Rocky road for electric car market

May 12, 2013 by Rob Lever
A man plugs an electric powered car to a charging station in Sofia on October 17, 2012. The road has gotten bumpier for electric cars, with Coda Automotive, one of what had been a promising crop of electric car startups, filing for bankruptcy protection this month.

The road has gotten bumpier for electric cars, with Coda Automotive, one of what had been a promising crop of electric car startups, filing for bankruptcy protection this month.

High-end electric Fisker Automotive, which has had for months, announced meanwhile it was laying off 75 percent of its , raising the prospect of defaulting on US government loans.

Electric cars are still coming to market from luxury maker , and from major such as , Nissan and others, but the outlook has become murkier.

Analysts are divided on the outlook, but few believe President 's goal of getting one million electric cars on the market by 2015 will be met.

"It's not like people are clamoring for these vehicles," said Rebecca Lindland, analyst with Rebel Three Media, and member of a committee studying barriers to electric cars for the .

Lindland said her view that Americans "just don't see how an electric car can fit into their lifestyle. We continue to be risk-averse in investing in in our cars."

Mike VanNieuwkuyk of the research firm JD Power & Associates said more people are aware of the electric cars on the market "but there is still a low number of consumers who say they would purchase an electric car."

A report by JD Power and its partner LMC Automotive found battery-powered vehicles' share of US auto sales was just 0.08 percent in 2012, and predicts this will reach only 0.47 percent by 2015.

Only about three percent in the survey said their next vehicle would likely have a battery-electric powertrain.

VanNieuwkuyk said consumers are held back by a lack of plug-in charging stations, concerns about the range of the vehicle before it needs recharging, and especially the high cost.

The Chevrolet Volt on display at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 15, 2013. Chevrolet cut production of its Volt last year amid soft demand, and is reported to be working on a less expensive version

At the same time, the analyst said, gasoline-powered cars "are improving enough to meet the needs of the consumer," without the price tag of .

Jason Kavanagh, engineering editor at the research firm Edmunds.com said recent surveys suggest pure electric vehicles are unlikely to get past one percent of the US market, even by 2040.

The lack of range and long recharging times are key factors.

"Sitting around for eight hours waiting for your (Nissan) Leaf to charge up is not exactly a selling point," he said. "EVs have a sitting-on-your-ass factor that conventional cars do not."

The Tesla Model X is introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 15, 2013. Tesla Motors posted its first-ever quarterly profit, of $11 million in the first quarter as revenues rose 83 percent from the prior quarter

More important, said Kavanagh, is that the US electric power system cannot support large numbers of electric vehicles which need constant charging.

"The US power grid is not capable of supporting that," he told AFP. "You would need a multitude of small nuclear power stations to support that recharging."

Chevrolet cut production of its Volt last year amid soft demand, and is reported to be working on a less expensive version. Toyota and Honda also scaled back plans for all-electric vehicles for the US market.

And Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne said recently the company stands to lose $10,000 on every battery-powered Fiat 500 it sells in California.

There are a few bright spots, however.

Tesla Motors posted its first-ever quarterly profit, of $11 million in the first quarter as revenues rose 83 percent from the prior quarter.

The Nissan Resonance Concept hybrid-electric vehicle is revealed at the 2013 North American International Auto Show media preview January 15, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Tesla is banking on its Model S, which sells for upwards of $60,000, by offering special financing and leasing deals with a guaranteed resale price. The car, which has an estimated range of more than 200 miles (320 kilometers), was given a top rating by Consumer Reports.

Nissan has boosted sales of its all-electric Leaf to over 5,000 in the first quarter, overtaking the Chevrolet Volt, which has seen sales sputter.

Brett Smith, analyst at the University of Michigan's Center for Automotive Research, said he is not surprised by the slow progress in the electric car market.

"There was an enormous electric vehicle hype," he said. "In a way that was good because it helped push the technology."

Smith said it is clear that battery-powered cars "are not a near-term mainstream product" but still believes in the value of the technology.

"There is a pretty good chance something positive will come out of this," Smith told AFP.

"Whether or not we get a cost-competitive electric vehicle in the next 10 years, the good news is there is lot of development which crosses over to other vehicles."

Kavanagh of Edmunds.com said beneficiary of the trend will likely be hybrids, which use both gasoline and electric power, and charge during driving.

"We're going to see a big jump in hybrids, which can take advantage of the infrastructure we have," he said.

Kavanagh said he expects hybrids may become more attractive in the coming years "because they will become more capable in range and more cost-effective."

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alfie_null
3.4 / 5 (5) May 12, 2013
At the same time, the analyst said, gasoline-powered cars "are improving enough to meet the needs of the consumer," without the price tag of electric cars.

How are they improving, to the view of consumers?

Rather, it's that the price of fuel (gasoline, kerosene) has remained acceptably low.
italba
1 / 5 (3) May 12, 2013
The concerned consumer can buy now cars with new engines (2 cylinders Fiat, 3 cyl. Ford and Smart) that almost double the MPG of old "standard" 8V. I wish an hybrid car with these engines!
Jo01
2.6 / 5 (13) May 12, 2013
Kavanagh is an absolute idiot:
"... pure electric vehicles are unlikely to get past one percent of the US market, even by 2040."
"Sitting around for eight hours waiting for your (Nissan) Leaf to charge up is not exactly a
selling point," he said. "EVs have a sitting-on-your-ass factor that conventional cars do not."

Predicting electric car sales in 2040 without taking battery research and development into account is an enormous blunder.
Sitting on your ass while waiting for the car to charge is not a real scenario: cars are charged while you sleep or are otherwise not driving, possibly using the solar panels on your garage to do that.

J.
Yelmurc
3.9 / 5 (7) May 12, 2013
Electric cars are just getting started. If you want to look at what they will look like in the future look at the Tesla Model S. 260 miles range and the ability to add 150 miles to its range from a supercharger in 30 minutes. While its not the 5 minutes it would take to fill up a gasoline car its still a fairly short time to wait and its first generation technology. If you need to drive more than 400 miles in a day often then maybe an electric car is not for you at the moment wait while battery technology improves I'm sure in 10 years these numbers will be even better. And if you are going to complain about the price remember the original Macintosh was $2500 in 1984. Or around $5000 today. The cost will drop overtime as technology and manufacturing techniques improve. Sure it sucks in the short term but I am fairly certain that electric cars will be the future of personal transportation.
Telekinetic
2.5 / 5 (8) May 12, 2013
More short-sighted market analysis by muscle car worshippers. There are ZEV laws in a number of states that will force the electric car to become commonplace. The global economy is in the pits at the moment, and that's the prevailing problem, not charging inconveniences. Once the world's capital starts flowing again, electric car prices resembling the Model T (not the Model S) become available, and the advantages of electric are pitched (faster, quieter, cheaper to run), the driving landscape will change. The grid will also rise to the occasion, once the U.S. catches up to countries like KENYA!
hangman04
2.6 / 5 (5) May 12, 2013
The electric car will eventually be norm in the future, the only question is when. Charge time, range and battery life spam are the 3 main variables in the equation imo. When companies will be able to meet fuel car standards in a similar price range electric will take over.

As a principle the benefits of electric are obvious as a system. Lower local pollution in crowded urban areas and i presume a better energy efficiency usage.
VendicarE
2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2013
"The grid will also rise to the occasion, once the U.S. catches up to countries like KENYA!" - Telekenetic

Hahahahah.... So true... So true...

So pathetic... But so true...
Milou
2.6 / 5 (9) May 12, 2013
I had bought a small electric motorbike to try and test this electric transport thing. This was the lowest cost option yet, still somewhat pricey. It appears battery packs are made of individual cells to get the right Volt to Amps issue. Immediately. I had one to two of the battery cells defective. After months of trying to resolve the issue by technical knowledge and self reliance (mechanical incline) I still do not have it solved.

Lithium batteries are very finicky and require more attention than a woman. There is heat, controllers, converters, charging, discharging, cabling, size (dimension) of cells, dealing with Chinese, costs issues, etc.. Just never ending with little resources (compare to gas). Not many people truly know Lithium technology. Presently, the electric motor bike is a heavy paper weight in my garage waiting to be sold for parts.
Eikka
1.9 / 5 (7) May 12, 2013
Predicting electric car sales in 2040 without taking battery research and development into account is an enormous blunder.


It's not really about the battery at all, but about how much power you can deliver to it.

1) a larger battery with a longer range takes longer to recharge, or alternatively, more power
2) a fast recharge requires ridiculous amounts of power already as it is

Let's suppose you're a typical European, and your house has 3x25 Amps at 220 Volts coming into it. That's 17 kW maximum power for the whole house. The largest battery option for the Tesla Model S is 85 kWh, which would take 5 hours to charge at that level. To get reasonable charging times, it would take as much power as the whole street just for that one car.

It's obvious that either you have to seriously beef up the electric grid to deliver more peak power to every household, or you have to develop a charging network with battery buffers and other means to level the load.
italba
2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2013
@Eikka: 85kW it's a very big battery, you can drive over 200 km with it. Usually people doesn't need it, I think that 90% of Europeans works within 20 or 30 km from their house. And for recharge: A full electric car will be mostly recharged overnight, when electric grid request is at a minimum. Thermoelectric and nuclear power plants runs better at a constant power, turbines wears down with every start and stop. So, until electric cars become a significant percentage, I see no problem with electrical energy.
steve_dutch_564
1 / 5 (8) May 12, 2013
Wouldn't it be great to have a battery that could charge in minutes and hold the equivalent energy of a tank of gas? Yes, but.... anytime you pack a large amount of energy into a small space, you have a potential weapon. Think about it. Every weapon from a club on up delivers a lot of energy in a very short time and very small volume. So what happens if you pack the equivalent of a tank of gas into a cubic foot, and there's a way to release that energy in a millisecond? So far I haven't seen anyone raise this issue.
Eikka
1 / 5 (4) May 12, 2013
Usually people doesn't need it


Usually, but you can't calculate it like that. The fallacy of the 90% is that nearly everybody drives varying distances at least sometimes. So, instead of 90% people being happy with the small battery, you have 90% of the people being happy with the battery, but only 90-80% of the time. The solution to that isn't "get/rent a second car", because an even better solution is just "get a different car" - and that's what people do.

People don't want to live hand to mouth worrying whether they'll make the distance. The energy consumption of a car is highly dependent on road, speed and weather conditions, so it can vary up to 50% and it's difficult to predict your exact range. Small batteries also wear out quicker because they rack up more recharge cycles per mile than a large battery, so a big battery is preferred.

But you can either have a long range or short recharging times - not both - unless you have dedicated recharging infrastructure.
italba
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2013
@Eikka: A 10 kW power generator is about the size of a small suitcase, weights some 30 kg and can extend the range of an electrical car almost indefinitely. Just put one of these in your commuter car and you can drive to the sea whenever you want.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) May 12, 2013
A 10 kW power generator is about the size of a small suitcase, weights some 30 kg and can extend the range of an electrical car almost indefinitely.


Those suitcase generators aren't designed to run at full power for very long, and 10 kW is not enough to move a normal size car at highway speeds.

You need about 20-25 kW for 65 mph, and the generator should be around 40 kW to be reliable enough for continuous use. It's also more efficient when you're not pushing it.
Twin
1 / 5 (4) May 12, 2013
Does anyone know roughly the cost /mile to drive an ele. car?
Gas would be ~ $0.27 to $0.20/mile for 15 to 20 mpg cars.
italba
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2013
@Eikka: A power generator is, by definition, designed, optimized and certified for the maximum power, and service stops are needed after several hundred hours of continuous work. 10 kW should not be the only power source, you normally start with full batteries, the generator will partly recharge the batteries while you go. If you need to run a very long way, the battery charge will, after some hours, run out and you'll be forced either to slow down for the last part of your trip or, better, have a break and wait for a small recharge of the batteries. If you really don't want to stop you can choose a bigger generator, you only have to select the power more suited to your needs.
topkill
1 / 5 (2) May 12, 2013
Dear Rod Lever,
That is one of the most moronic stories I've ever seen written, even on a pseudo scientific web site. You have more stupid statements and out of context "facts" than one can normally find even on the internet. Congratulations, you must be very proud...because you're too stupid to be embarrased.

Even people who support electric vehicles laughed at Coda and their silly plans and hideous car. This isn't even news worthy.

Oh, and eikka, stop masturbating while you tell lies about electric vehicles. Didn't your mother tell you that you'd go blind?

NorthernPiker
5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2013
The comment "that the US electric power system cannot support large numbers of electric vehicles which need constant charging" is complete garbage.

PNNL studied the grid capacity for charging 33-mile AER PHEV's and concluded that the grid, ca. 2009, would be able to charge over 70% of the over 200 million LDVs (cars, vans, SUVs and pick-ups) registered in the US. So, for any plausible EV market share projected for 2030, charging should not be a problem.

In the study, "Renewable energy (such as geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass) was not assumed to contribute to the daily driving energy of PHEVs." Nor, did the study speculate on the possible synergy between a large number of EV batteries being connected to the grid and intermittent renewable – wind and solar.

http://energyenvi...Grid.pdf

Google < PNNL PHEV charging > for more references.