Electric Cars Are Niche, And That’s Okay

By · October 19, 2012

Nissan LEAF crossing a bridge

Is it time for electric car advocates to reset expectations? Can we openly acknowledge that EVs will remain a small niche market until 2020 and beyond—without experiencing a sense of defeat, or wallowing in depression?

Here we are, into the fourth quarter of 2012, and we can safely say that, for EVs, this year has, well, sucked. The news earlier this week that A123 Systems is going out of business is only the latest in string of stories that has included: dismal sales of the Nissan LEAF; wilted LEAF batteries in Arizona (and mismanagement of the problem by Nissan); dealers resorting to deep discounts to move plug-in cars; the use of EVs as a political football; one misstep after another by Fisker and other EV-makers; a growing number of EV suppliers and start-ups going out of business; roll-out of charging infrastructure moving at a snail’s pace; and an entire field of electric cars from Mitsubishi, Ford, Smart, Honda, and Coda barely showing up as blip on the sales radar.

There have been some glimmers of hope—with rising sales of plug-in hybrids from Chevy (in the form of the Volt) and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Tesla rolled out the first units of its very impressive Model S—although production has been slower than expected and the company is not financially out of the woods.

Even with all the bad news and delays, there have been 31,113 sales of plug-in cars through September—which is a 178 percent increase from last year. So far this year, plug-in car sales represent just under a half-percent of the new car market. How much growth can we expect? Perhaps it’s over-used as a proxy, but conventional (no-plug) hybrid cars are doing relatively well this year, a dozen years after introduction. Through September, there have been 322,516 hybrid sales, or 3 percent of the new car market. There are more than 40 models available with some form of hybrid technology.

The Real Thing

Still, by most standards, hybrids are a niche. Would we we feel okay about EVs at 3-percent niche status a dozen years from now? Can we live with another few years of what we experienced in 2012?

I say yes. That’s because I did a lot of driving in my EV yesterday. I drove my 2011 Nissan LEAF from Berkeley to San Jose, where at my first stop, I found a free open charger next door to my first appointment. My 50-mile trip to San Jose, in the carpool lane even while driving solo, was a great ride. At my second meeting, across town at a corporate high-tech campus in San Jose, I found a Chargepoint station at a primo location in the parking lot. It was effortless to use with a swipe of a card. The dollar-per-hour fee was a bit high, but for a couple bucks, I was able to top up for the trip back to Berkeley. (I even got automatically texted when the battery was full.) By virtue of convenient public charging and a competent well-made EV from Nissan, I was able to complete the 100-plus mile trip in comfort, moving at a brisk pace with AC in full use, and not using an ounce of petroleum.

During the day of driving, all the broader economic factors and market missteps didn’t cross my mind. They became abstractions. On the other hand, my experience behind the wheel of an EV was real and compelling. Even a few short months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to drive (and charge) with the same level of convenience, comfort, and fun—while cutting my ties with gas stations, tailpipe emissions, and the entire problematic oil drilling, production and distrubution pipeline.

EVs are a niche. They are likely to remain a niche for some time. For now, I’m cool with that—because there’s a long century stretched out before me, and my kids. For me, and them, and probably many readers of PluginCars.com, there’s no turning back. We’re driving electric from here on out—no matter how long it takes for the niche to become a trend, and the trend eventually to become the norm.

Comments

· Objective (not verified) · 2 years ago

@Brad: Now that you're finally OK with a dose of reality, great. Once the government stops tossing thousands in public funds on those sanctimoneous few like you, and pissing millions away in the upstream production of these things as well, the rest of us can be OK with the situation, too.

· · 2 years ago

They're good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnet people like them. hehe

· · 2 years ago

@Objective - As long as we stop tossing Billions of dollars to oil companies in the form of subsidies and the use of public lands, and wasting more than that in treasure and lives on oil wars, then all of us should be even better than OK.

By the way, I've always looked at some of the EV companies being supported by gov't funds with a lot of scrutiny.

· James Thurber (not verified) · 2 years ago

Great article, Brad. I must admit that I've invoked the ire of many EV enthusiasts by expressing the point you made - that EV's will be niche vehicles until there are significant improvements in battery technology. As you say, there's nothing wrong with that. Your description of your driving experience yesterday suggests to me that the money that is being used to subsidize the production and purchase of the current generation of EV's would be better spent on expanding the charging network.

· Fastmatt91 (not verified) · 2 years ago

It will take a lot to change the publics mind. Forever we have been served the internal combustion engine which had led to foreign oil dependency and unlimited pollution. Nipsco in Indiana has a free charger installation program along with free charging electricity from 10pm to 6am and that's what pushed me to buy the Nissan Leaf. I also had the first cell phone in the early 80's for 4500.00

· · 2 years ago

I think there's still a lot of technical hurdles for EVs to conquer, but much more waking up the public needs to do. Plug-in hybrids like the Volt and PiP are a good transition opportunity. Gets people to experience a different way of doing things like plugging their car in every day without giving up their gasoline-soaked security blanket. A "training plug," if you will.

It's only been a few years and things are still just getting started. :)

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

Cheer up Brad!!! hehe.

I think we're just in a lull. BTW objective must be a 14 yr old kid. Look at the Ford Video MPGE posts.

· · 2 years ago

It's an evolution, not a revolution. The more people that get plug in cars, then more of their friends and family members will get to see how well they actually work. The inertia of the status quo is a difficult obstacle to overcome. It's going to take time, but electric drive will eventually win, simply because it's better.

· Montreal EV fan (not verified) · 2 years ago

These things start slowly - like personal computers and digital photography. Then they reach a tipping point where utility and economy demand them. This point requires the correct combination of low cost, infrastructure, familiarity, and utility. Once this happens there is no turning back. This tipping point is not there yet for electric vehicles, but there is every indication that it will come. Given this fact, the progress so far on EVs has been great - it's just that the expectations were set too high. But this will not prevent EVs from continuing to progress to this tipping point, as PCs and digital photos did.

· James Thurber (not verified) · 2 years ago

Great article, Brad. One takeaway I get is that if the objective is to expand the use of electric cars, then the public money would be much better spent on charging stations than on subsidizing the production and purchase of the vehicles.

· Bret (not verified) · 2 years ago

I tend to half-agree with James, that battery / range improvements would dramatically help EV adoption. The other half of the equation is the cost. Most EVs cost at least twice as much as their ICE versions and that's way too much. Even after subsidies and $4.50 gas, it doesn't add up for people who think with their wallets.

Right now, EVs are being purchased by greenies, techies, early adopters and people who can afford a $100K Tesla or Karma. Sales growth is solid for this stage of development and accelerating nicely. When EVs cost $20-25K and have a 200-300 mile range, adoption by the masses will take off. I expect this to happen in the next 3-5 years, not in the 10 years many analysts are predicting.

Anyone who projects EV sales numbers in a linear fashion, isn't accounting for the breakthroughs in battery cost and performance, that are only a few years away.

· · 2 years ago

I can think of another reason it's possibly a GOOD THING (not just OK) that EVs are a niche for the very near term - there are still bugs to work out / things to figure out. The Leaf's battery issues in AZ are a perfect example. I'm sure there are other things we'll learn as these cars/batteries are on the roads for more than 2 years. The more cars on the road at the time, the larger the impact. Imagine if Nissan discovers that all their batteries drop dead after 5 years. Would you rather discover this with 100k cars on the road, or 10 million?

If EVs are oversold, and we find these problems, any fix will probably be too little too late. People aren't (all) idiots. They know there are risks for any new technology. Some of us accept those risks, but others wait until the kinks are worked out before wading in.

· George B (not verified) · 2 years ago

Great article, Brad. I think you were spot on regarding everything. To me, this year will be defined by new and likely lasting friendships. I'm both an optimist and a realist, the problems are here to be solved.

· Gary L. (not verified) · 2 years ago

Well written Brad, and yes it is fine for EVs to be a niche for now. Like a fine wine, EVs are not for everyone, just those with discriminating tastes, and an understanding of the future of personal transportation. I'm happy to have a slow ramp to the time when Joe Six-Pack buys an EV, as he eventually will. In the mean time I will laugh all the way to the bank every time I drive in my EV.

· Chris A. (not verified) · 2 years ago

"Is it time for electric car advocates to reset expectations? Can we openly acknowledge that EVs will remain a small niche market until 2020 and beyond—without experiencing a sense of defeat, or wallowing in depression?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_law_of_headlines

No.

· Tony Myers (not verified) · 2 years ago

Great article, Brad. I too drive a Leaf and between my wife and I we do about 95% of our driving in the Leaf. My commute is only 12 miles and we live in Torrance, CA where charging stations are starting to show up in more and more places.

I don’t believe the EV will stay a niche for long if some of the prototype batteries like the one from Northwestern University can hit the market soon. They are claiming a 500 mile range and much quicker charge time. Many of my friends would love the have a Leaf as well but most are suffering from terminal range anxiety. Even a boost to 2 or 300 miles would turn open up more sales provided the price doesn’t go up too much.
I’ve read once where it is expected that battery prices will go down by ½ in the next 3-4 years and half again in 10. More range, quicker charging, cheaper price and more infrastructure all look promising in the near future.

You may want to double check on the comment you made about subsidies going to the oil companies. There is a $5 billion dollar gas subsidy, but the recipients are not the oil companies. From what I’ve read most of the money goes to offset high gas bills to low income families. Please let me know if I’m wrong as I don’t always trust everything I read lately.

There is a $2.5 billion dollar tax break available for high risk oil exploration. In the original writing of this bill it was to have been phased out by now, unfortunately the original bill and what we ended up with were not one and the same. It was originated at a time when we were in short supply of crude oil to help stimulate high risk exploration. Unfortunately once you open the purse strings to politicians it is hard to get them closed again.

· mr23 (not verified) · 2 years ago

A123Systems is not going out of business, thanks to JCi.

· madhaus (not verified) · 2 years ago

Very nice article, Brad. As one of the very fast followers (I was one of the first people to buy my Leaf off the lot instead of ordering it) I'm willing to make adjustments to drive an EV. I agree that plug-in hybrids will be the "training wheels" to get the general population more used to the concept of fueling your car with electricity instead of gasoline. And I agree that the more charging infrastructure installed, the more acceptance we'll have of EVs by more people.

As to the tired lament about tax incentives for EVs, I would ask if @Objective was complaining 15 times more bitterly about the $125,000, yes, $125,000 business tax credit for 3 ton SUVs back in 2003. The tax credit for a 3-ton truck/SUV is still there, but it's been cut to $25,000. At least EVs are helping the environment by keeping a gasoline-burner off the road and spurring research toward cleaner vehicles. Can you support a valid business or tax case to allow a $125K deduction for a fuel hog like a Hummer? (If you're wondering why you don't see them on the road much anywhere, it's because the Section 179 credit's been scaled back. If the business needed that vehicle, they'd buy them anyway. QED.)

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

@madhaus

Objective I've deduced is a 14 yr old kid and when pressed, he doesn't know anything at all for having said he's a brilliant electrical and nuclear enginneer. I gave him a simple problem and he couldn't even begin to try to solve it. Then he talked as the typical silly geek from the other side of the tracks hiding behind his keyboard. This trash talk as far as I'm concerned (feces, etc) was bad enough to ban him from here, but that's not my decision . So not to worry too much about a Silly person's comments.. Kids think they can ingratiate themselves into mature discussions (which is O.K. for the rare mature kid beyond his years), but its really pointless to argue with silly 14 yr old geeks.

A tax credit is not 'spending', it is merely having less Stolen from you any given tax year. As you've mentioned, at least there is a social benefit to EV's. I'm rather hard pressed to see at least an order of magnitude larger benefit for a 3 ton SUV. The oil industry in this country needs no additional pump priming... Gasoline powered cars are available in almost every locale. hehe, even refueling gas stations.

· · 2 years ago

@Berman, "@Objective - As long as we stop tossing Billions of dollars to oil companies in the form of subsidies"

What subsidies do you propose on eliminating?

A. Strategic Oil Reserve $1 billion
B. Fuel Exemptions for Farmers $1 billion
C. Low Income Energy Assistance Program $517 million
D. IRS Section 199 (Mfg. Tax Deduction all companies get to reduce outsourcing) $1.7 billion

· · 2 years ago

True -- it could be that plug-in vehicles will remain a small percentage of new-vehicle for the next few years, absent major battery breakthroughs. In fact, they are under threat at this point, as many governments around the world are considering reducing vehicle subsidies. All of the ways they offer a better driving experience than internal combustion vehicles may not be enough to make a difference. But this is not a conversation that ends with "oh well...better luck next time." Because we won't get another next time.

But the conversation leaves out that many PEV advocates got into this because of larger issues -- especially energy security and climate change, As long as we presume "business as usual," the chances for rapid adoption of PEVs are very iffy. But the world doesn't have much time left to wake up about the fact that we are headed toward self-destruction. Climate change, despite being ignored, or described as a long-away problem, will have disastrous effects for us, in our lifetimes.

If you haven't read it yet, read "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math: Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is" by Bill McKibben
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new... and the resulting national campaign about to begin at http://math.350.org/.

If successful, this campaign will start to shift the scales toward renewable, low-carbon fuels, and the short-term advantages of petroleum-powered transportaition will start to recede. If not successful, good luck to all of us! (My favorite info-source on this, for myself and for people I met who want to know more, is http://climateprogress.org.)

We need to do all we can to advance public awareness of how fossil fuels are destroying our world, and how PEVs are an important part of the way the global economy needs to change. Tomorrow and every day, all plug-in drivers can help assure the success of PEVs by becoming ambassadors for driving electric. (ADVT: What if every PEV driver inspired one person to buy a PEV? That's why three plug-in driver groups sponsored the creation of the non-profit consortium http://drivingelectric.org to connect PEV drivers with EV-curious people, answering questions, giving rides and drives, swapping cars, etc. Please sign up!)

-- Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars.org, DrivingElectric.org

· · 2 years ago

Felix, people don't believe global warming data, because there has been too much lying about it by "so called" scientists who lost there code of ethics, and biased the data to fit anti-capitalist views. Also the lack of acknowledgement by these same people that global warming has been happening for 10,000 year, is going to happen in the future, CO2 or not, albeit at a different rate, doesn't help. Add to that the greedy people involved in imposing cap and trade for their own personal and political gain, and you end up with not much motivation, and even push back.

· Spec (not verified) · 2 years ago

The forecasts of 45K sales were always too optimistic.

EVs will only sell in big numbers when they make economic sense to people. Sadly, most people don't care enough about pollution, oil dependency, CO2, trade deficits, etc. enough to pay more for an EV.

To sell, battery prices must come down or oil prices must go up. Hopefully the former occurs to sell more EVs sooner. However, the latter will happen eventually such that the EV market will grow . . . it is just a matter of time.

· · 2 years ago

Brad

Great Article again

As an unabashed optimist I feel a positive spike welling up sooner than you say. I have not had any negatives from friends family etc regarding my volt. I hear a lot of enthusiasm about the cars. I love your attitude about enjoying your ride for now even if I am incorrect.

Michael :
"What subsidies do you propose on eliminating?"
How about not invading Iraq at a cost of 1 trillion dollars
Was that a waste of money?
How about eliminating one or even two of our Aircraft carriers fleets permanently patrolling the Middle East?
Could we spend that on fixing Medicare?

How about a thought experiment; you are commuting into NYC via Holland Tunnel in a taxi with broken windows stuck open, it is 5:30 and there is an accident: traffic is stopped for 50 minutes and you can be surrounded by ICE or EV: which do you think is better for your brain lungs both long and short term? Now instead of Holland Tunnel picture EARTH as where you are stuck for the next 50 years, which would you rather be surrounded by?

"Felix, people don't believe global warming data, because there has been too much lying about it by "so called" scientists who lost there code of ethics, and biased the data to fit anti-capitalist views. "

OK I will bite on this as well:
I think you are spot on regarding the abstract nature of global warming. It is too hard to imagine an odorless invisible gas causing worldwide mayhem, especially if we all grew up burning this at home and in our cars. I mean I am just going to the store for some groceries......
Unfortunately you are correct that a sizable minority of old white males living in the US dismiss the fact that the arctic ocean is smaller every year. This is a direct result of FAUX news lying to the public.

The preposterous claim that hundreds and thousands of geologists, biologists, ice core experts, physicists, chemists etc Not to mention dozens of agencies NASA NOAA IPCC scattered around the globe are in on some secret society to take down big oil will not hold up much longer. Remember MILLIONS even a majority of Germans in 1930 felt that Jews not USA Russia and England (France kinda) defeated them in WW1. Just because a lot of ignorant people hold a delusion does not make the delusion real.
In this case volcanoes and sunspots are the equivalent of the Jewish cabal that did in Germany.

100% of the US Public may never accept what Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu and others say about global warming. That is OK all we need is 75% :once that happens a carbon dividend will follow. At that point Fossil Fuels will pay their full cost for the first time and themselves become fossils. Whale oil used to be what we lit our homes with but we found a better solution.

Sadly as Felix pointed out the earth is already changing.
People are starting to understand Global warming on a gut level on a personal not abstract level. Once this happens watch out for change. I would love to see a poll of before and after Vermont Hurricane in how many felt this was "Natural". How many thousands of records were broken last year, as this continues to happen in your backyard one will have to wake up.

I live in Maine, in part because I like winter, I can assure you that last winter was nothing i have experienced in 50 years. Maple syrup runs are starting 4-6 weeks earlier every year, Ice out in rivers is earlier every year. I HAD THE AIR CONDITIONING on in February 2012. It was in the 80s in Maine in March. These were not records broken by 1-2 degrees but by an 10-20 degrees. Global Weirding more like it. People are going to admit it when it hits their town, like the midwest drought, like a Hurricane in Vermont, etc.

Michael I think Bill McKibben challenged any skeptic to take a bet that any town in USA will have more record high temperatures than record low temperatures in any or all months; would you take his bet?

I just hope it is not too late

Tom

· · 2 years ago

The reality is that EV battery technology is ‘not there’ yet for EVs to be a COMPLETE substitution for ICE-powered cars. A massive, expensive public charging infrastructure won’t change this. People who can’t charge at home, overnight, are just not going to be interested in or creative enough to find something to do for several hours in the vicinity of a public charger while they wait for a charge every 75 miles or so. Quick chargers are not the answer as long as the process remains inimical to long-term battery health. Even with a breakthrough here, the time has to be reduced to about what it takes to fill a tank of gas as long as the public still labors under the illusion the only obstacle to business as usual is terrorists ‘who hate our freedoms’ and other such garbage.

Two approaches that would work IMHO are:
1. a standardized EV battery interface offering the potential to take advantage of the necessary advances and cost reductions of advances in EV battery technology as they materialize to early adopters
2. a ‘car swap’ program similar to the one Nissan appears again to be considering.

This second item would have the advantage of allowing vendors to be honest and realistic with potential customers regarding the limitations of current EVs. For the 10% or so of the market whose driving requirements routinely exceed the capabilities of today’s EVs, they are just not a good fit – PERIOD! But for the other 90% or so, a convenient swapping program offers a realistically achievable solution for drivers whose requirements only infrequently exceed the capabilities of existing EV technology. More important, it offers an opportunity for dealers to sit down with customers, discuss exactly what those requirements are and, if appropriate, offer BEVs as a solution.

· · 2 years ago

I'm glad Brad came out and addressed this.
EVs definitely cannot do everything that an ICE can today but the things they can do, they do much better. The important thing to me is to identify what roles of the ICE they can play and set up a marketing plan to ensure that EVs take as many of the roles as they can so that eventually, the ICE becomes the niche, filling the few roles that the EV can't.
Today's EVs, while good starts, will need some improvements in order to seriously replace the ICE. Until improved, they are pretty much destined to only be a niche market. I do, however, think that the perception of their limitations does far more damage to their acceptance than their real limitations. Too many EV drivers driving slowly (either because of fanatical energy saving conviction or because they insist on using the vehicles to drive farther than they can at normal speeds) continue to promote the perception that EVs are to slow to be practical. This is not a limitation of the technology, only of the zealots that seem to dominate the first wave of adopters.
Beyond the human aspect, with only a few improvements to the models on the market today, however, I can see how they could grow to become more than niches.
Volt:
Today's limitations: too expensive, limited seating capacity.
Technical solutions: Cheapen and simplify the drivetrain buy eliminating the complex and constraining transmission. Sure, it works but it forces the loss of the middle rear seat. I also suspect, their insistence on sticking with a traditional ICE topology makes the Volt much more expensive than it has to be, whether the extra cost is passed on to the consumer (reducing sales potential) or eaten as losses by GM.
Leaf:
Today's limitations: Range too short (realistic daily range of 30 - 40 miles - same as Volt), battery life issues (high temperatures and deep discharge)
Technical solutions: Larger (more efficient) motor, more fast chargers (how about all Nissan dealers?), and, most of all, better thermal design of the batteries (to survive in hot areas and tolerate fast charging). Larger battery options would be good but will increase the price a bit as well so I think a battery choice would be the best way to go.
Tesla:
Today's limitations: too expensive, restricted to luxury market
Technical solutions: Reduce the price, most likely through higher volume, sustained mass production.

· · 2 years ago

@world2steven,
I don't think that a 'standard interface' will make any difference since you've already invested in your battery so future cost reductions will only force you to invest more.
I also think you contradict yourself with your assertion about "A massive, expensive public charging infrastructure won’t change this. " since a massive public charging infrastructure could eliminate the existence of " People who can’t charge at home, overnight", thus making it a solution.
I don't know what you mean by "a convenient swapping program". Do you mean battery swapping facilities?
I think your biggest problems with the Leaf are easily solved with minimal extra cost:
Bigger motor so you can climb Mt Lemon in the motor's efficient zone and better battery thermal design which solves the AZ high temp and fast charging problems. They are a Leaf problem not an EV problem.

· · 2 years ago

My son likes to remind me, "Don't feed the trolls!"

A friend of mine picked up a Chevy Volt last night for a test drive. He will be arriving at my house shortly with Viridian Joule 2013 Volt. We're also planning to test drive a Prius C, a Mitsubishi i-Miev and possibly a PIP. It's going to be a fun Saturday!

· · 2 years ago

@Tmax,
I asked Berman specifically what oil SUBSIDIES should be eliminated. Your list are not subsidies.

· · 2 years ago

@mr23, "A123Systems is not going out of business, thanks to JCi."

I don't think that is going to be a lot of comfort to the stockholders who lost all their money.

· · 2 years ago

Yes, smithjim1961, good advice. Ignore the trolls.

I, too, am having an interesting Volt encounter right now. The local Chevy dealer showed up to our electric car meeting today (World2Steven was also there) and several of us took test drives in the latest 2013 model Volts. At the end of the meeting, I was given the keys (well, the keyless fob) for a 2011 model, which I'll be living with for a couple of weeks. When we get back to a more civil mode of operation around here, I'll recount some of my experiences. I think World2Steven will be taking a Mount Lemmon test drive in a Volt fairly soon as well.

· · 2 years ago

I like that niche vehicles get to use the carpool (er, "HOV") lane. If EVs weren't niche, that wouldn't be true.

Most of the objections directed at EVs and PHEVs are ignorant and wrong. But there is one valid criticism, and that is, they are more expensive than conventional vehicles.

Of course, it's also more expensive to put in a septic tank than it is to dump your toilet onto your neighbor's lawn. Obviously we should do away with any sanitary regulations.

· · 2 years ago

The point of the standards-based battery interface was to allow third-party traction battery vendors to supply replacement traction batteries to early adopters willing to take the leap into EVs at today's inadequate level of technological maturity. Just like MS Windows, backward compatibility has to be a goal in battery system design until things settle down on the technology front.

One possible explanation for Nissan's foot-dragging in addressing the LEAF's Arizona problem is that technically they can't, that the way they use their battery is so integrated with the LEAF's overall design that even if it could be done technically the cost would be prohibitive. (I have heard suggestions that the way GM designed the Volt it is more flexible in this respect???)

To a lay person it seems pretty clear that Nissan made a mistake not including an active thermal management system (ATMS) with the LEAF. How much of their Arizona problem is attributable to that mistake and how much to an undersized electric motor I don't know. (Incidentally, I just read this morning that mistake was not so much the result of its CEO's decision to ignore Nissan's engineers in an attempt to be first to market as a decision to heed his marketing department to devote the space that would have been required for an ATMS to rear seat passengers instead - nice but not worth the cost.) But you appear to agree that in addition to more energy storage capacity traction batteries need an improved ability to tolerate both environmental heat and that from fast-charging.

So the question really becomes 'what can EV vendors do to accommodate technological deficiencies' in addition to ensuring their existing customer base will be able to take advantage of any advances without unduly restraining the potential for such advances through overly rigid standards. That is where Nissan's car swap program comes in. From everything I have read your projected range estimates for EVs may be a little extreme but they are far closer than those who want EVs to succeed even at the cost of deceiving naive early adopters. But even your possibly pessimistic estimates are probably sufficient for the needs of most drivers most of the time - providing those exceptional situations are covered with something like a car swap program.

As to a public charging infrastructure, there may be a much larger proportion of the population that notes rents after 2008. But I wonder what proportion of particularly urban renters even own cars. As for those who do, I have little doubt what they would choose if you gave them the choice between over night charging and waiting in line at a public charging station for the opportunity to stand around for several hours while they charge their batteries.

In summary, the message EV vendors need to convey to potential customers is "We've got you covered, now and in the future."

· · 2 years ago

What does the board think about the EV swap station and business model currently being tested by Better Place? Seems to me this would eliminate the major inconvenience of the "charge time" issue? Of course, they will need to get the OEM's to adopt a standard for battery fastening methods so the system could work on all models. If this can be done, and enough stations could be built, it would seem to be a home run?

· · 2 years ago

@Michael: "C. Low Income Energy Assistance Program $517 million"

This is a program that helps people who can't afford fuel from freezing to death. If this qualifies as a subsidy for oil companies then food stamps count as a subsidy for farmers. Instead, we can exempt oil companies (and any company that makes $x or more per year in net profit) from various business-agnostic tax loopholes and benefits.

You're burning hundred-dollar-bills to find dropped pennies in the dark.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

Little off topic though related.
Trams powered by ultracapacitors. I guess soon this will also appear in EVs and Plugins to grab maximum amount of regerative energy.

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/urban-rail/single-view/view/qatar-fou...

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/urban-rail/single-view/view/supercapa...

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/urban-rail/single-view/view/supercapa...

· · 2 years ago

@World2steven,
Thanks for the clarifications.
Unfortunately, I don't see EVs as being able to suboptimize like PCs did in their early days in order to standardize. Unlike PCs, they have very old, existing competitors that set very high expectations. Battery capacity is too poor to be competitive unless the whole battery, powertrain, vehicle, and battery management system are well optimized together.
I also don't see any early adopters who have already spent ~$10K on their Leaf battery being willing to spend another $10K on a better battery from a different vendor. This isn't a $200 modem card we're talking about.
I don't think the undersized motor is a huge problem in general AZ heat but I do think it could help the Leaf to meet your Mt. Lemon needs. The Leaf's motor seems to be working way out of its efficient range while climbing steep grades. I also suspect that this unduly affects its range at normal freeway speeds of 65 mph and higher. There's nothing one can do about the wind drag or climbing. If, however, the motor was designed for peak efficiency at 55 mph on the flat (which it seems like it was), then above 55 mph and up steep grades is going to be a double whammy. They need to size the motor for optimal efficiency up to at least 75 mph on the flat IMHO. This won't be much more expensive than the current wimpy motor.
As far as standing behind their customers, I'm not sure that it is realistic for EV Vendors to be able to recover from all of their mistakes, especially as dumb as Nissan was. The fact that the auto companies didn't have a clue how to build reliable EVs is, IMHO, one of the big reasons they killed the first generation of modern EVs in the early 2000's. Its a tough problem. If the customer has to suffer from real or perceived deficiencies, they will be upset, complain to the world and hurt sales of the whole brand. If the EV Vendor covers the customers, they will lose a lot of money which will likely result in the death of their EV lines. EV executives are not rewarded for saving the planet, they are rewarded for making money. Wall Street is amoral.
My pessimistic estimates are based on my own predictions that driving more than the 30 - 40 miles between charging on a regular (daily) basis is going to cause the Leaf's battery to fall short of range at the 7 year point. Either Nissan is going to have to accommodate with warranty coverage or customers like me aren't going to get the maximum life out of our first battery, after warranty, that we're hoping for. I want to be able to drive my 37 mile each-way commute for 10 years/150,000 miles on my battery.
When I refer to public charging infrastructure, I refer to L1, L2, and L3, depending on what is best suited to the location. Nobody is going to stand around for more than a few minutes while they charge their batteries. The only thing that makes sense for EV drivers is to have L1 or L2 charging at their homes or workplaces and possibly at other destinations where they will spend significant time (airports, malls, and other destinations). If they park in public parking spaces, renters need public L1 or L2 charging infrastructure in those public parking spaces. L3 only makes sense for occasional needs.

· · 2 years ago

@anonymous,
I, too, look forward to supercaps being used in conjunction with batteries in EVs. Supercaps have a lot more power and cycle life than batteries but they don't store as much energy. Therefore, as you suggest, they should help with capturing regenerative braking and with strong acceleration.

· · 2 years ago

@Smidge204, "This is a program that helps people who can't afford fuel from freezing to death. If this qualifies as a subsidy for oil companies then food stamps count as a subsidy for farmers. "

Don't shoot the messenger! That's what's in the $4.5 billion that all the politicians throw around as subsidies for oil companies. I agree it makes much better political fodder than reality.

There is not a politician anywhere that is going to cut those subsidies.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

@Tmac

While you were lauding the current administration you forgot to laud NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER OBAMA who no doubt deserves it for dropping all those Love
Bombs on Libyia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now financing Al Quada 'freedom fighters' in Syria, and in general destabilizing the entire middle east. Hopefully Turkey will wise up soon.

Obama was probably the only president who could get away with the genocide of tens of thousands of Black Libyians. Certainly McCain would never have.

· · 2 years ago

Wouldn't it make far more sense to spend $517 million just once a decade or so to properly retrofit low income housing - be that single-family dwellings, duplexes or apartment complexes - to be more energy efficient, than to continuously - year after year - literally throw that money into the furnace to heat these buildings each winter? Beyond the monetary savings, think how much less oil we'd be burning.

Oh yeah . . . something like this is already part of the stimulus package . . .

http://money.cnn.com/2009/02/17/news/economy/green_home_stimulus/index.htm

· · 2 years ago

@weinsted, "What does the board think about the EV swap station and business model currently being tested by Better Place? Seems to me this would eliminate the major inconvenience of the "charge time" issue?"

The public is not going to go for that. Too inconvenient. You have to first contact the swap station to be sure it has a fully charged battery for your car (or perhaps check your in dash communications system), travel to the swap station, wait around if there is a line, swap it out, then get back to your travel and get back on route. Not a chance.

The rest is directed to everyone here.

Everyone needs to get out of the mindset that people are going to go out of their way to own an electric car. The EV nuts here will, but not the public.

Let me give you an idea of what the public is like:

1) Most have never opened the hoods on their car.
2) They don't care what's under hood.
3) They don't know what propels the car, and they don't care.
4) They don't check their oil.
5) They don't pump up their tires.
6) They don't want to get dirty fiddling with their cars.
7) They don't wash their own car.
8) They don't want to get out of their car to open a garage door.
9) They don't check their gauges while driving.

Now extrapolate that to electric cars.

1) They don't want to plug in and out charging cords wherever they go.
2) They don't want to get their hands and clothes dirty with charging cords.
3) They don't want to stand in a rain storm plugging in or unplugging their car.
4) They don't want to worry about forgetting to plug in their car.
5) They don't want to monitor battery range.
6) They don't want to change their route or speed for their electric car.
7) They don't want to compromise their comfort for an electric car.

Given that, I would highly suggest that the BEV industry make it a top priority to develop inductive charging systems as soon as possible. If the public can park their cars, be it at home, mall, work, or even the street, and then come back with it fully charged, without them doing anything, then now you have something.

As long as you have a BEV car with range where they don't have to think about it (remember they don't want to look at gauges), (b) they don't have to do anything to get the car charged, (c) electric cars are competitively priced, and (d) the government doesn't ration electricity (that's a big if), then the public will accept electric cars, and THEY WILL SELL.

Inductive charging can actually put the electric car at an advantage over an ICEs car - fueling without any effort. The public likes things without effort.

Now get to work.

· · 2 years ago

Regarding supercapacitors: I posted this link elsewhere on this blog a few days ago. While this is a very small format lithium cell (the largest one is just 2.2mAh,) it's got a solid electrolyte and - like a supercap - and can charge almost instantly with just a properly matched voltage source (4.1V.) Unlike a supercap, it's got a super low self discharge rate and doesn't discharge in a pure linear fashion . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdAgKDKK6ZY

Watch the above video at about 3 minutes in to see the guy poke a hole through it with a paper punch and immerse it in water. This destroys it, of course, but there isn't the catastrophic results you would get with a tiny conventional li-poly cell . . . no fire or explosions.

Wouldn't you like to have something like this scaled up and powering you're EV in a few years?

They're certainly not cheap (yet,) but Digi-Key sells them. Click links off this menu to get to individual product pages , where you can download factory spec sheet PDFs . . .

http://www.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?site=us&lang=en&v=1152...

· · 2 years ago

@Objective, Please knock off with the foul language here. It's not appropriate on a public forum. If you want to get a point across, we need to keep things civil by sticking to the topics, and avoid personal attacks.

Thank you.

· Objective (not verified) · 2 years ago

@Benjamin: Submerging a battery to prove it won't catch fire is an invalid test. In comparison to that small battery, the thermal mass of that much water can quench any exothermic reaction short of nuclear. A more valid test would be connect many of these in series, as would be in any high power application, and subject the device to a slow introduction of moisture. I'm not saying it can't pass. I'm just pointing out that the test demonstrated in that video wouldn't let you know one way or the other how things would go in several potential real world events.

Of course, the battery is far too expensive for economic use as a primary component of main propulsion in an automobile. That's simply the truth, not just an opinion.

· · 2 years ago

@BNead, "Wouldn't you like to have something like this scaled up and powering you're EV in a few years? "

Polymers will always have the inherent disadvantage of lower ionic conductivity compared to liquids.

· Romnesia (not verified) · 2 years ago

@Michael: "Polymers will always have the inherent disadvantage of lower ionic conductivity compared to liquids."

http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2011/09/23/better-li-ion-batteries/

"“Much of the 2008 (financial) meltdown was caused by the financial collapse of socialist governments.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/business/economy/26inquiry.html?_r=0

“...people don't believe global warming data, because there has been too much lying about it by "so called" scientists who lost there code of ethics, and biased the data to fit anti-capitalist views.”

http://www.ibtimes.com/climate-change-deniers-tend-embrace-free-market-c...

· · 2 years ago

@Romney,

While the article is interesting, it doesn't prove that a polymer will have higher ionic conductivity than a liquid based cell.

Here is a link for you right from your political bent, the socialists:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/aug2012/euro-a17.shtml

Here some pictures of global warming data being falsified:

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2010/11/busted-15-photos-of-climate-che...

Everyone is bailing out of California's Western Climate Initiative:

http://www.calwatchdog.com/2012/05/07/ca-stands-alone-in-ending-global-w...

Here is one of your esteemed scientists over at the California Air Resources Board (has fake Ph.D)

http://killcarb.org/tranpage.html

· · 2 years ago

@Deckard, Could you please knock off with the foul language? It's not appropriate on a public forum such as this.

Thank you.

· · 2 years ago

@ Michael

I apologise would the word poop be more appropriate to you.

Maybe you could also cut out verbally abusing people on here just because they happen to have a different opinion to yourself.

Thank you

· Romnesia (not verified) · 2 years ago

@Michael: "It's not appropriate on a public forum such as this."

http://www.wordnik.com/words/prude

· · 2 years ago

@Objective

Just so we are clear on a couple of things. Everyone is entitled to their opinion it's a free country. It is their opinion no one is right no one is wrong, unless GOD appears on this forum. You are entitled to your opinion. In my opinion I agree with some of your points others I don't agree with. However I don't have to put up with you, Michael or anyone else on this forums abuse. If you want to discuss a topic in a reasonable way fine if you don't I won't be commenting on anything you have to say!

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