bf sv nation ev stuck in neutral
SAN FRANCISCO--A year from now, we'll be writing that same headline,
I guarantee you. Electric vehicles will still have lackluster sales,
some more car and battery companies will have gone out of business,
and perhaps there will be some scandalous news coming out of
Department of Energy technology grants.
That may seem a bold prediction given that there's still a huge
amount of hype flooding us week in and week out. Recently, for
A research company called Mintel made some noise this week, releasing
a report that indicated EV sales were up 73 percent
EVs could be tapped as backup power, under a pilot
program backed by the Department of Defense.
But reality is this: It's been two years since the Chevy Volt
rolled off the assembly line. GM's still selling Volts, but
slowly. Tesla is building a lot of Model S sedans, but buying an
expensive car is different than making one. Fisker's Karma is
struggling. Battery vendors are falling by the
roadside. That Mintel report seems sexy, but that 73-percent
increase is off a tiny base, and EV purchases are still just 3.3
percent of total vehicle sales. That's like celebrating RIM
Blackberry market share in the smart phone business today.
Stronger headwinds will buffet EVs in 2013. Why? Because of this
"We've gone from the innovators to the early adopters
who are not going to put up with a bunch of headaches. Now we're
in a market where people say, 'This has to work.'"
That's from Stan Sittser, transportation electrification project
manager for Portland General Electric. He was staffing the Portland
International Auto show recently, where he gave
an interview to a local newspaper. ,
The instructive part of his take is we're at a place in the story
where people expect the technology to work. Right now, it
doesn't, in the eyes of the average consumer. It doesn't work
technically, and it doesn't work economically.
The average consumer is reading blog posts and watching TV stories
about lithium ion batteries on fire in Boeing 787s and Chevy Volts.
They're watching YouTube clips of Fisker Karma
campfires in parking lots. Perhaps worse, they're
reading stories about Mitsubishi
recalling nearly 15,000 EVs because of brake problems
unique to electric motor-powered cars. But even the most forgiving
tech-savvy consumer has to stare at the price tag of one of these
vehicles and think there's a year or more of the kids'
private-college tuition in that list price.
I think an electric only (not EV plugin hybrid) vehicle could be very successful if done right. As Brian says, first it needs to be cheaper. The way to make it cheaper is to make it simpler and lighter. It needs to be a clean sheet design for electric - not a gas model that is adapted to electric as an after thought. I have three vehicles at home for family use. At least one of those vehicles could easily be electric. My son drives less than 15 miles a day round trip to school and back. I drive less than 15 miles round trip to work and back. I live in an an area with moderate climate. If an electric car was cheaper to buy and operate than the gas powered equivalent, I would buy one. And I think many others would too. And I think that the technology to make that vehicle exisists today. I don't need 100 mile range. I don't even need a 50 mile range, so I have very little "range anxiety". If some major manufacturer would make a relatively small, light, inexpensive, but durable, safe, and reliable electric vehicle, it would sell - almost irregardless of it's range.
For something as large as the new vehicle market, I think 3.3% is actually pretty impressive - especially given that electric vehicles ARE more expensive.
I am not sure if I buy your argument. It took probably 30 years for fuel injection to go from extreme novelty to ubiquitous. This is a change larger than that, so to declare the electric vehicle dead after the Nissan Leaf has been on the market maybe 2 years seems a bit premature.
I agree with you, Brian. It is very difficult for people to embrace a product to replace something they already have, when the new one is way more compromised than the old. The new one has to be better. Range anxiety is a big deal, when you didn't have any concerns on this before.
Electric powertrains are a super idea. Now, if only people could stop thinking that the battery is the only possible energy source. It becomes almost an indication of lack of imagination. Get beyond this battery myopia and electric cars might actually succeed.
I am sorry, driving an electric vehicle that plugs into a mainly coal fired electric grid is not helping the environment. Especially when you have to pay up for the privelige of polluting more while you feel virtuous driving without gasoline.
Just my opinion.
In 2011 only 20% of energy consumed in the US came from coal (http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm). Beyond that, it is easy enough to redistribute how electricity is generated, so in 10 years electricity may be 20% or more from renewable sources. Electric cars can't tell/don't care how it was generated.
However ICEs can only use a handful of different fuels and none of them are all that great for the environment.
Irrespective of anti-polluting virtue or lack thereof, the fundamental problems with battery electrics continue to be lack of range and ridiculous refueling times. It's like you're hit with the worst of both worlds. And battery improvements are never more than incremental, so far.
Don't forget the battery. It has to be replaced at about 100K miles. Today's gasoline cars get much more than 100K miles before they need anything major. What does it cost to replace the battery in an electric car? Probably more than an engine overhaul. As soon as the cost per mile is less than a gasoline car, they will take over. Until then, it is only for the early adopters and rich geeks.
That's a great point I hadn't considered: The replacement for the Chevy Volt battery is around $10,000 at the moment. A lot of ICE cars today offer virtually free or low cost service for 100,000 miles and the battery-replacement throws a big wrench in that selling point as consumers have become used to those types of incentives.