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.
" The way to make it cheaper is to make it simpler and lighter. "
No--it is expensive (and heavy) because of the batteries. The way to make it cheaper is to have less expensive batteries.
Economics pretty much solves the issue. When gas prices quadruple or battery prices plummet, an electric car becomes economical and more people will buy them. Solar power also becomes a lot more attractive. If gas prices don't quadruple, then that means there's enough oil to keep driving gasoline cars.
For now, the innovators with enough money to buy these expensive and limited range cars are helping develop the technology. If there's ever some catastrophic event like another oil embargo, they'll be laughing at us while they drive past when we're stuck in long lines at the gas station.
I know someone with a hyrdrogen powered fuel cell car, and that (sort of) solves the refueling issues ---- except that currently, there are all of like 4 refueling stations in the US. So range anxiety is actually a lot worse with that car. Presumably, that could be solved, but at the moment, a battery powered car can be recharged nearly anywhere provided you have 5 hours to kill.
I don't have a lot of problems with your post, Brian, but you could make similar conclusions about a lot of things that the world's crystal ball is foggy on (ie, almost everything). Many 20-somethings don't even care about owning any cars or houses anymore, for reasons outside this scope, and that demographic is the one on which the "gotta have it" business model is dependent. If you look at a lot of technologies that did hockey-stick, many if not most were unforeseen.
As soon as there are noticeable improvements in battery range and commensurate cost cuts, EV and PHEV sales will grow even if the price of gasoline doesn't stop externalizing its real costs onto society and future generations. If I'm wrong I'd rather err on the side of optimism than grossly underestimate the potential of EVs and plug-in hybrids, which will be required if we are to meet the 54.5MPG mandate.
Lastly, much of the bad news I read about EVs has nothing or little to do with EV technology. Some examples: Fisker problems go in every direction except pointing to real problems with the battery itself; battery company bankruptcies are no different than consolidations the car companies went through 100 yrs ago or the computer companies have gone through for the last 30 yrs; and a recent prominent article bashing EVs focused on things like the LEAF's styling!
(to be continued)
Finally, many of the negative stories in the media that scare people away have appeared in UBM's own pubs. How many times has UBM emailed out headlines that essentially say "CHEVY VOLT FIRES!!!!" when there was really only one I know of, and when the circumstances are learned (who bothers with this?), that incident had virtually nothing to do with battery safety? You can't keep screaming "fire!" in crowded theaters (or "EV car fires!" in car showrooms) and then wonder why people are staying away. I wonder how Chevy feels now about its UBM involvement to promote UBM's and Avnet's products with your cross country drive event. I don't recall a lot of EV bashing during that.
Except it's not mainly coal-fired. It was ~50% coal a few years ago and it's less now, closer to 40% thanks to the EPA, the wind boom, and fracking for nat gas (that you probably love). Even if powered by pure coal, an EV would emit about the same CO2 as an ICE that gets over 30MPG, or better than the average ICE sold. And things only get better as the grid gets cleaner.
Sorry I had not seen where you addressed that, reportingsjr.
Bert, refueling times won't really matter when range is a few hundred miles. If you drive more than that in a day, pure EVs might never be for you.
Where did you hear that? Toyota BHEV NMH batteries are going much longer than 100K and owners have reported no noticeable degradation. You can also lease a LEAF now for $219/mo. and then let it go. Fuel cost per mile: less than half that of the best BHEV (Prius), and even less when gasoline prices spike. I haven't needed to open the hood of my LEAF for ANY maintenance in almost 2 yrs. So where is the EV takeover? ;)
In the defense of carmakers - they are saddled with the obnoxious burdens imposed by the NHTSC to sell a new car for on-road use. This burden is also why all models of vehicles are running $thousands more than they should.
I'm not an EV fan, but with the scope of regulation on new car OEMs, we are converging on vehicle designs that none of us will be happy with. A business model like Local motors that skirts the federal regs or an outright kit is the only soution left.
I see Nissan Leafs all the time. Such a quiet, welcome change from all those noisy, smelly gas hogs destroying the planet.
The Volt is not an electric car. It's a hybrid car. It's not fair to besmirch the electric car market just because the market has decided that a Prius (mid-size or compact) is a better hybrid value.
But then, as Ed Begley Jr said in "Who Killed the Electric Car": "Electric cars aren't for everybody. They can only satisfy the driving needs of 90% of Americans."