Will Anyone Buy Electric Cars?

If you looked solely at the efforts being made to produce them, you'd swear that electric vehicles (EVs) are a sure bet to be the Next Big Thing.

Consider: EV battery plants are under construction all over the world, including several in the U.S. and Canada -- so many that analysts are already talking about a possible glut in 5 or 6 years. Nearly every big-league automaker -- and a whole bunch of smaller ones, including startups -- has promised to start producing an electric car sometime in the next few years.

And it's not just private money, not by a long shot. Governments around the world are providing incentives to manufacturers and making investments in electric-vehicle infrastructure, like high-speed recharging stations -- and many of the ones that aren't are at least talking about it enthusiastically.

Billions of dollars are being spent, in other words. It's a whole lot of money, and a whole lot of effort.

But every time I write about the coming wave of electric cars, I hear the same question, over and over again. And it's one I can't help asking myself:

Is anybody going to buy these things?

We're about to find out -- sort of
Nissan's Leaf is due -- in a very limited way -- in the U.S. (and Japan) in December, and while it's easy to conclude that the Leaf's success or failure will tell us a lot, it might not: It'll only be available in five U.S. states at first and in very limited quantities. Supplies will be increased somewhat next spring when more states are added, but the full-blown your-dealer-has-11-of-'em broad market rollout won't happen until U.S. production starts in 2012.

That production will happen -- speaking of government subsidies -- at a Nissan facility in Tennessee, which is being upgraded to produce Leafs and battery packs with the help of a $1.4 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. But one can't help thinking that the carefully staged rollout is structured this way to help Nissan save face (and money, obviously) should the whole thing be a flop.

Nissan recently said that it already has 18,000 "reservations" for Leafs, declarations of interest plus refundable $99 deposits. How many of those with reservations will go on to become Leaf owners is an interesting question -- and the answer will be eagerly watched.

Who's jumping in
Nearly all of the major automakers, as I said, have at least said that they intend to bring an electric vehicle to market. General Motors' Chevy Volt -- which isn't your usual hybrid, more an electric car with an onboard gas-powered generator -- will be out by the end of this year. Ford's (NYSE: F  ) Focus Electric model (which will be built in a former SUV factory; how's that for symbolism?) will arrive in the second half of 2011. Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) has plans for at least one purely electric car in its upcoming fleet of next-generation hybrids, Volkswagen said it will have two on sale by 2013, and even Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) , who pooh-poohed the EV bandwagon for ages, finally gave in and announced their own upcoming EVs at a press conference in July.

I could go on and on -- Hyundai and Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) favorite BYD of China are two more big names bringing EVs to market -- but it should be clear by now that the bandwagon is building. And the suppliers are in as well -- Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI  ) has a battery-making joint venture with French lithium-ion experts Saft; Magna International (NYSE: MGA  ) has a whole series of EV programs under way; and Panasonic has jumped in with a deal to sell batteries to Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA  ) .

But will they sell?

I think they'll have to sell
The interest in EVs has prompted a bunch of startups, of which Tesla is the most prominent -- and the only one, so far, to bring its products to the U.S. market in anything like a major way. Tesla has sold more than 1,200 of its Roadsters around the world, but it's hard to see that as a harbinger of interest in mass-market EVs -- the Roadster is a six-figure sports car/fashion statement, not a daily driver for regular folks.

Comments here and elsewhere suggest that folks remain very skeptical of pure EVs, and for good reasons -- how's that air-cooled no-gasoline Leaf going to perform in the dead of winter in Buffalo? -- and it may be that pure EVs remain a niche product while the world moves to hybrids, at least for awhile.

We're going to see a lot of experimentation by manufacturers over the next few years as they attempt to find the powertrain combination that will gain mass acceptance; the Prius was one such experiment, the Volt will be another. And we're also going to see plenty of government incentives -- for buyers as well as manufacturers -- to make those hybrids and EVs more palatable to the mass market.

Given all that, I think the day is coming when hybrids outsell gas-only vehicles, even in categories (like pickups) where they don't currently have much traction. With even Porsche and Ferrari committing to the hybrid path, the arguments against the technology are getting harder and harder to make.

What do you think? Is this the future? Or a big bust waiting to happen? Scroll down to leave a comment and let me know.

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  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 2:49 PM, mrwizard555 wrote:

    folks, i have an EV. actually a NEV, neighborhood electric vehicle. maxes out at 25 mph. street legal, titleable, and licensable in most places. legal on streets posted for 35 mph or less.

    way, way, way cheaper to run than an internal combustion(gasoline or diesel) vehicle. lower fuel cost per mile, lower insurance, lower sticker price.

    all it took was a paragigm shift. my NEV is stuck in town due to speed limit. but.....the vast majority of my miles are....in town. i keep a minivan for long trips and large payloads, the NEV does all the rest.

    think about your usage. you may not need an EV that can go 100's of miles between charges. maybe 25 is enough.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 3:38 PM, KurtEng wrote:

    I am considering buying an electric vehicle, but I probably won't buy a purely electric vehicle. I think the real market lies in plug-in hybrids. Cars like the Prius already have a reasonably large battery. If they increase battery size and allow the driver to either fill up the tank or plug the car in overnight, I think it's a real winner. Electricity is cheaper and can be made domestically. I am strongly for the concept, but the automakers have to do it right for me to buy. The Chevy Volt is an interesting possibility.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 5:12 PM, PSU69 wrote:

    My EV is an e-bike. 20 miles on a 3 hour charge. A lot farther if I pedal at all.

    www.hybelec.com

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 5:13 PM, n8larson wrote:

    Huge potential as a second car/short-distance commute car, and yes, they'll probably perform better outside Buffalo. Plug-in hybrids will eventually pass gas/battery hybrids, but we're probably 10 years away from meaningful market presence. Gas isn't expensive enough yet to force a significant shift. If the true costs of keeping gas prices low were priced in, it might happen sooner.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 5:47 PM, dandles2020 wrote:

    I would love to buy an electric car, but where the hell am I going to plug it in? For anyone who parks on the street, it's just not that convenient.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 5:56 PM, movedog wrote:

    I'll buy an electric car when they stop piddling around with environmentally unfriendly batteries which add weight without giving the "mileage" I need. I'm not buying two cars, one for around town and one for long trips. Just not gonna happen. If anyone at GM had a brain they'd jettison the heavy, expensive batteries and build the Volt as it is - "an electric car with an onboard gas-powered generator." Give it to me as a biodiesel and I'll bet it tops 100 miles to the gallon without having to plug anything in overnight. Probably be half the price, too.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 6:12 PM, mcwhee1s wrote:

    I have owned a PEV (Personal Electric Vehicle) since May 2006. I drove my NmG 16 miles to work daily, plugged in at work (school bus terminal) & have time of use metering at home @ 3.25 cents/KwH after 7 PM from a standard 120 volt outlet. I have almost 17,000 miles on the vehicle now.

    I also own an eGo electric bike which is very popular in Asia & China. Plugs into 120 volt outlet, goes 20 MPH up to 20 miles & has very handy baskets which collapse to store on vehicle as well as a handy basket on handlebars which has handles to carry into store for shopping. Licensed as moped.

    Our 2005 Prius has just turned over 100,000 miles with no problems. I bought a used one with a salvage title off eBay. Our children have used it to travel cross country & we all enjoy driving it. It averages 47 - 52 MPG.

    I am on the reserve list for a Leaf. I would really like to see CNG refueling allowed at home. Honda makes a great CNG vehicle but politics & special interests prevent widespread implementation except in Utah.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 8:50 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    Saying the Leaf has "limited availability" is a hell of an understatement. There are going to be 25,000 for the US market next year. Add in a couple thousand Tesla's and that's 27,000 electrics - out of a 12 million car and light truck market.

    That's the nut of it, I think. Nissan can sell every one they build, hell they can have 20% annual growth for a few consecutive years, great performance by any business metric. But it still means you've got 1% of the US new car market.

    I'm not trying to rain on Nissan's parade, but this is a country that bought millions of singing plastic trophy fish. If you've got a big national ad campaign and you can't sell 25,000 of a-n-y-thing, you've got a problem.

    I think electrics will sell in small numbers, but the limitations and economics will keep them from becoming the primary next fuel vehicle for a long, long time. The Leaf (and Tesla) are great if you have more than one car, and if you live have a garage to charge it. The range limitations mean you're not going to pack the kids in an electric for a week long vacation, or a trip to Grandma's if she's more than a couple hours away. And you're paying >$30K (after incentives) for this car that has hard limits on its use. That's going to ultimately limit the Leaf to Tesla's market - upper middle class suburbanites with at least one other car in the household.

    Electrics are going to be great statement cars, but plug-in hybrids are going to be the cars that bridge us between internal combustion and whatever comes next.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 9:05 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @baldheadeddork: They're building that big new factory down south that will crank out 150k Leafs a year by 2012 or so. They are planning on volume, just not right away. Whether they'll get it... we'll see.

    John

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 9:24 PM, dwatson102 wrote:

    I am unsure why Prius was lumped into a discussion of whether or not an electric will sell. AT 2 million and counting this is one of the most successful models of all time in any category. And as Toyota points out, it has diverted 900 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere. All that while being quick and comfortable. I have owned one for three years and am totally dilighted while saving $7000 on gas in 70K miles.

    Doug

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 10:45 PM, owlbert wrote:

    We have a Camry Hybrid, and love to brag about the mileage. However, from a pure economics standpoint, I will not save enough on gas, even at $4.00 a gallon, to make it pay off. Part of the issue is essentially, the car has two drive trains. One electric and one gas. On the gas drive train you have all the maintenance of oil changes and etc. Then on the electric side you will probably need to change the batteries shortly after 100,000 miles to the tune of several thousand dollars. So it will cost a lot more in maintenance over 200,000 miles than our Lexus RX300 did.

    At least with a pure electric car, if you have to replace the batteries at 100,000 miles, you have saved all the cost of oil changes and the fact your fuel price per mile is about half of a gas engine. You can charge it a home overnight as long as you have a 220V source. So if you are a 2 car family, and one is primarily a less than 40 mile one-way commuter car, the electric makes more sense than a hybrid. On the plus side, it reduces demand for foreign oil.

    However, don't get too smug about saving the environment. 50% of our electricity comes from burning coal, and in spite of all the talk of “clean” coal, they have not solved the CO2 problem. So there is still a carbon footprint with an electric car.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 12:28 AM, Capitalist42 wrote:

    When the economy comes back, oil demand will go back to where it was before the recession (and more). Electric cars will look very attractive to many commuters when gas is over $5/gal.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 12:53 AM, johnB41 wrote:

    Electric cars are like ethanol , only works with government subsidies and high gas prices. Many vehicles will get about two pounds of coal per mile at current electricity prices. Most buyers will wait for the battery problem to be solved or the government to force the price of gasoline to $5.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 2:43 AM, nutcutter wrote:

    Those if you who are concerned about the pollution from coal plants shouldn't be running your houses on that dirty energy. Either add solar panels to your roof, if you can, or call your utility and request to participate in their renewable energy program. If the utility doesn't offer one, become an activist and enlist the help of like-minded folks and lobby for it.

    Once your house is running on renewable energy, your EV will, too.

    I've been driving a fully electric, highway capable EV from Toyota for 8 years and 86,000 miles. All the energy used came from the sunlight falling on my roof. Both the house and car run on sunlight, and my electric bill averages about $100 per year.

    None of my money goes to the oil companies, or by extension, the Saudis. When you buy gas, over 60% of your money leaves the country, and probably 90% leaves your local community. Think of the jobs that will be created when millions of people are buying locally generated kWh for 25% of what they currently pay for gas. That other 75% stays local, creating jobs in your community. Isn't that a good thing?

    If we stay on oil for personal transportation, there will eventually be a massive rise in price as the peak is reached and less oil is available for even more gas cars built by China and India.

    Both the American and German militaries have published eye opening reports on the coming of peak oil. Just this week, Lloyds of London joined them with its own clear-headed report on the coming peak.

    You can stay with your gas burner all you want, but the smart people are going to snap these cars up as fast as they build them and you'll be standing in a very long line the next time gas hits north of $4.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 4:18 AM, jaketen2001 wrote:

    You could easily see huge demand for EVs. First, families with two cars, where one commutes and that is it, and the other is used for trips could easily switch the commute for an EV. If one day you get charging station where you might be able to pull in, switch out a battery and be on your way, quick as a refill, and I dont think anyone would have an issue with an EV after that.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 7:26 AM, FiveHappyDaze wrote:

    In one of the more remote regions on the planet, high in the Andes, lies the Salar de Uyuni, the famed salt flats stretch across more than 4,000 square miles in Potosi, Bolivia, well known for the fabulous wealth in silver extracted there by the Spanish in colonial times. Now a new age of mining could bring a 21st century El Dorado for the impoverished South American nation, as geologists believe that more than half the world's reserves of lithium may lie under the salt pans.

    Government officials claim that Bolivia possesses the world's biggest lithium reserves, and they also believe the country is poised to profit from car manufacturers which are driving to develop electric cars that will run on lithium ion batteries.

    "Bolivia will become a big producer in six years of batteries," Luis Alberto Echazu, the minister of mining and metallurgy, said in an interview. He ticked off three companies that he said have expressed interest in investing in the government's lithium venture: Sumitomo, Mitsubishi and Bollore, a French company.

    Lithium is the lightest metal and the least-dense solid. It's typically extracted from beneath salt flats, currently about 70% of the world's supplies come from Chile and Argentina. The U.S. Geological Survey says 5.4 million tons of lithium could potentially be extracted in Bolivia, compared with 3 million in Chile, 1.1 million in China. Independent geologists estimate that Bolivia may have further lithium deposits at Uyuni and its other salt deserts, though high altitudes and the quality of the reserves could make access & extraction difficult.

    ----------------------------------

    Money without intelligence is like a car without a road.

    http://www.intelligentinvestingtips.com

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 7:57 AM, Kiffit wrote:

    The bald fact of the matter is that societies based on high carbon usage and massive material throughputs aren't going to be around for much longer. It doesn't matter how one drives ones personal transport. In an environmentally constrained world, personal transport is a luxury.

    If the Chinese population even gets close to living the American way of life, it wouldn't be sustainable, even if they killed every other living soul on the planet. By themselves, they would be substantially exceeding current global carbon emissions.

    But carbon emissions are only a narrow symptom of the global ecological malaise. There are almost no ecological systems now that aren't in trouble. We have kicked away so many of the stabilizing props already that it won't necessarily take much to tip the whole system into irreversible collapse.

    The automobile energy shift now happening hardly scrapes the surface of the problem it is supposed to be addressing, which is to reduce the human impact sufficiently to keep our world going for a bit longer.

    If one cuts the energy requirements of a 'green' vehicle by a factor of 4, but keeps piling vehicles onto global roads at a factor of say 10 or 12, then all that has been accomplished is a self-delusory propaganda trick .

    We can keep kidding ourselves, but nature has no sense of humor. And neither will we when it starts to stagger under the relentlessly increasing pressure that we are now applying.

    Nobody has any idea at all what the word retreat means, let alone an appreciation of its necessity. Nobody is even starting to question the improbable myth that an ever expanding inventory of goods and services in an environmentally constrained world is even vaguely possible.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 8:19 AM, wwt17 wrote:

    i think more people would buy purely electric cars if the car companies didn't make them look so 'dorky'. it's almost as if they do it on purpose so people won't buy them.

    love the concept, hate the design.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 10:14 AM, jimharvard wrote:

    i'll note up-front that i am a committed internal combustion driver and will be till i die. while i support reasonable conservation and recycling efforts, i am personally annoyed at the "religious fevor" of the ultra-eco lunitics. practically speaking, i just don't see how electric or hybrid vehicles could ever fully replace internal combustion vehicles in the u.s. this country is just too large geographically and too consumer diverse. try driving your four wheeled hair dryer around the hills of w.va. in the middle of winter. or take off across texas in your "awsome" "200 mile range" volt. here's an idea - try making a profit with an electric powered ford 550 super duty dump truck. i doubt if you could keep such an unholy heap on a job for a week before you sent it back to general electric for a rebuild or scraping. yes, trains and giant mining trucks are diesel-electric and caterpillar is experimenting with a diesel-electric D9 dozer. however, those are all special applications with lots of maintenance support available. i'm happy for all the "enviro-devotees" who want to drive hybrids or electrics. this is america - it's your right to chose what makes you happy in a car. however, don't force your wine-sipping, "green" lunacy on me. electrics are for high density, close quarters europe - not the united states.

    jimharvard, pittsburgh, pa

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 11:12 AM, rtichy wrote:

    JimHarvard is right, he's not going to change until he cannot afford to live the way he's used to.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 12:06 PM, jimharvard wrote:

    in reference to rtichy's comment about "green" economics affecting personal behavior, here are some "energy" facts:

    1. approximately 60% of all electric power plants in the u.s. are coal fired, the only economic alternatives for them are to convert to oil or gas.

    2. solar and/or wind cannot produce anything close to the electric power requirements of the u.s.

    3. nuclear power could replace coal power plants but a nuc plant takes 10 years to build and there is presently no good solution to nuclear waste storage.

    4. electric vehicles have to get electric from somewhere and the majority of them will be grid charged. that means that any "carbon footprint" savings from the vehicle will be surpassed by the "carbon costs" of the electric power plant.

    5. iraq has oil reserves equal to saudia arabia and there are scores of other untapped oil reserves world-wide.

    6. the energy output equvalent of the natural gas reserves of the u.s. surpasses the energy value of the entire oil supply of saudia arabia.

    7. as yet, not a single "alternative" energy source has been shown to provide the level of economy of scale profitability necessary to replace fossile fuels on an economically feasible basis.

    8. the emerging middle class in china and india are buying conventional automobiles and there is no data suggesting that these emerging markets are interested in electric or hybrid vehicles.

    9. wide-scale implementation of grid-charged electric vehicles in the u.s. cannot happen until the entire 100 year old u.s. electric grid is replaced. there is no indication that the federal govt. has the hundreds of billions of dollars required to up-grade the grid.

    10. obama will be a "lame-duck" after the nov elections and the likely republican victories will end the radical "green" nonsense.

    if you want to drive a prius, great, i'm happy for you. i will be buying sunoco 260 for the next twenty years.

    jimharvard, pittsburgh, pa

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 1:15 PM, fibreoptik wrote:

    Most (at least 90%) of the electricity where I live is generated at hydroelectric facilities so the "carbon footprint" of a pure electric car here is a virtually non existant and mostly moot point.

    So not everyone, in every corner of the earth, is in the same situation. In fact more and more kWh are being generated via renewable means (hydro, solar, geothermal, tidal, wind etc.)

    The times are definitely changing and it is only a matter of time before oil rig crews/execs/platforms/wars become a pointless waste of time. I sincerely hope I live to see the day that Exxon and BP implode.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 1:40 PM, Sonofleopold wrote:

    Jimharvard's energy facts are correct on all points. Besides, there are brownouts now without these EVs plugged in. How much MORE (cheap) power (that we don't have) will be needed with EVs? Drill NOW! Nuke Power NOW! (nukes are truely renewable) Alternate energy is a joke.

    BTW, fibre, unless you are one or two years old, you will NOT see Exxon implode. But such a benificent fool investor anyway...WANTING to see so many unemployed at oil companies over NonPetro energy successes.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 2:54 PM, KZMike wrote:

    Most all the posts here are not being 'real' or using common sense regarding the EV issue. Jimharvard comes close and mcwhee1s does mention an alternative that has gone over most of the talking heads I see here.

    To add to what Jimharvard points out. . . it has been written [Scientific American or Discovery Mag, I believe] that if the EV is able to penetrate the market and realize something above 1½% of total vehicles our 'outdated' energy grid would collapse even if our electric generation was able to deliver the increased loads [and yes this does take into account that most EV's would be plugged in during off peak demand].

    The EV is destined to increase our reliance on dirty fossil fuels as it now stands and will require a huge carbon foot print moving forward to support these vehicles despite what you see posted here.

    The alternative I don't see here is what is usually referred to as a bridge 'fuel' . . . NGLs, CNG, LPG. . . Natural Gas folks. The options and potential is undenialble if you can take an open minded look at this 'fossil fuel'.

    It is impossible to lay out the options available using NGLs. Yes there is a problem with NGLs short term and that has to do with its distribution and the infrastructure needed. However, I suspect that with equivalent supports and incentives received by other alternative energy sources that problem would be solved in a relative short time.

    In the mean time here are a couple of links for those who wish to be informed on the subject.

    http://www.questargas.com/AboutNaturalGas/Properties/NGPrope...

    http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/transportation/CNG.html

    Use of this carbon based molecule can immediately reduce carbon emissions as well as other pollutants. "Natural gas produces far lower amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides than any other fossil fuel. Carbon Dioxide produced is 117,000 ppm vs 208,000 for burning coal. Carbon Monoxide produced is 40 ppm vs 208 for burning coal. Nitrogen Oxides produced is 92 ppm vs 457 for burning coal. Sulfer Dioxide is 1 ppm vs 2,591 for burning coal. Particulates are 7 ppm vs 2,744 for burning coal. Mercury is 0 vs .016 for burning coal. http://www.global-greenhouse-warming.com/gas-vs-coal.html Particulates are also a major contribution to global warming. Natural gas has 7ppm vs coals 2,744ppm ((http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7h.html)).&quo...

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 2:57 PM, stanton17 wrote:

    FiveHappyDaze,

    Are you currently investing in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats? If so, what company/companies are you investing in? Or are you doing an end-run around Bolivia and investing in Sociedad Quimica Y Minera De Chile SA ADR (SQM) which is currently the world's largest producer of lithium carbonate and operates in Chile?

    From what I read, the immediate problem facing potential lithium prospectors is Bolivia's stridently anti-Western president, Evo Morales who is a rather staunch ally of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. To reinforce Morales' stance, Saul Villegas, head of a division in Comibol that oversees lithium extraction has been quoted as saying, "Let me make this very clear for everyone to hear. The previous imperialist model of exploitation of our natural resources will never be repeated in Bolivia."

    Source: "In search of Lithium: The battle for the 3rd element" (Mail Online)

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1166387/In-s...

    I'm simply curious if you are currently investing, or if you have a future strategy for investing in the Salar de Uyuni flats?

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts/insights that you may care to offer.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 4:14 PM, mountain8 wrote:

    Two quick notes:

    1. Just because they are building the factories, doesn't mean they will ever build the cars. Note: Oakland, CA is building 3 marijuna factories but theres no current possibility of them ever using them as long as the Fed continues to propagandize it. Or simply check the empty factories in Detroit.

    2. Simple economics of supply/demand will effect the cost of electricity just as it effects oil. i.e. We have 600,000,000 people in America and about that many cars. If they ever become ALL electric, your quoted 3.25 cents per kilowatt hour will likely compare more to the price of gas today. How does $5 per kw hour sound.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 7:52 PM, KZMike wrote:

    mountain8 . . . the current US population is estimated at 310,000,000 not the 600,000,000 you state. HOWEVER, you are 100% correct in your assertion regarding supply and demand. In 2007 the estimate for passenger vehicles only in the US was 254,400,000. . . a estimate of 270,000,000 vehicle would be reasonable.

    As I mentioned above if sales of EVs approach the 1½% of the total vehicles, the power grid will begin to fall apart even if we are able to build enough power plants to supply the increased demand.

    One item I did not mention previously, according to a EPRI** Study, increased 240V loads from "hybrids and charges them at 240 volts, transformer degradation increases precipitously. This scenario will be quite common because adoption of electric vehicles will be concentrated in certain neighborhoods and 240 volt charging will be common (in fact, 240 volt charging will be required for LEAF owners)"

    All in all, the EVs are not a real smart solution to reducing the carbon foot print, nor a useful replacement for fossil fuel use. Hybrids have a niche to perform, but only similarly to how hybrid technology is used in rail transportation.

    ** link to EPRI study:

    http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/NR/rdonlyres/5F5E1729-1688-48C0-8A5B-...

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2010, at 2:43 AM, Babble100 wrote:

    The guv'mt should just set standards for Eco-friendliness not pick the technologies. How many times in IT has one tech had it's crown unexpectedly stolen by another, more efficient usurper?

    If we ensconce electric in our infrastrure by biasing subsidies in it's direction, and then somebody finds a better tech, we are in trouble. In fact biofuels might already be a better tech, and others are possible like hydrogen and natural gas via nano tech and compressed air.

    Let the investors's greed do the lead and bleed thing, not the gov't.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2010, at 10:12 AM, ironranger6 wrote:

    Just to add some weight behind those that are concerned about the grid. I operate the grid. The transmission system was not set up to handle the impact of electric cars. However, if and I mean if everyone charged their cars after 10pm, the grid could easily handle it. However we know that will not happen. The Voltage required to charge the electric cars will be a problem, you will see a voltage decay as Vars are consumed, (Vars are a componet of voltage) Transmission lines currently cost between 2-5 million per mile to build. Since no one wants power lines or power plants in there backyard. (NIMBY) We have a problem........I have been running the grid for 20 years. Here is the solution. Build nothing but Nuc Plants from now on. France gets over 90% of the electricity from Nucs. Nucs equal, no air polution, no water polution.....you can't beat that. Storage will be in Yucca mountain, once you get the radical tree huggers out of power. Also, the number one threat to the grid is WIND power......its a fact, it almost took the Texas grid down a few years ago. it is also the most expensive electical producer we have......look it up on the internet....the government subsidies are costing the public a fortune and then don't even know it.........

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2010, at 1:05 PM, jiya24 wrote:

    The electricity is cheaper and can be done locally. I am all in favor of the idea, but manufacturers are entitled to do it for me to buy. The Chevrolet Volt is an interesting possibility.Prius just turned over 100,000 miles without any problems. I bought a second hand with a degree of recovery outside of eBay. Our children used to travel cross-country skiing and all enjoy driving. The average 47-52 MPG.

    http://www.arifanees.com/

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2010, at 8:05 PM, interdependent wrote:

    I"m waiting for someone to build a business model for converting existing gas cars to pure electric drive. Take your old car down to the shop and have the old gas engine and unnecessary guts ripped out, pop in the new batteries and components, then drive it home and plug it in at night. Sounds too simple? Maybe not.

    I drive a Geo Metro that was converted to all electric drive using lead batteries. Works for me. And it's fun driving past gas stations, then plugging in when I get home at night.

    People will buy the new electric cars because given a choice between new technology and old, people want to buy the new cool toy, not the old gassy one with a tailpipe.

    Maybe you missed that Gulf oil spill that was in the news, but if electric cars had been in showrooms this summer they would have sold out in no time.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 4:44 AM, varptr wrote:

    It is almost as if no one saw the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Car". The electric car requires a certain commitment from government to protect the consumer. This is like printers suddenly not needing print cartridges, not likely to be accepted with open arms. Some of my former students designed the transmission for the Chevy Impact. Regenerative breaking transmissions are a must in inner city traffic. But where can you buy one?

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 10:11 AM, hungreydoggy wrote:

    You people seem to all be unaware of a new promising energy source that will be on-line in a few years.

    Genetically modified blue-green algae and/or other bacteria are being modified to secrete heavy oil that is identical to what we get out of the ground. If successful, these bacteria can be "farmed." The oil they secrete can be piped directly to the refineries and distributed through out present distribution system. It is all carbon neutral and would allow us to continue using our current internal combustion engines. It looks to me like a potentially cheap and easy solution to the whole energy situation.

    Maybe in ten years we'll all be looking back and wondering what all the doom-day fuss was about.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 12:57 PM, jrj90620 wrote:

    Of course the all electric car is the future.I would say they aren't especially practical today as your only vehicle.Best for short,in city use now.The hybrid seems to be the best option today.Eventually battery technology will improve to where the electric range will be high enough and combined with,hopefully,higher gasoline prices, that the electric will replace internal combustion technology.As someone who rides a bicycle 125 miles per week in So California I would really appreciate better air quality.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 1:29 PM, Janm67 wrote:

    What else are you going to drive? As oil supplies dwindle petrol and diesel will become a luxury.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 2:30 PM, rickeinaz wrote:

    EVs will happen in the USA, but not until we embrace nuclear energy for electricity production. The current carbon footprint to charge your EV with electricity produced by burning fossil fuel in a power plant is comparable to burning the fuel directly in a vehicle internal combustion engine as long as you are not too far from the power plant. If you are, the carbon footprint can be worse for the EV.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 2:36 PM, IIcx wrote:

    I just ran across this -- if its true, it looks like we have more domestic oil then we thought. So much for the "reliance on foreign oil" issue.

    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 3:30 PM, rtichy wrote:

    Whoa, JimHarvard! I was not even attempting to bring up all of the points you attempted to address in your response to my comment. I simply stated that you will continue to do what you like to do, until you decide it is no longer in your best interest to keep doing that.

    I know little of where you live (Pittsburgh, PA) but in the outer suburbs of Chicagoland, I can only say that I observe people to be price sensitive to gasoline when it gets above $3.50 a gallon. Then, (and only then) people curtail commuting in large SUVs with only 1 person in them. I can imagine a scenario in greater Chicagoland that if the price of gasoline were to stay above $4 per gallon, that it would have a lasting (and detrimental) effect on the value of real estate in the collar counties. (Just what we need, right?! More reasons to see losses on real estate...)

    Anyway, I was merely affirming your right to do what you want (drive IC vehicles) until you decide it's not in your best interest. (Which is basic consumer behavior) I agree that ranchers in Texas will never get an EV because if it's 150 miles to the grocery store, well that's obviously not going to work...

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 7:31 PM, canstomper wrote:

    There's one thing I haven't seen addressed. Battery swapping stations are a joke. Batteries are good for about 100k miles. You buy a Leaf for $30,000+ (a cheap POS car with $10k batteries) and halfway to Grandma's house you swap out your brand new batteries for some recharged used ones. It's like your car is sleeping with a whore. 100 miles per charge is for new batteries. Old, used batteries may only get 40. If you get stuck on the side of the road you're screwed. A can of gas won't help you. Call a tow truck with a gas generator to charge your car for eight hours. If I ever buy an electric car, I'll hold on tight to my virgin batteries.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 10:47 PM, Kiffit wrote:

    It must be an American thing. It just doesn't seem to have crossed its collective mind that its cars and a great deal else simply aren't viable. As the American economic model is successfully replicated, the living environment is steadily being torn to pieces. That cannot go on for long before agricultural production becomes a victim, and with it, large demographic chunks of our species.

    You guys are so business-as-usual in your thinking, even though it is becoming blindingly obvious that this is a false reading of reality.

    The biggest profits and the largest accruals of power in the mid to late twenty-first century will go to the managers of economic retreat, consolidation and wealth redefinition.

    Economic life will be dominated by the need to clean up the terrible mess left by old fashioned capitalism and resuscitate eco-systems sufficiently to support what is left of our species and those co-species whose life and 'prosperity' is absolutely essential to our own.

    Wealth will have to include the development of psychological and cultural software, if for no other reason than mass producing toys and trinkets will no longer be possible on a large scale.

    As it happens, much of our wealth is actually tied up in our heads and social relations. It is just that the current accounting system ignores this reality, and systematically plunders those accounts accordingly.

    I point this out because today, debates about more efficient cars are about as appropriate as the bitter arguments over priestly vestments within the Russian Orthodox Church, that broke out in 1917, when the Bolshevik revolution was already under way.

    The energy suite that is used to dress up cars is equally irrelevant and fatuous.

    When you look at the now deserted cities of central and south America, the one thing that stands out from the research evidence is the speed of their demise . They were mostly abandoned. The end game was fast and probably extremely violent.

    The next collapses of this nature will be global and much sooner than you think.

    Gore Vidal once observed that America is a country uniquely living in a laughing gas bubble. He was wrong. It is just the biggest and most wobblesomely vulnerable one in a sea of others just like it.

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2010, at 6:40 AM, tonyfitz27 wrote:

    Look at Azure Dynamics AZD.to or AZDDF.ob

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Azure-Dynamics-BalanceTM-prnew...

    Azure Dynamics announces 12 Balance(TM) Hybrid Electric truck and bus sales to a variety of customers across North America - Azure continues a strong sales pace in Q2, 2010 with almost 200 Balance products sold to more than 25 end users since April 1

    OAK PARK, MI, June 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - Azure Dynamics Corporation's (TSX:AZD.to - News)(OTC:AZDDF.ob - News) channel distribution strategy entails partnering with premier body builders and their dealers and Ford commercial truck dealerships across North America to help market its innovative, efficient and green technology to fleet operators.

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2010, at 12:11 PM, meatmann50 wrote:

    hey people, driving electric cars are great and I'm sure helping the enviroment.But how do you charge them???electricity...how do we make electricity??coal....coal pollutes the enviroment.So you may not be helping as much as you think you are.Just saying!!

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2010, at 12:24 PM, Gezzer80 wrote:

    I wonder what will happen to the electric grid when 2o ooo,ooo electric vehicle plug in at night..Does anyone know how many acres of sun collectors would be needed and how long it would take to get to that quanity to replace the coal fired electric supply..With regulations as they are growing..permitting problems..environmental issues it could be 50 years..Many states have commited to the development of wind energy..Its not happening..Wind turbines make noise and can kill birds..So the effort stops..We have more untapped oil resouces than the known reserves yet we are prevented from exploiting that energy by environmental wackos in our government..Soon these nutcases must go..From my porch I can see November..

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2010, at 7:04 PM, dbaeder wrote:

    One point that has not been addressed thus far is the increasing poularity of RV's, not just big rigs, but even little tent campers. The RV market increased 16% last year. Any guesses as to how they get to where they're going? No hybrid or electric vehicle has the power to pull even the smallest camper. The internal combustion engine will have a long future regardless of how popular electric and hybrid vehicles get.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2010, at 2:56 AM, Glycomix wrote:

    This is still a pipe dream. The infrastructure doesn't exist to fuel electric cars for long trips.

    You might do it for a commute if you installed an electric outlet for your car in your house, but that's incredibly expensive. How many people have gasoline pumps at their houses?

    On the other hand we are running out of oil. Estimates of the world's oil supplies in the late 1970s and early 1980s suggested that the world would run out of oil by 2000. (At that time gasoline cost an astounding 76cents/ gallon.) As far as I can tell, the only large pools of oil left outside of the oceans is in Saudi Arabia, Siberia, Alaska and Canada (and probably Antartica because it's too difficult to explore there). At that time it was estimated that the US had hundreds of years of coal. (I can't vouch for the accuracy of these vaguely remembered charts).

    Now, 30 years later, excepting coal, we still don't have a sound alternative except making alcohol from potatoes (vodka) or from switch-grass. J. Boone Pickens suggests that natural gas might be used for trucks, but the natural gas storage tanks will take up too much space to be used in cars.

    As recently as 10 years ago, before the industry discovered abundant levels of natural gas in the US, Alan Greenspan was concerned with the rate at which the US was going through its natural gas reserves. Once it's gone, it's gone. He wanted to import taker loads of frozen natural gas from Siberia to be stored by being "Fractid"(sp?), piped into pools of water around 20,000 feet underground where the natural gas is dissolved under pressure and sealed until its needed. Congress was stopped by agitators on the east and west coasts of the US.

    It was nice that someone, Greenspan, was looking after the need of the people of the US.

    The topic of alternative energy appears to be of general interest to almost every audience. Even the premier science journal, Science, dedicated over half of its August 10, 2010 issue to the exploring possibilities in alternative energy.

    I have heard of individuals who are trying to make oil out of algae, pond slime. But they've been quiet about their progress for the past three or so years. I hope they're getting somewhere.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2010, at 3:06 AM, Glycomix wrote:

    Electricity is expensive now, what will it be when we run our cars on it.

    Natural gas is dangerous. In my senior year at college a natural gas leak blew up a block of downtown Auburn Alabama. It won't take much to kill you. Natural gas might be OK for trucks and large commercial vehicles because they can be regulated to stay safe. However, it's a scary commodity to use in a widespread fashion.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2010, at 12:49 PM, jaketen2001 wrote:

    Harvard,

    It is simply not a known, proven fact that wind and solar will not be able to provide nearly 100% of our energy needs in the future. Through the proper reflection of cost in gas (health, environmental, military), which might be somewhere 3-4x what the price reflected at the pump is, usage would go way down, so conservation is a part of it. Additionally, the annual half a trillion dollars sent overseas would act as a sort of turbo charge if it were to be recycled nationally in the US.

    Solar panels on homes can today provide nearly 100%, in many cases more, of the required electrical usage.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2010, at 1:34 PM, KZMike wrote:

    @llcx. . . I am presuming you are referring to tar sand and shale oil deposits. YES we have HUGE reserves of oil 'locked up' in these formations. There is a HUGE problem. Some relatively easily to 'mine' and process to crude. MUCH more is very difficult to process. Right now there are several operations in Canada that are currently producing crude oil. There is a HUGE environment cost to mining this 'stuff'. I don't have the exact figures, but the expenditure of dollars and the carbon foot print required to produce a barrel of crude is tremendous.

    I have been in the petroleum business for some 50+ years [still am involve with traditional drilling] and have serious reservations as to the advisability of exploiting this resource with current methods and technologies. There are much better, smarter, and faster 'bridge' fuels that will better serve us in the short and long term, as I have mentioned in a previous post.

    Several National Parks are currently under threat due to the fact that reserves are underground within or near their boundaries.

    @Glycomix. . . your concerns regarding Natural Gas are well understood. However, the incidence of what you experienced is quite rare and Natural Gas is actually 'safer' than gasoline in most situations. The incidence of gasoline 'explosions' is higher. . . I have seen and been around the industry quite a bit and have been around many situations that has caused more fatalities with gasoline than Natural Gas.

    I am not sure why you feel that the 'regulations' you feel are appropriate for larger vehicles are not appropriate for smaller vehicles.

    Ironranger6 is 'dead on' when it come to electrical power generation in areas that lend itself for that method of generation. There are some situations where Natural Gas is easier and more cost effective.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2010, at 11:54 AM, thku4grace wrote:

    Not a one of these are more functional than the prius hybrid. Yeah, the Prius hybrid uses a cheaper battery technology but replacement is cheaper too. Also, its efficiency turning stopping power into electric energy is a winner. The greater expense of lithium-ion batteries and the scarcity of the rare earth's to mass produce these limited life batteries matched together with its ridiculously limited range makes this a major loser. Who really can afford a government subsidized $45,000 vehicle with a 40 or 100 mile range? Wealthy environmental-minded people. But that too will die down as reality unfolds.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2010, at 1:43 PM, altruria wrote:

    Natural gas is the way to go! Purely Electric powered cars generated from fossel fuel does not help the environment nor is it effecient. The actual loss of BTU potential from burming the fuel to the end user is enormous. "Energy In Perspective" Jerry B. Marion. I drive a Prius (50mpg) which I consider a the best alternative until NG fueling stations become widespread.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2010, at 4:44 PM, tiger582 wrote:

    Has anyone watched "Who Killed The Electric Car"? Will anything be different this time? And why are we tinkering with these efforts when we could all be driving water fueled cars. Search "Stan Meyer" and you'll see the technology is available. Why aren't we investing there? It appears that some powerful interests don't want these technologies to succeed.

  • Report this Comment On September 21, 2010, at 11:12 AM, electrobicidotcm wrote:

    We are all fleas on the same dog. People who want continuous economic growth, or think it is good or even possible, need to realize that it is an impossibility. If the population of fleas on a dog, and their levels of consumption, grew uncontrolled, the dog would eventually become ill and then many of the fleas, if not the dog, would die.

    It is myopic in the extreme to think that the only metric by which to evaluate an idea, is whether or not it makes money. On a dead planet, dollars are useless. Dead dog = dead fleas.

    Enough sunlight reaches the Earth every HOUR, to provide all mankind's energy needs for an entire YEAR!

    How stupid is it to keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we are burning them now???

  • Report this Comment On September 21, 2010, at 1:43 PM, rocketman67 wrote:

    IMHO the Toyota Prius and all Hybrid Cars are still a "feel good buy" because you still have to pay a premium to buy one(even though you get back federal and state credits)plus when it comes time to trade in your Hybrid Car you'll take another desperation(depending on the miles)because of the battery life and what it cost to replace the battery pack.

    I can't see anyone wanting to buy a used Hybrid with 80k+ miles knowing that the battery pack is only warranted for 100k miles.

    Another strike against Hybrid Cars is that you are now obligated to have your vehicle serviced at the dealer which most people try to avoid because of labor cost and outrageous cost of replacement cost.

    Very, very few shops will even want to lift the hood on a Hybrid Car because of the complexities associated with these vehicles.

    Many shops are reluctant to invest the monies into training and certification of their technicians on Hybrids because they know that if he or she get's a better offer from another shop they have lost that person to the highest bidder.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2010, at 11:41 AM, thegoodbob wrote:

    Too expensive for us retirees as well as no place we can go with only 100 mile range

  • Report this Comment On December 21, 2010, at 9:23 PM, Anonymiser wrote:

    I am one of those with dead-battery phobia, but I would be happy with something that costs less than $20k, can go 10 miles in electric mode, can be plugged in for recharges, and has a small onboard IC engine to keep the batteries charged if needed. Most of my driving is less than ten miles from home.

    I don't need to go 100 mph, but want the basics, including air conditioning, rear window defroster and wiper, heater, and electric door locks.

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