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Sunday December 26, 2011 - Predictions for 2011

Sunday December 19, 2010 - EV Myths


Sunday December 26, 2011 - Predictions for 2011 - We are coming to the end of an exciting year so I thought this would be a good time to do my annual predictions for the upcoming year.

In 2010 we saw several manufacturers start shipping electric cars.  Nissan is shipping just a token number of cars this year. So far just one car to each of their initial sales areas.  Chevy has also started shipping the Volt but again it has been just a handful of cars.

Daimler started a trial of the Smart ED but still had about 100 cars left in early November.  They should have leased all of these by the end of the first quarter of 2010.  Ford also started shipping their Transit Connect electric van but will only ship one
to each of the ten fleet customers participating in the trial.  They will ship the other 140 vans early next year but I don't expect them to make the vans available to the public until 2012.

By mid 2011 I expect to see gas prices over $4 a gallon when people go back to taking road trips as the country continues its recovery from the recession. 

The gas price increase will result in a shortage of EVs for all of next year.  GM will only be making 10,000 Volts f2011 so there will be a huge shortage of that vehicle and GM will not have any real competition until 2012.  Look for them increasing production in the second half of next year.

If Fisker manages to get the Karma into production they may be helped by the shortage of Volts.  They are really competing in a different segment of the market, the luxury segment, so this impact is going to be low.  Fisker will remain a low volume manufacturer for the foreseeable future.  For them to succeed it is essential that they get into production soon so I expect cars to start going to customers some time in the second quarter.

Nissan plan on bringing 25,000 Leafs over to the US this year and 20,000 are already spoken for.  The rest will sell out quickly.  Mitsubishi will be able to take advantage of this and should be able to sell all their I cars as quickly as they can get them here.

Wheego Th!nk and Coda could also benefit from the shortage of EVs.  Of the three Wheego is in the best position but they need to get production under way soon.  They will also benefit from selling in all 50 states since, for most states, they will be the only option.

Th!nk has already started production in their Indiana factory and recently delivered 15 cars to that state's fleet, but they are currently concentrating on fleet sales so they won't be shipping to the public until the third quarter of 2011.  They have the advantage of name recognition, and are built in America not China, but their limited top speed relegates them to the city car category so they will be a hard sell unless they can bring them in at a price significantly less than the Leaf or I.

Coda may have some advantage because they have a larger car but they keep slipping their production schedule and the longer they wait the less likely they are to do well.  With production currently delayed until the second half of 2011 things don't look good for Coda.

Things don't look good for the three wheel vehicle makers either.  With plenty of four wheel cars coming to market the three wheel  vehicles will be relegated to niche vehicles.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Aptera fail without going into production.

There will also be some shakeout in the NEV  market too.  Unless there is a move toward a European "Quadracycle" law, and I consider that unlikely now that there are electric car options from the major manufacturers,  the fully enclosed NEV market will go away.  The golf cart style NEV will continue doing fine because such vehicles are still desirable in enclosed communities and campus settings.

 

Range anxiety will end up being a storm in a teacup as people begin to realize that even a 40 mile range car will fit most of their driving needs.  The advent of a growing number of public charging stations will mean that the fear of being left without a charge will go away for all but the most risk averse. 

 

Public charging stations will come out in two flavors, free like those being installed at car dealerships around the country, and fee based chargers like Coulomb.  I will expect to see sites like evchargernews.com update their listings to show which sites are fee based and which allow you to charge for free.  I expect people to make more use of the free chargers, but the fee based chargers will also get used as some people would rather pay for the convenience of charging close by their destination.

The coming year will be exciting as we start to see more and more EVs on the road.  There are opportunities for startup companies that are nimble enough to get their cars into production.  The longer these companies take the less likely they will be to succeed.


Sunday December 19, 2010 - EV Myths - The rollout of the latest electric cars from major manufactures is under way and this has intensified the number of articles bashing electric vehicles.  These articles almost always bring up several ideas that have attained the status of myth.  

 

Most myths have a basis in fact and this is true of the two big myths surrounding vehicle electrification.  The myths have been debunked on many occasions but like a bad penny they keep turning up.  Now, with the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt both being delivered to customers, and the Ford Transit Connect has been delivered to several fleet operators, the number of articles EV bashing has skyrocketed.

 

The first myth is that EVs are dirtier than ICE cars because they are charged from coal fired plants.  There is an element of truth to this since coal fired plants are relatively dirty, but EVs are not charged from coal fired plants, they are charged from the grid which uses a mixture of power sources.

Most electric cars are charged overnight when demand is low.  The three main types of power generation overnight are nuclear, coal, and wind.  The first two are there because long startup times make it impractical to shut them down so when demand drops steam is bled odd directly to cooling towers so charging EVs overnight allow the power plants to run more efficiently.  For wind power the wind just blows more consistently at night.

So, electric vehicles make current electric generation facilities more efficient and allow for huge growth in wind production.  Charging during the day also opens up a huge potential for expanding solar energy.

The second big myth is that electric vehicles don't have enough range.  There is truth here as well for those that drive hundreds of miles each day, but most drivers travel less than 41 miles each day so an electric car with a reliable range of 70 miles is quite adequate for most drivers.

Now, if you are a one car family and like to take long trips they you may need a plug-in hybrid, and until there is a PHEV Minivan there will be a gap for some American families. 

Most families have more than one car and the more cars in the family the more an electric car fits into the mix.  Even single car families can make an EV work by renting a car for the occasional road trip.  Some people do this anyway on the principle that the rental cost may be cheaper than the cost of putting a lot of miles on your car on a road trip.

As more public charging becomes available range will become less and less of an issue.  I remember Greg Hansen telling me that when he first got his EV1 he took out his Thomas Guide and drew a circle with 20 miles radius which represented the area he could safely drive in.  After he had owned the EV1 for a while he learned that by careful driving he could get a lot more miles out of the car, sometimes more than 90 miles.  He also found that he could make his charger portable and then he could plug in anywhere that there was a 220V outlet, and the EV1 had a 110V charger too so he could use that even if he couldn't find a 220V outlet.  On one occasion he drove his EV1 from Irvine, CA to Hilton Head, SC, bit outside the 20 mile radius circle he drew on the Thomas guide.

 

There are a few things that I have found out about electric cars over the years.  Many drivers who really get used to electric cars never want to go back to driving ICE vehicles.  The electric car is more often than not bought as a second car for occasional use but it is the ICE car that gets relegated to that status, often sitting for months between outings.  There is also a natural progression from electric cars to solar and many EV drivers end up installing solar panels on their roofs.

 

Those trying to kill electric cars will try almost anything to stop their mass introduction.  After all, there is a lot of money to be made selling gas even if it is being brought from places around the world where Americans aren't liked very much.  I'm not saying that all the attacks on electric cars are produced by the oil companies and related industries, there are many out there that are resistant to change, but there is now a clear choice, electric cars are here.  They will be showing up in car rental locations soon so give them a try if you can - you are going to like driving them.