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.
- The city of Shenzhen is buying
500 electric cars for its police force.
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.