especially when the price of batteries declines in the next few years making it possible to offer a decent mid-range EV. Now they are trying to move upmarket by re-branding the Volt as a Cadillac. Good luck with that strategy!
Rather then going down market while the cost of batteries is still very high, Tesla plans on expanding the line with a premium SUV and going even further upmarket with an AWD Model S. People are already salivating over both.
I am an EV sceptic (the clean power to charge them comes from burning coal somewhere else) but price reduction looks like a good sign that can push some consumers over teh threshold (not me, I just bike and use public transporation as much as possible)...by why the don't invest in EV buses, that should be an easy play (predictable routes, mileage, government influence, cleaner air for teh cities etc)
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors approved a contract with BYD Motors for the manufacture and delivery of up to 25 new all-electric buses as part of a $30 million clean air bus technology pilot project.
Never been in a big American city? Buses usually run 18 or more hours a day. Diesel or CNG buses can be refueled with a quick depot stop. The battery packs needed to support operation for even a full shift could easily weight at least a ton, not real easy to swap, and they would need several sets for EACH vehicle, since they all run the same shifts. Batteries that large and with that much capacity would not recharge very quickly, even with "fast-charging" techniques.
I live in Vancouver, Canada where buses don't run that long shifts...and try to avoid using busses when in USA...I am still not clear what is the problem with swapping batteries, 6 hours not enough to do it at night? what is the problem in standarizing this operation and have all busses look be teh same?
Speaking of Vancouver, they have a realliy innovative traffic stoplight system there. On a busy street the traffic lights stay green until a pedestrian pushes the the button to cross the street. This works well and I wish it woud be adopted in the USA.
??? This (pedestrian crossings activated on demand, USUALLY but not always synchronized with the other signals) has been VERY common throughout USA for decades! Pedestrian crossings aren't the problem in large cities; street crossings are. Don't you have any of those in Vancouver?
The Chinese are experimenting with a Capabus, which uses ultracapacitors instead of batteries. These give a few kilometers of range. At each bus stop, the bus quickly recharges the ultracaps (faster than a battery recharge) using overhead contacts. This way you don't have to cart heavy batteries around all day.
AC Transit in Oakland/Berkeley/etc has some fuel cell buses, which work very well. They use solar or bio-gas to make the hydrogen.
San Francisco still has plenty of trolley buses, which have overhead wires. Some of these overhead wires are shared with streetcars.
This is the 21st Century. Nobody should have to smell diesel exhaust any more.
I looked at this in detail several years ago. I compared several types of small vehicles including gas, hybrids, pure electric and the volt. The question was payback. The Leaf did quite well especially for owners who had access to free charging at work. It is certainly not for everyone but some can do very well with it. CNG has lower fuel costs but limited fueling options plus it carries at least a 6K price premium.
True, you need to start somewhere...but only if you think it makes sense in the long run...I am still sceptical...I would raher invest in public transportatation than in EV cars...and encourage people to walk/bike and build the cities in a such a way to support the car-light vision