Electric vehicles

Post image for Electric Vehicles: Is a “Better Place” Now in a Better Place?

Three factors limit the market penetration of electric vehicles. One is purchase price. For example, the average price paid for a gasoline-powered 2013 Ford Focus ranges from $16,500 to $24,176. In contrast, the average price paid for a 2013 Ford Focus Electric is $39,020.

Another drawback is range. Except for the Tesla Model S, with an EPA-estimated range of 265 miles, most battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) have EPA-estimated ranges of 62 to 99.8 miles — although motorists may go farther under actual driving conditions, Edmunds.Com reports. These range limitations diminish the utility and, thus, value of BEVs for many consumers, and may induce “range anxiety” — fear of being stranded between where you are and where you have to go. The Tesla Model S has an impressive range but, with a manufacturer’s recommended sale price of $69,900, most households cannot afford to buy one even with generous federal and state tax rebates.

A third and related barrier to consumer acceptance is recharging time. Of a dozen BEVs tested by Edmunds.Com, some recharged in ‘as little as’ 4 hours (2013 Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV). But for some, the recharging time was as long as 5 hours (Tesla Model S), 6 hours (Volkswagon E-Golf), and 7 hours (Chevrolet Spark EV, Mitsubishi i MiEv). Buying a BEV means paying for the inconvenience of not being able to gas up and go in 5 minutes at the nearest service station the way ordinary folks do.

To overcome these battery-related inconveniences, an Israeli company called “Better Place” developed networks of battery-charging and -swapping stations in Israel and Denmark. Better Place hoped the stations would spark consumer interest in electric vehicles and spread globally. But on Sunday the firm announced “that it is shutting down, less than six years after unveiling an ambitious plan that promised to revolutionize the auto industry by reducing the world’s dependency on oil,” reports the Detroit Free Press. [click to continue…]

Post image for How’s the Stimulus for Electric Vehicles Working Out, Mr. President?

In his January 2011 State of the Union speech, President Obama called for “more research and incentives” so that America could “become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.” In yesterday’s Washington PostCarol Leonnig and Joe Stephens report that the Obama Administration “has poured roughly $5 billion dollars in taxpayer funds into the electric car industry, offering incentives to manufacturers, their suppliers and even car buyers who might want to go green.” This included $2.4 billion in Stimulus support to develop advanced batteries for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

How’s it all working out — will America have million electric vehicles on the road by 2015? It’s doubtful we’ll see anything close to that. [click to continue…]

Post image for Costco Pulls Plug on Electric Vehicle Chargers

Costco is removing its electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, citing lack of consumer demand, reports Jim Motavalli in the New York Times. Plug-In America, an EV advocacy group, has issued an “action alert” urging its members to email Costco CEO James Sinegal and ask him to maintain and upgrade the charging stations.  From Montavalli’s article:

Costco, the membership warehouse-club chain, was an early leader in offering electric-vehicle charging to its customers, setting an example followed by other retailers, including Best Buy and Walgreen. By 2006, Costco had installed 90 chargers at 64 stores, mostly in California but also some in Arizona, New York and Georgia. Even after General Motors crushed its EV1 battery cars, the Costco chargers stayed in place.

Yet just as plug-in cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt enter the market, Costco is reversing course and pulling its chargers out of the ground, explaining that customers do not use them.

“We were early supporters of electric cars, going back as far as 15 years. But nobody ever uses them,” said Dennis Hoover, the general manager for Costco in northern California, in a telephone interview. “At our Folsom store, the manager said he hadn’t seen anybody using the E.V. charging in a full year. At our store in Vacaville, where we had six chargers, one person plugged in once a week.”

Mr. Hoover said that E.V. charging was “very inefficient and not productive” for the retailer. “The bottom line is that there are a lot of other ways to be green,” he said. “We have five million members in the region, and just a handful of people are using these devices.

Why is consumer demand for EVs — hence for charging stations — so low? [click to continue…]

Post image for How Many Hybrid Cars Were Sold Last Year in that Awakening Green Giant, China?

‘Clean-tech’ advocates depict China as a model for U.S. policymakers, because Beijing subsidizes the manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles.

In February, China announced plans to manufacture 1 million electric vehicles by 2015. To make green cars affordable, Beijing would pay automakers to cut the price of a battery car by $8,785 and a plug-in hybrid by $7,320. Of course, the announcement did not mention that millions of Chinese people who are still too poor to own cars would be taxed for the benefit of their wealthier brethren.

Not to be outdone by this visionary plan, President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, also called for incentives to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Neither prognostication is likely to come true.

[click to continue…]

Post image for IEA: Production Plans for Electric Vehicles Below Government Targets

Major automakers’ production plans for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) “are far below sales targets set by countries,” announced the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a press release accompanying the agency’s newly updated Electric Vehicle Roadmap report.

Major manufacturer production plans add up to 0.9 million units by 2015 and 1.4 million annually by 2020. In contrast, governments have set sales targets of 1.5 million units by 2015 and 7 million annually by 2020.

Evidently, policymakers have mis-underestimated (as a former President might say) market demand for EVs and PHEVs. The gap between production plans and political targets would be larger still without political props for those vehicles such as a federal tax credit up to $7,500 and billions in federal R&D support.

IEA believes more incentives and R&D — including coordinated federal, state, and local support for re-charging infrastructure — will do the trick. Now there’s a big surprise!

Post image for Can Obama End Our “Addiction” to Foreign Oil?

In his speech earlier this week, President Obama took a brave and unprecedented stand against our nations reliance on foreign petroleum imports:

Now, here’s a source of concern, though. We’ve known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades. Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. And every President since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet.

I talked about reducing America’s dependence on oil when I was running for President, and I’m proud of the historic progress that we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal, and we’ll talk about that a little bit. But I’ve got to be honest. We’ve run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades.

That has to change. That has to change. We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back down — we go back to doing the same things we’ve been doing until the next time there’s a price spike, and then we’re shocked again. We can’t rush to propose action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when they fall again. We can’t keep on doing that.

The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the ground. We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right. It’s time to do what we can to secure our energy future.

Richard Nixon wasn’t the only one. As Jon Stewart pointed out last summer, the last eight administrations have warned against the alleged dangers of importing petroleum and provided a number of solutions to massively restructure the economy, none of which were successful. Stewart comments, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times, am I a ****ing idiot?”

And yet we appear to be idiots, and more money will  be spent chasing pipe dreams with taxpayer money. The New York Times, today, congratulated Obama’s willingness to take on such a tough challenge and blamed the lack of progress on, wait for it, Republicans:

[click to continue…]

Post image for Can Electric Vehicles Change the Game?

“Can electric vehicles change the game?” That’s the question Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn poses this week on National Journal’s energy blog.  

I answer in the negative, pointing out, for example, that even if electric vehicle battery prices drop by 65%, the five-year fuel savings would not offset the additional up-front purchase price unless oil hits $280 a barrel (according to Boston Consulting Group).  You can read my response and those of other wonks and activists at NationalJournal.Com.

Here, I would like to share (with permission) the reaction of an industry expert who read the National Journal blog posts: [click to continue…]