Today’s EVs Won’t Party Like It’s 1999

By · May 09, 2011

EV1 and Chevy Volt

For each hopeful soul lining up to see "Revenge of the Electric Car", there is a non-believer who says that today’s EVs are no better than those that came before, and that EVs are a passing fad. While the vehicle technology may not appear to have progressed significantly, the environmental conditions for success (such as infrastructure) clearly have.

The EV critics point to (with some legitimacy) the similarities in the specifications between GM’s EV1 and the Nissan LEAF, the most visible and comparable EV being offered today. The EV1 was rated as 78 miles of driving range, which is not much different than the 80-100 miles that the LEAF will deliver. The LEAF actually weighs more (3,368 compared to 2,922 pounds), and takes longer to recharge through the base charging unit (Nissan is likely to correct this before long) than did the EV1. However, the LEAF's lithium-ion battery pack is likely to last much longer (seven to ten years), and the car is priced at under $33,000, or well less than half of the $80,000 to $100,000 that it reportedly cost GM to manufacture the EV1. Even if you concede that the core technology may not have changed that much, the vast majority of folks who drove an EV1 or today’s EV options are delighted with the acceleration and overall performance.

For the doubters, it’s like dismissing the TV show Mad Men without ever having watched it. Also, those same EV critics don’t complain that internal combustion engine vehicles haven’t changed all that much either, with many sedans offering similar fuel economy and performance, while the price of the vehicles and the operating (fuel) cost continue to rise.

North American PEV Sales

Today’s all electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PEVs) also offer many amenities not present 10-15 years ago, such as remote controlling of charging and monitoring of the battery state, and a fully loaded navigation and information system. The plug-in vehicles also offer a total driving range equivalent to a gas engine, which will satisfy an entirely new audience of drivers.

One significant determinant of success that has clearly advanced is the vehicle charging infrastructure. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, there was a multitude of incompatible charging systems and very little public charging infrastructure. Now in the United States we have a standard plug for charging (a.k.a. J1772), and thousands of charge spots being installed. While many of the early EV enthusiasts tolerated carrying a trunk full of charging adapters, whether you buy a LEAF, Volt, i-MiEV, Prius Plug-In, or Focus EV, you’ll be able to access charging equipment at home or on the road without worrying about the type of equipment provided. This standardization will drive the cost of the charging equipment down while reducing the overstated “range anxiety” of not knowing where your next charge will be. Plugging in will be conveniently available at many office buildings, parking lots, and retail locations. Unfortunately there is a split on fast DC charging standardization that could be a temporary setback for the EV industry, as I noted before.

Also increasing the likelihood of success is the expansion of the political motivations for supporting PEVs. These now include energy security, jobs, balancing the trade deficit, as well as reducing emissions. While there will be bumps along the way, PEVs aren’t going away.

Comments

· · 3 years ago

John - that's a great picture of the EV1 and Volt that I hadn't seen before. Great to see that somebody at GM is still admitting that they already made an EV. (And even one without a gas tank!)

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

Looks like they didn't crush *all* of them...

· · 3 years ago

A key point is that lithium-ion battery technology has advanced significantly since 1999. The last decade's battery cost, weight, and lifespan improvements are critical to Nissan's ability to manufacture the LEAF for a reasonable price.

· · 3 years ago

> Looks like they didn't crush *all* of them... <

Nope. There are a handful that escaped the crusher. They are at universities, museums, and apparently GM show-rooms. The donated ones were stripped of the important stuff, and the new owners had to sign an agreement to never operate them on public roads.

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 3 years ago

So far so good, but we still need to have the Volt running on bioethanol instead of gasoline when in range extended mode.

· Norbert (not verified) · 3 years ago

Problems here with DC fast charging are specific to the US (standardization process led by GM). In Japan, Leafs and iMievs are successfully using a substantial network of DC fast chargers already for quite some time. As far as I know, this technology is quite new, correct me if I'm wrong. It is time for the US to wake up, in this regard.

Interesting that the cost of building the EV1 was $80k to $100k, as that corresponds to a retail price for which the Tesla Roadster goes 240 miles, and the Model S, next year, up to 300 miles for a noticeably lower price, the latter also offering DC fast-charging. Nissan is expected to increase the Leaf's range in the mid-term future, but probably could so already if it were to offer it at the price of the Volt.

· · 3 years ago

@ Norbert -

I'm confused... you mention that Japan has been using DC fast-charging for quite some time, then you ask if the technology is quite new? It isn't new here in the US, that's for sure. It has been used in ground support vehicles at airports for many years. What's new is public access, and private vehicles that can use it.

Also... we have no idea how much the 300 mile Model S will cost. The price for the base model (a bit over 100 miles range) is planned to be $50k AFTER incentives. The longer ranges being offered will certainly cost significantly more.

And certainly the Leaf could have come with more range at a higher price. EVERY EV can have more range at a higher price. The question is - how much are people willing to pay for a bunch of extra battery capacity that they'll rarely use? Tesla's idea of offering different ranges is exceptional, and I hope others follow that lead. Don't force me to pay $50k for a 250 mile Leaf when a $30k 100 mile Leaf will fit my driving patterns. But certainly offer that long-range Leaf to those who want it and are willing to pay for it.

· · 3 years ago

It looks like it'll be about $77k (pre-incentives) for a Tesla Model S with a 300 mile range. See http://www.teslamotors.com/models/faq

· · 3 years ago

@darrelldd,
The really cool thing about Tesla's Model S is that they plan to rent 300 mile battery packs. This means you can buy the battery that meets your normal need, then rent the larger pack for those family vacations. You will simply be able to drive to your local Tesla store where they'll do the swap for you.
This, of course, is their plan but, they'll have to actually execute on it before it matters.

· Norbert (not verified) · 3 years ago

@ Darell

No actual confusion, though: "quite some time" is relatively speaking, long enough to call it "successfully" working, probably measured in months rather than years, referring to the CHAdeMO standard having been deployed in Japan. Whereas with "new" technology, I'm referring to that I think that none of the first gen. EVs had fast-charging (EV1, Rav4, etc.), which is the subject of this article. Well, actually, the "really first" generation EVs were early 19th century, though. :)

> "Also... we have no idea how much the 300 mile Model S will cost."

Actually, we do now, but I'm not here to mention Tesla to a larger degree of detail than I mention other EVs. Wikipedia for example does have that information. BTW, don't forget that there are additional state and local incentives, for example CA is $5000, for all EVs (up to a certain volume per manufacturer, I think).

> "Don't force me to pay $50k for a 250 mile Leaf when a $30k 100 mile Leaf will fit my driving patterns. But certainly offer that long-range Leaf to those who want it and are willing to pay for it."

Completely agree. I think it is great to have an EV such as the Leaf available for its price. Actually I think Nissan is stretching itself for that, hoping it will make profit at much larger volumes than the ones planned for this year. Something which Tesla would not be able to do (currently, that is).

It seems to me that the actual technical progress that has already been made will only become fully visible in maybe a couple of years, due to much effort currently going into developing a new market somewhat from the ground up.

· · 3 years ago

>>It looks like it'll be about $77k (pre-incentives) for a Tesla Model S with a 300 mile range. See http://www.teslamotors.com/models/faq<<

How am I still not seeing it? Where's the $77k from? I certainly missed any announcement that might have been made! From the linked FAQ I read this...

"Options and pricing for Model S are in development and will be announced when finalized."

I see that Wikipedia has the $77k price for the 300 mile range option. And says that price has been "announced" but I don't see anything official. Help?

· Norbert (not verified) · 3 years ago

@ Darell

It's under "How far can Model S travel on one charge?" on the FAQ.

· · 3 years ago

@ ex-EV1 -

Yeah, THAT is where battery swapping makes some sense. Two gold stars for Tesla for offering
1. different battery capacities
2. ability to temporarily increase range with a rental swap

As many lumps and bruises that Tesla has taken in the company's short life, their stated goals have typically been exceptional.

· · 3 years ago

>> It's under "How far can Model S travel on one charge?" on the FAQ.<<

Thanks Norbert. I suggest they need an editor! They don't put pricing under the pricing heading?? Yikes. I also have a real issue with offering up pricing *inclusive* the fed rebate. Not everybody qualifies for that, for one thing. And who knows if it will be available when the Model S finally rolls off the line?

OK, I'm all straightened out now.
$57k, $67k and $77k.

It appears that you get more bang for your buck with the second 70 mile jump to 300 miles - due to no additional weight (because of higher energy density). I hope they can pull that off! Note that the car gets heavier and loses efficiency from the first 70 mile jump, but not in the second 70 mile jump.

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 3 years ago

It is worth noting that the GM Volt in Europe will be at the same price as the Model S (67K$) in the US. That tells a lot about differences in margins policies. This is not quiet normal, I think. They would better be making a clear transparent and trust building global world price.

· · 3 years ago

@Priusmaniac >It is worth noting that the GM Volt in Europe will be at the same price as the Model S (67K$) in the US.<

Is that including the VAT? Given the relatively week dollar, I don't understand higher prices in Europe unless it is due to taxes or something like that.

· · 3 years ago

Tha EV1 looks like it still has it's battery and controller -- the suspension is at normal height. You can tell by looking at the museum EV1's that they are missing the weight of these, because the suspension is obviously unloaded.

I wonder when a new EV will surpass the Wh/mile of the EV1? How far could an EV1 go with ~22.8kWh (usable DOD of the Leaf's 24kWh pack)? Close to 200 miles, maybe?

Neil

· · 3 years ago

@neil - Yes it does appear complete. But I also know that some of the display cars just have sandbags in the battery box to complete the look. However... as this one is obviously owned by GM, it may well be complete. GM likely didn't have to sign the form. ;)

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

"For each hopeful soul lining up to see "Revenge of the Electric Car", there is a non-believer who says that today’s EVs are no better than those that came before, and that EVs are a passing fad."

I want an electric car in my driveway, not believers.

· · 3 years ago

@NeilBlanchard · "I wonder when a new EV will surpass the Wh/mile of the EV1?"
As soon as we see a light 2 seater - may be ESFLOW or the BMW megacity ?

One thing to note is that EV1 would not have passed today's crash test standards.

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 3 years ago

@dgpcolorado

VAT differences exist but it would give prices 15 % higher not the 50 % higher, so it is really margin policy that is involved here. They simply take a 35 % higher margin.

· · 3 years ago

@NeilBlanchard · "I wonder when a new EV will surpass the Wh/mile of the EV1?"
It would have to look a lot like the EV1. The EV1, though had a very inefficient battery cooling system (hack job to convert to NiMH without having to spend much money). Improving it would likely enable it to be even more efficiency.
Aptera was/is? going down that track but I fear they may be on their deathbed if they even are still alive.
The e-Tracer (http://peraves.wordpress.com/) definitely exceeds the EV-1's efficiency and performance, however, it's a bit too squirrelly for the average person to drive.
Neither the e-Tracer or Aptera pass FMVSS safety requirements so they are classified as motorcycles.

· · 3 years ago

I wonder... can a two-wheeled vehicle EVER pass FMVSS safety? Meaning... I don't think the Tracer should every be classified as anything other than what it is: a motorcycle.

And GREAT point about efficiency. The e-tracer makes the EV1 look like a slow, energy hog.

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 3 years ago

ex-EV1 Driver,

Thanks for the e-tracer link. I didn't know that one.

· · 3 years ago

@darelldd,
The e-Tracer has outriggers that deploy so, perhaps it could stretch as a 4-wheeler. I'd be very surprised, however, if it could pass any side impact crash tests though.
That's an interesting question though.

· · 3 years ago

@Priusmanica - Keep poking around. There are some fantastic videos and images of this thing. The gas version has been around forever. The E-version is new, and blows the doors off the gas one in every way.

@ex-EV1 - the guys certainly claim that the cabin is safe because of the material it is made of. My guess is that there are many cars on the road today that are WAY less safe in a collision than the Tracer. And yeah... An interesting classification problem with a car that is both two and four-wheeled! I'd imagine they'd have to stick with the "main transportation mode." I've seen this thing drive on rutted dirt roads with the out-riggers. Man, that ain't pretty.

· Norbert (not verified) · 3 years ago

Just for fun:

"Who invented the very first EV is uncertain and several inventors have been given credit. In 1828, Hungarian, Ányos Jedlik invented a small-scale model car powered by an electric motor that he designed."

"More practical and more successful electric road vehicles were invented by both Thomas Davenport and Scotsmen Robert Davidson around 1842. Both inventors were the first to use the newly invented but non-rechargeable electric cells or batteries."

http://inventors.about.com/od/estartinventions/a/History-Of-Electric-Veh...

· · 3 years ago

@Norbert (not verified) · "Who invented the very first EV..."

From the link ...

"In fact, William Morrison's design with a capacity for passenger is often considered the first real and practical EV."

The old EV that you see in my avatar is a Morrison built car ...

· · 3 years ago

What *is* the typical Wh/mile of the EV1? My memory of what was mentioned is that it is ~160-170Wh/mile?

The SIM-LEI car is about 134Wh/mile.

Neil

· · 3 years ago

"The NiMH batteries, rated at 77 amp-hours (26.4 kWh) at 343 volts, gave the cars a range of 160 miles (120 to 240 km) per charge, more than twice what the original Gen I cars could muster."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1#Technology_and_design

· · 3 years ago

The EV1 at 60MPH consumed about 164Wh/mile, and at 45MPH used 115Wh/mile:

http://www.avtestlab.com/PDF-REPORTS/Full%20Electric/GM-EV1-Pb%20batteri...

So, Dave Cloud's Dolphin (with nearly a ton of lead acid batteries) is very similar to the EV1, and the Illuminati Motors 'Seven' is also very close.

Neil

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