Why Are EVs Not Being Mass Produced?



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Sunday August 26, 2018 Why Are EVs Not Being Mass Produced? Yesterday on Twitter I saw a post from Paul Scott with a link to his answer on Quora to the question "We already have the technology but why are electric vehicles being mass produced?".  That's a good question.


Paul's answer was "There are no technological reasons, only political".  He went on to point out that industries like the oil industry are set to loose everything if we stop using fossil fuels, while the move to electric means a lot less income from the service department causing many car dealerships to be hostile toward selling EVs. 


There were lots of other responses to this question most of which brought up the same old myths that we have been hearing for years.  They cost too much, they are not useful unless they have 300 miles of range (Tesla is already at this level with some models), there is not enough public infrastructure, and they charge too slowly to be useful on long journeys.


My first thought on this question is that they are being mass produced and several of the people answering this question tended to agree with me.  The question is at what volume do you consider them to be mass produced.


Manufacturing cars has always been a very difficult task and it takes quite some time and a lot of money to get a vehicle to the point where the car can be built in enough volume to start bringing costs down.  Let's take a quick look at the history of cars.  Carl Benz is usually considered the father of the automobile.  He wasn't the first to make a gas powered vehicle but it is often the case that the first person is not the person who we consider the inventor.  After completing his first car, a 3 wheel single cylinder vehicle, he did what nobody in the past had done, he set out to successfully manufacture and sell these vehicles to others.


It took 26 years until the first mass produced car using interchangeable parts rolled off the assembly line when Ransom Olds' first Curved Dash Oldsmobile rolled out of the factory.  It was another 12 years before Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line that produced entire automobiles.  In Contrast, Tesla began producing the Roadster in 2008 but didn't begin assembly line production until the model S which was first produced in 2012.  Tesla are now producing approximately 6,000 model 3 sedans per week and for me that is mass production.  


There are still issues to be faced in the production and sale of EVs.  One of the biggest is that EVs are more costly up front with lower running costs so they tend to be less expensive over the life of the car.  Americans are taught to look at the up-front costs so it is  hard for them to adjust to a car that costs more but saves money in the long run. 


Infrastructure is still spotty in many places but is getting better.  Tesla now says that there is no place is the continental US that is more than 150 miles from one of their superchargers and it should also be noted that Tesla has an adapter that will allow their vehicles to charge at CHAdeMO fast chargers also.  While not all EVs can use fast charger most can get a full charge overnight at a level 2 charger and can get a pretty decent amount of range with an overnight charge at most 110V outlets.


EVs are not being produced at the same rate as say the Chevy Silverado which is being produced at a rate of around 20 to 25 thousand per week but the Tesla Model 3, now being built at a volume of around 5 thousand per week, is being produced at a faster rate than the Toyota Tacoma is being sold in the US, which is around 4 thousand per week.  Tesla is mass producing vehicles.


For other manufacturers, they often build their EVs on the same line as other vehicles built on the same platform.  For example the Pacifica Hybrid is being built on the same line as the Pacifica at Chrysler's plant in Windsor, Ontario. They do share a lot of common parts so the none plug-in version of this vehicle, and others like it, should also be considered as being built in volume, even though for this specific trim level rates are only about 200 cars per week.


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