2012 Blog Archive
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Sunday Dec 30, 2012 – Trouble at Coda
Sunday Dec 23, 2012 – Tesla Profitability
Sunday Dec 16, 2012, 2012 – Fisker’s Troubles
Sunday Dec 9, 2012 – November 2012 EV Sales
Sunday Dec 2, 2012 – 2012 LA Auto Show
Sunday Nov 25, 2012 – Prius Plug-in Road Trip
Sunday Nov 18, 2012 – Ford’s Plug-in Push
Sunday Nov 4, 2012 – Not ICEing, EVing
Sunday Nov 4, 2012 – October 2012 EV Sales
Sunday October 28, 2012 - Who Pays for Charging
Sunday Oct 21, 2012 – Prius Plug-in Month 2
Sunday Oct 7, 2012 – September 2012 EV Sales
Sunday Sep 30, 2012 – 2012 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo
Sunday Sep 23, 2012 – Climate Change Policy Failures
Sunday Sep 16, 2012 – Plug-in Prius the First Month
Sunday Sep 9, 2012 – August 2012 EV Sales
Sunday September 2, 2012 – CAFÉ 2025
Sunday August 26, 2012 – Romney Energy Plan
Sunday August 19, 2012 – i-MiEV v Pikes Peak
Sunday August 11, 2012 - Prius Plug-in the First Week
Sunday Aug 5, 2012 – July 2012 EV Sales
Sunday Jul 29, 2012 – Drought and Your Gas Tank
Sunday Jul 22, 2012 – Understanding the EV Fueling Model
Sunday Jul 15, 2012 – Delivery by Electric
Sunday Jul 8, 2012 – June 2012 EV Sales
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Sunday Dec 30, 2012 – Trouble at Coda – I was on Prius Chat earlier this week reviewing a thread about charging at Century City Shopping Center here in LA and someone made a comment that the six Coda installed J1772 chargers had been removed. Someone also mentioned that the Coda Experience Center had been shut down.
On Thursday night my wife and I stopped by the Mall and I was able to confirm that the chargers had been removed. There were still a couple of Coda Sedans parked in two of the spaces but three of the other spaces had reverted to regular parking spots. On Saturday I parked in one of these spaces and when I returned to the parking about 1pm the two Sedans had gone.
Further research showed that things were not going well for Coda. They have sold less than 100 sedans since they went on sale in March. This isn’t that surprising since the car, which they are only selling through 4 dealerships, is priced about the same as the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV, both mainstream automotive manufactures.
To add to their woes the NHTSA issued a recall that affected 78 of their vehicles because of a faulty side curtain airbag that may not deploy properly. Adding to the pain the NHTSA released their crash test ratings for the Coda Sedan and while it scored 5 stars in side impact, rear impact, and rollover tests it only managed 2 stars in the front impact test for an overall rating of 4 stars.
The result of these two actions by the NHTSA has been to slow Coda sales to almost nothing. In addition Coda has been trying to raise $150 million in capital but reportedly only managed to get $21.5 million.
On December 11 Brad Berman at plugincars.com broke the news of layoffs at Coda Automotive. According to plugincars.com Forrest Beanum from Coda responded with the following statement. “CODA has released approximately 50 employees or 15% of our workforce across all functions to streamline our operations and right-size the Company. The Company is taking this action to better position our business going forward. We remain committed to the continued development and distribution of our products."
It seems that CODA laid-off a good number of their sales and marketing staff including the folks working at the experience center in Century City. It also appears that they let go most of the engineers working on their next generation vehicle.
The whole situation does not look good for CODA. The poor crash test performance in frontal impact, added to the car’s dated look, are likely to mean very few sales. Even the bigger battery capacity and resulting longer range is unlikely to lure buyers away from more established makes like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV. The tiny dealer network, and the idea of selling only in California, is also going to be a big drawback.
Things are looking pretty bleak for CODA Automotive as a viable maker of electric cars. Unless they can manage some hefty fleet sales in the near future it seems unlikely that they will be able to continue marketing the car.
CODA does have other things to fall back on. They have a technology partnership with a battery company based in China that could make them a major player in the grid storage market space.
I’ve said this plenty of times in the past, starting up a viable car company is very difficult. That’s why the young kid on the block when it comes to major car makers is 72 years old. It takes a lot of capital, a lot of know-how, and a lot of hard work to get a car onto the market, sell it in volume, and grow the business. It is not surprising to see these start-ups fail.
CODA may continue to produce and sell a small number of CODA sedans but it seems unlikely now that they will ever become a volume manufacturer without a major cash infusion.
Sunday Dec 23, 2012 – Tesla Profitability – Earlier this month Elon Musk tweeted to his followers that the company had been cash flow positive for the previous week. This is the first time that Tesla has been cash flow positive since back in 2009 when it was delivering the Roadster.
While this is a minor triumph for the company, and there is lots of work ahead to maintain profitability, the news is nevertheless very good for Tesla Fans.
After pointing out that production for 2013 was already sold out in an interview last week with Bloomberg, Mr. Musk went on to say that the company should become profitable in 2013 as production ramps up.
The Bloomberg interview showed the media hostility toward electric cars. In their opening they talked about sales of the Tesla roadster being “Sluggish” and sales of “only 1,800 cars worldwide”. The first thing Elon Musk did was to point out that the Roadster had always been a limited production car and that sales were actually better than expected. He didn’t correct their sales numbers but by my count Tesla have sold a total of 2,500 Roadsters.
They also kept trying to compare them to Chinese automaker BYD which made Mr Musk laugh. He was obviously trying not to trash the BYD vehicles but anyone who knows anything about that company will know that they are about as different from Tesla as you can get.
He also said something I thought was very significant. He mentioned that the almost no parts were sourced from China. The reason he gave was that the Chinese parts were about 5-10% more expensive than parts sourced closer to home and he was often getting better prices when sourcing parts in California.
Tesla hasn’t grown to the point where they are reporting monthly sales yet so it’s difficult to know just how many Model S cars they have delivered but they do seem to be rolling them out at an ever increasing pace.
Production is still ramping up and there is a cost associated with that ramp-up that needs to be met by sales to continue to remain in the black. At the moment Tesla is in a pretty good situation with over a year’s worth of production already pre-sold, but with a price hike of $2,500 starting in January 2013 there will be a continuing need to build additional sales of the Model S as 2014 approaches.
Another thing that can drag a company out of profitability is the need for warranty work. The Roadster proved to be a very reliable car and so far the Model S also appears to be reliable although I have heard a few instances of problems with this car. A problem resulting in a recall could put a major damper on profitability so I am hoping that this situation won’t arise with the model S.
There is also continued development work on their next model, the Model X, expected in 2014. I think the Model X fits a market niche that is currently not being serviced by the big auto makers so this could be a big seller for Tesla but there is always a big cost to get these new models through crash testing and into production.
In his interview with Bloomberg Mr. Musk said that their next generation car; one that is lower cost and higher production volume, should be ready in about 6 years so there will be ongoing costs to develop this vehicle.
Taken together the news at Tesla has been good recently. The roll-out of the Model S has been a little slower than expected but the car seems to be solid and has been winning many prestigious awards. I hope that Tesla can do what no start up car maker has been able to do for the last 70 years, become a thriving automobile manufacturer.
Sunday Dec 16, 2012, 2012 – Fisker’s Troubles – Fisker is one of the new group of auto manufacturers that are selling plug-in vehicles to the public. The Karma, a gorgeous high end extended range electric sports car that began shipping last year, has been plagued with problems. The company is also working on a follow up car codenamed Atlantic that has also seen a few bumps in the road.
First there were a couple of car fires. These turned out to not be caused by the EV power train but the press jumped on them as it did on the Volt fires to paint the car in a negative light.
Then it was reported that the car delivered to Consumer Reports had died almost immediately. Fisker got the car fixed quickly but the impression was set and when Consumer Reports came out with their review they really panned the Karma.
In March its only battery supplies, A123, discovered a potential defect due to a manufacturing issue and Fisker had to issue a recall to replace battery packs. This eventual lead to A123 filing for bankruptcy in October and they stopped supplying battery packs. A123 moved to liquidate assets leaving Fisker with no supply of batteries.
Fisker still had some battery packs left and was able to assemble about 350 cars which were shipped to the US last month. Approximately 300 of these cars were sitting in port on the East Coast awaiting shipment when super storm Sandy hit. The port facility was flooded by the tidal surge and all 300 cars were destroyed. Now, Fisker no doubt had these cars insured but it is unlikely that they will receive the full retail value for these cars.
The result of the battery supply shortage was to halt the production line in Valmet, Finland until a new source of batteries could be found. There have also been layoffs here in the US where Fisker has cut its workforce by about 50% and is now down to about 300 workers. It also appears that work on the Atlantic is currently on hold.
The assets of A123 were auctioned off earlier this week and the bidding was won by Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang. The deal still has to be approved by both the bankruptcy judge and the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States before it is finalized. Some Republicans in Congress have also shown opposition to this sale so it is by no means a done deal.
Fisker will now need to negotiate with the new owners to get the flow of battery packs started again. The longer the whole process takes the worse things will get for Fisker. They say they have enough battery packs available to meet any warranty issues up through the end of the first quarter of 2013 but beyond that there may also be issues with warranty claims which will not bode well for resale values for existing Karma owners.
I have driven the Karma on a short test drive at the recent LA Auto show but there are not many companies that allow me to drive $100,000 sports cars so I don’t have anything much to compare it with. I found the drive quite good although it certainly didn’t perform as well as I had expected. The car has incredible good looks and although Consumer Reports says that the car “Sacrifices too much function for fashion” I thought that the car was a lot of fun to drive.
I hope that Fisker can weather the current setbacks and get a deal together to get a supply of battery packs. They should also use this time to try and resolve all the glitches that have been reported. Fisker also needs to be aware that warranty work is often the thing that kills most start-up car makers. Today’s consumers expect reliability in their cars, especially when you pay over $100,000 for it. Early adopters are often willing to put up with such glitches just to be the first on their block to drive one, but long term buyers will not plunk down lots of cash for a car that is going to spend half its life in the shop.
Sunday Dec 9, 2012 – November 2012 EV Sales – Sales of plug-in vehicles continue to improve as more options begin to hit the market. Plug-in Hybrids continue to be the big sellers although most Plug-in models saw a drop in sales volume over their October sales numbers.
This month Toyota, who has been heavily discounting the Prius Plug-in, was the top seller. There were 1766 Plug-in Prius sold this month down from 1,889 cars sold in October. Sales of the Toyota RAV4 EV saw another decline this month down from 47 in October to just 32 cars in November for total sales of 140 cars.
Sales of the Chevy Volt dropped from 2961 cars in October to 1519 cars in November after they stopped offering heavy discounts. This still pushed year to date sales of the Volt passed the twenty thousand mark to 20,288 cars sold. While this is still short of the 35,000 cars they had hoped to sell it is still a very impressive sales volume.
Nissan saw a very small drop in the number of Leaf it sold in November to 1539 cars down from the previous month’s year high sales of 1,579 cars. December sales are expected to light has Nissan gears up to offer the US built 2013 Leaf with a new lower priced base model in the first quarter of 2013.
The bright spot this month came from Ford who had their first complete month of sales for the C-Max Energi selling 1259 cars during the month. They also saw an improvement in sales of the Focus EV selling 179 cars in November up from 112 cars sold the previous month. Now that the C-Max Energi is available more Ford dealerships have begun selling the plug-in models and this number, which currently stands at around 200 dealerships, is set to increase dramatically over the next few months as the Fusion Energi comes to market early next year.
Mitsubishi had a better sales month increasing sales to 42 in November. This is the first time in the last six months that Mitsubishi has sold more than 40 cars. They have also said that they will not be making a second generation i-MiEV but will concentrate on the PHEV market with the release of the Outlander PHEV in mid-2013. That’s a pity since low sales in the US of this excellent EV have been hampered more by the low number of sales outlets rather than any issues with the car.
Honda managed to set a sales record for the Fit EV managing to sell 26 cars, or rather lease since this ZEV Mandate compliance car is only available for lease. This is a sizable increase over their previous best month when they sold 16 cars. Honda will be entering the PHEV market next year when the Honda Accord PHEV hits dealerships on January 15, 2013.
Tesla, Fisker, Coda, Th!nk, Wheego, and Smart don’t report sales numbers but some numbers can be guessed at from the various filings that they make.
Tesla has been delivering a growing number of Model S to meet the large number of orders they have for this car. They produced about 800 cars in October but some of these are destined for the Canadian Market. Even so we can guess that they delivered at least 500 cars this month.
Fisker reported in an SEC filing that they were going to deliver 400 Karma to customers in November. Unfortunately many of these cars were in port on the east coast when hurricane Sandy blew through and 350 cars were destroyed in the resulting flooding. We can then extrapolate that 50 cars were delivered this month.
The other bad news for Fisker is related to the bankruptcy of battery maker A123. Since they are no longer supplying battery packs for Fisker the production line in Finland has been idled and so far no restart date has been announced.
I don’t have any sales numbers for the other cars but I do know that Th!nk continues to deliver a small number of the cars through their 4 outlets around the USA and there has been a buzz on the forums that they might be getting some more cars from Europe. We can guess that Coda probably sold about 14 cars and we can assume that Wheego and Smart didn’t sell any.
Wheego expect to receive 100 rolling chassis from China and plan to have them ready by the end of the year. They say that these 100 are, for the most part, spoken for by the 30 dealerships they have around the country. It is likely that they will sell some cars in the coming months although volumes will be low.
I don’t expect any sales at Smart until their next generation EV becomes available in the summer of 2013. These cars will be for sale, not lease only, and after tax incentives their price will be compatible with the gas models. Smart are expecting 30% of sales to come from EVs once they go on sale.
Almost 4600 Plug-in Hybrids were sold in the month of November spurred by sales of the C-Max Energi. This pushes the total sales of Plug-in Cars to around 7,000 for the month of November. Lower sales may also be related to November being a 30 day month, and dealerships being closed for Thanksgiving giving only 28 days for sales.
Sunday Dec 2, 2012 – 2012 LA Auto Show – This week I got to attend the 2012 Los Angeles Auto show. This year was everyone was pushing improved fuel economy, the Cabriolet is making a comeback, and so it the crossover.
Toyota for example launched the latest version of the RAV4. We also saw large sized crossovers from Mitsubishi, Daimler, and many more. Mitsubishi are planning a plug-in version of their new Outlander but we will have to wait until 2014 for that.
We did get some good news, possibly game changing news from Smart. They showed off the Jeremy Scott designed Smart with wings concept that is based on the new Smart electric drive. They announced that Smarts with an updated electric drive will be available in the Spring of 2013 with two models, the Fortwo Coupe EV that will be priced starting at $25,000 and the Fortwo Cabriolet EV that will start at $28,000. According to the guy I talked to at Smart these prices are before tax incentives. In California after the $2500 State rebate and the $7,500 federal tax credit the electric version will be cheaper to buy than the corresponding gas version.
showed off the new Spark EV. This electric version of the Spark features a
20KWhr battery and will be capable of doing 0-60 in less than 8 seconds. It
will come equipped with the new combined low speed/high speed charge port that
will allow Level 1, Level 2, and Fast DC charging. I got my first look at the
charge port and it will take a standard J1772 connector so the Spark
EV will be able to use existing infrastructure. Price will start at around $25,000 after tax incentives making the car very competitive. It will be offered initially in just two states, California and Oregon.
The most fun press conference at the show was the one from Fiat who used amusing adverts to get the message over about the new Fiat 500 EV. One of these ads showed a good looking model climbing into the car while the voiceover said that this was a speed and handling test. The car starts off then begins to swerve and knock over cones, finally spinning out onto the side of the track. When they open the doors the model is making out with a hansom guy and the tag line is “Environmentally Sexy”
The Fiat 500e will offer 80 miles of range on the highway and 100 miles of range in the city. The car will go from 0-60 in 9 seconds. Charge time will be around 4 hours. Fiat says that performance should be consistent in all weather conditions which is unusual for any vehicle.
Honda showed off the Plug-in version of the accord. This car will be the first Honda to use their new two mode hybrid system instead of Integrated Motor Assist. The Accord Plug-in will offer an EPA estimated all electric range of 13 miles. The car will go on sale in California and New York starting January 15, 2013 with a base price of $39,780 before tax incentives.
BMW showed off two concept cars, the i8 plug-in Hybrid and the i3 all electric city car. While these cars are still in the concept stage BMW say that the cars that go into production will be very similar to the ones shown in LA. These cars should be available in 2014.
I also got a chance to test drive some of the latest plug-in cars. I was hoping to get behind the wheel of the Fiat 500e, the Chevy Spark, and the Ford C-Max Energi but none of these vehicles were included in the ride and drive.
I had a 9:15 appointment to drive the Honda Accord Hybrid but there was nobody there with the cars and I was told to just take the car for a test drive. There are good things and bad things about just being handed the keys and driving on your own. The good thing is that you can select your own route but the bad thing is that there is nobody there to describe the features of the car. I also found that the car was not charged so I wound up driving in HEV mode. In HEV mode the car drives pretty much like a standard accord. I did like the blind-spot monitoring that gave me good visibility to see what was at the side of me by putting a video image on the NAV screen.
I also got to drive the new RAV4 EV. While this is a Toyota base the drivetrain is pure Tesla. Again in the short drive around the convention center I didn’t get much of a chance to test the car in different driving modes. I was driving the car in Eco mode but in Eco mode the car drives really well and I never felt like I couldn’t accelerate into a gap in traffic or worried about merging into a fast street from a side street. The previous driver had been driving in sports mode so the estimated range kept going up as I drove; going from 103 miles at the start of my drive to 106 miles by the time I got back to the convention center.
Finally I got to drive the Fisker Karma. Like any sports car the Karma is difficult to get in and out of for us senior citizens and I did manage to bump my head both getting in and getting out, but I found the car to be easier to get in and out of than a Corvette and once inside the ride was quite comfortable. Over the limited circuit around the convention center in downtown LA I wasn’t really able to put the car through its paces but I did get to hit the accelerator on one stretch and while in EV mode the acceleration wasn’t neck snapping I was still pushed back in my seat. The power steering was also nice and precise and I the overall drive was very satisfying.
Nov 18, 2012 – Ford’s Plug-in Push – Sales of plug-in cars have been showing
strong growth over the last few months, led by the Chevy Volt and the Plug-in
Prius. On the other hand, Ford sales have lagged.
This has had a lot to do with Ford’s strategy. They began delivering the Ford Focus EV long after the Nissan Leaf had established itself as the market leader in electric cars. The C-Max Energi has only just started to show up in dealerships giving both the Chevy Volt and Plug-in Prius a sizable lead in market share.
Ford’s strategy appears to have been to take is slowly. When they released the Ford Focus EV they did so through only 60 certified dealers. Something else that slowed sales was that they were only building cars to order so even if you found a certified dealer in your area you couldn’t just walk in and buy one off the lot.
With the introduction of the C-Max Energy in October things have started to change. The number of certified dealers has grown to around 200 and at least some of these dealerships have cars available for purchase.
The dealer certification program is continuing to expand. A further 700 dealerships are either in the process of getting certification or have signed up to become certified dealerships. By early 2013, when Ford is set to release the Fusion Energi they should have 900 certified dealerships spread across all 50 states.
Ford has also done a pretty good job with the cars themselves. The Ford Focus EV for example offers slightly more range than the Nissan Leaf and 6mpge better fuel economy on the EPA ratings.
The C-Max Energi offers an EPA estimated 21 miles of all electric range, better than the 6 miles range that the EPA state for the Prius Plug-in. Now, the Prius Plug-in actually gets more like 11 miles of all electric range but the ICE will come on under hard acceleration and the EPA test does hard acceleration at the 6 mile point. It appears that the C-Max Energi works more like the volt since the engine is not coming on at the 6 mile point like it does for the Prius. These are similar sized vehicles at a similar price so I expect the C-Max Energi to sell well.
When it arrives in dealerships next year the Fusion Energi is also expected to have a range of around 21 miles and to post a fuel economy of around 100mpge. This car is expected to go head to head with the Chevy Volt rather than the Prius Plug-in.
To become certified to sell these cars the dealership must go through electric vehicle training to ensure that the dealership has at least 80% of Sale persons, Sales Managers, Service Advisors and Service Managers are certified on electric cars. The dealership must go through a facility assessment to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency, They must have at least one of each of the plug-in vehicles to be used as demo cars, and they must install at least two charging stations one of which must be available to customers.
I will be watching the sales numbers carefully over the next few months to see how these changes affect Ford’s plug-in sales. It will also be interesting to see if sales of the C-Max Energi impacts sales of the Plug-in Prius.
Sunday Nov 4, 2012 – Not ICEing, EVing – Yesterday I was at Westfield’s Shopping Center in Century City and stopped at the EV charging station. One of the two parking spots was available but the other was filled by a Nissan Leaf.
That might not seem like a surprise but the
Nissan leaf wasn’t charging, it was just using the space as a parking spot.
Now, the signage at Century City says “EV Parking Only” so technically the
driver wasn’t doing anything wrong.
I could even cut him or her a bit more slack by noting that these two parking spaces no longer have a level 2 charging station there, they are only served by an box that contains 4 110V 20A outlets. It is possible that the driver just didn’t realize that this was actually a charging spot and not just a privileged parking space for EV drivers.
Given that the outlets are at eye level as you pull into the spot I doubt that the driver failed to notice them so my guess is that given that this was a busy Saturday afternoon the driver had just grabbed the spot for convenience.
I would also be willing to bet that if the same driver was in desperate need for a charge and found someone blocking the charging spot they would yell bloody murder. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the driver got really upset if they needed a charge and found me charging my plug-in hybrid since I don’t really need a charge to get home.
Now the truth is that these spots rarely get used for charging. I think this is in part because they are 110V so the charge rate is only about 5 miles of range per hour of charge, and partly because these spaces are not well document in the various charger search engines like re-cargo and plug-share. Recargo makes them look like they are located at the same location as the Coda chargers while Plug-share still shows the old style Inductive chargers.
In this area public chargers are reasonably common and I have only seen a few occasions where all of the spaces have been taken by charging vehicles. This occurs most often and Santa Monica place where all the J1772 chargers are often all in use. The other place is at LAX where it is so common for the EV chargers to be fully occupied that EV drivers can no longer consider using their EV if they cannot get home again from the airport without a charge.
ICEing, where a car driven solely by an internal combustion engine parks in an EV charging spot, has long been a problem with EV charging spots. EV drivers have complained long and hard about this so you would think that they would not feel like they can block chargers at will, but EVing a charging spot is become all too common an occurrence.
My message today is that if you drive a plug-in car and need a charge then park in the charging space and connect to the charger. If you don’t need a charge then please leave the charging space open for someone who may need it to get home safely.
Sunday Nov 4, 2012 – October 2012 EV Sales – October saw a disruption in gas supplies in California pushing gas prices up to over $5 a gallon in some locations. We also saw a surge in plug-in car sales led by the plug-in hybrids
winner again in October was the Chevy Volt. GM missed the 3000 mark by just a
handful of cars but still managed their best month ever selling 2,961 Volts in
the US. While I don’t have sales numbers for Europe the Chevy Volt/Opel
Ampera/Vauxhall Ampera is the top selling Plug-in in Europe too accounting for
as many as 1 in 5 of all plug-in sales.
Toyota has also gotten more aggressive with both advertising and pricing for the Prius Plug-in and the sales numbers for October reflect this. With 1,889 Plug-in Prius sold Toyota had the best sales month ever for its plug-in Hybrid, handsomely beating the previous record of 1,654 set in April; the first full month of sales. It should also be remembered that the PIP is still only being sold in a limited number of states and is not set to sell nationwide until 2013.
Toyota also sold 47 RAV4 EVs in the second month of sales. The RAV4 EV is only being sold in 2 states and is being sold without any sort of advertising.
Nissan also had a good sales month in October. Sales of the leaf hit 1,579 cars making this the second best sales month for Nissan. With the US built 2013 arriving in dealerships soon and a cheaper base version on the way we should see Leaf sales start to grow in the coming months.
Tesla doesn’t give out monthly sales figures but it did announce that they had completed their 1000 model S bodies. Inside EV did some calculations and estimate that Tesla delivered around 290 cars in October, a number that seems to be a good estimate to me.
Another company that hit their best sales month so far is Ford who managed to move 112 Ford Focus EVs in October. While Ford has said they would only build to customer orders I do see dealerships in California that appear to have Ford Focus EVs in inventory. Ford is keeping the car very low key so limited sales are not surprising. Still, some dealerships are offering low cost leases to match the ones being offered by Nissan on the Leaf which has definitely improved sales.
This month also saw the first deliveries of the C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid. There were just 5 cars delivered without any fanfare, but I expect sales to move higher in November as Ford begins delivering to those who have pre-ordered.
One dark spot this month was in sales of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV which only managed to sell 30 cars this month, down from 36 cars in September.
Honda also failed to increase sales this month coming in at 16 cars, the same number they posted in September. Their plan is to lease 40 per month in California and Oregon until they have sold 1,100 vehicles. It’s a pity really because the Honda Fit EV is an excellent EV.
Honda also managed to lease 2 Clarity Fuel cell vehicles in October.
Fisker, Coda, Smart, Th!nk and Wheego do not report sales of their EVs so we can’t be sure how many they sold. I would hazard a guess that Fisker probably sold around 80 Karma this month. I know that Th!nk delivered a couple of truckloads of their City EV to Oregon in mid-October and most of these have sold so let’s say 16 cars. A twitter post from Wheego indicated that at least 1 LiFe had been delivered. Coda has been averaging around 14 cars per month and that is probably in the ballpark for their October deliveries. I haven’t found any indication that Smart sold an EV this month.
Based on the numbers above it’s a fair bet that at least 6700 Plug-in cars were sold this month, not counting NEVs. That means that there were more plug-in cars sold this month than the total US sales for companies like Volvo, Mitsubishi, and Porsche.
I expect Sales of Plug-in cars to continue to climb as more people experience the fun of driving electric.
Sunday October 28, 2012 - Who Pays for Charging - I was on the Prius Chat Plug-in Prius forum looking at a thread about chargers being ICEed at a Walmart store and someone had asked the question "who pays for the charging". That's a good question.
There is no one answer to this question; it all depends on the charging station.
There is a growing number of charging stations that are pay to charge. This includes stations in the Chargepoint and Blink networks that allow for hourly fees for charging, but also includes some companies that have found interesting ways to collect revenue.
Take Coda for example. They have an Experience Center in Century City Shopping Center in LA. They installed 6 chargers but only used one so the others were available to the public for free. The chargers became quite popular and were often all in use. As Coda's business grew they needed more chargers for the demo vehicles they had so public charging got squeezed.
Eventually Coda stopped allowing public charging altogether but I suspect that this was not a good move for a company trying to build an electric vehicle business. Eventually they allowed public charging on the two unused chargers at a cost of a dollar per hour which covers the cost of electricity for most charging.
The GE chargers they have do not have any provision for collecting payment but the standard J1772 charger head has a hole that can be used to lock the charger in place. Coda installed padlocks on all their chargers. Now you have to park at a charger then go the Coda store, pay for the amount of time you want to charge, then someone from the store goes down with you to the car, unlocks the charger and sets the timer. When it's time to leave you go back to the store and someone goes down with you to unlock the charger so you can leave.
Both the Blink and Chargepoint networks allow their chargers to be configured as pay-per-hour. In this area all the Blink chargers are now set up to charge between $1.50 and $2.00 per hour depending on membership type. Most Chargepoint chargers are still free in some locations.
So why would anyone install free charging?
The electric vehicles that are currently being sold are quite expensive and the people who buy them tend to have more than average disposable income. These are people you want to bring into your store. In addition it takes a long time to charge a car so that helps keep people in the store increasing the likelihood they will buy stuff.
For example, Beverly Hills has installed chargers at almost all the city owned parking lots. I can park art the charger in the lot on Crescent drive and grab a quick charge while I shop at Rite-Aid, Whole Foods, and Beverly Market or eat at one of the restaurants on Cannon drive. The cost is quite small for the city but it brings in revenue for both local businesses and sales tax revenue for the city.
Kohls installed chargers at select stores and recently began expanding to other locations. In their press release John Worthington, Chief Administrative Officer, was quoted as saying that they had, “received extremely positive feedback from our customers who are excited about the added convenience”. It also appears that they get benefits above the green credit though, it has been reported that EV drivers spend 45 minutes longer and $50 more in the store than the average shopper. This is well worth the dollar or so in electricity that the charging costs the store.
One of the issues is that nobody really knows what to charge for EV charging. If you charge too much then people will not use the chargers but if you charge too little you run the risk of not being able to cover your costs.
For example the Whole Foods store in Santa Monica has a Blink charger that has a guest rate of $2 an hour. That’s equivalent to $10 per gallon gas if you drive a Prius Plug-in. Why would I shop there when I can charge near the Beverly Hills store and get a free charge. Of course there is no sense driving a long way just to be able to charge, so if you are like me and live closer to the Beverly Hills store than the Santa Monica store then it makes a lot more sense to use your local store and skip the charge if it is going to cost too much.
Another example would be the Walgreen’s store in Aliso Viejo which charges $2 per hour for charging with a $2 minimum. A stop at Walgreens would last 20 to 30 minutes so why would anyone pay the equivalent of $4.00 per hour to charge there unless they were desperate for a charge to get home? Of course there are other shops in the area that might benefit but that is unlikely to pull Plug-in drivers into that Walgreen’s store.
The big cost to any business is the cost of the parking spot followed by the installation cost for the charger. The actual cost of electricity for a charge is not great. At 220V a full charge for my Prius Plug-in takes 90 minutes and uses about the same amount of electricity it takes to roast a chicken.
I do know that I have started to support businesses that provide free or low cost charging and I think that most EV drivers will too. It’s a good way to attract customers and that gives a company a competitive edge over companies that don’t have chargers or charge higher fees.
Sunday Oct 7, 2012 – September 2012 EV Sales – September was the best month ever for sales of plug-in vehicles as new sales incentives start to have an impact and gas prices remain high. For the first month ever Plug-in car sales topped 5,000 vehicles.
It started out with Chevrolet who turned in their best month ever for the volt with 2851 cars sold narrowly surpassing the 2831 cars they sold in August and almost four times the number of cars they sold in September 2012.
also been giving sales incentives for the Plug-in Prius which boosted sales to
1652 cars, just 2 short of the record 1654 cars they sold in April and much
better than the 1047 cars they sold in August.
Toward the end of September Toyota very quietly began to sell the RAV4 EV. They are currently the only car company that is selling both a plug-in Hybrid and a pure EV. In September they delivered 61 RAV4 EVs to customers.
While Nissan didn’t set a sales record, their total leaf sales of 984 cars was their best month so far this year and was much improved over the 685 cars they sold in August.
Sales of the Ford Focus EV also improved last month increasing sales from 34 in August to 59 in September. This was their second best sales month being bested only by the 89 cars they delivered in June.
Sales of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV dropped from 37 last month to 36 in September, less than half the 88 cars they sold back in May.
Honda Fit EV sales climbed from 9 cars in August to 16 cars in September. They have now leased 32 of the 1,000 cars they plan to make available in the US.
It appears that Smart failed to sell any of the Smart ED cars this month.
Tesla, Fisker, Coda, Th!nk and Wheego don’t report month over month car sales so we will have to wait until their shareholder reports come out to get an idea how well their cars are selling. We can make some educated guesses though.
Tesla announced recently that they were ramping up production slower than expected and as of September 23 they had built 255 Model S sedans, delivering 132 cars to customers. Assuming the 45 estimate for August was correct then they delivered 87 cars. Current build rate appears to be around 100 per week, but we can assume that they are only going to deliver a small number of cars in the last week of September. It’s a pretty safe guess that they delivered at least 100 cars in September, outselling all other pure electric cars except the Leaf.
Fisker is also reported as saying that they delivered about 150 Karma plug-in hybrids to customers in September. This seems like a reasonable number although the poor rating that they received from Consumer Reports is bound to impact sales going forward.
Coda also doesn’t report monthly sales numbers but according to TheEEStory they have been averaging about 14 vehicles per month.
Th!nk is still in bankruptcy but have been slowly completing cars at their Elkhart, IN plant and recently delivered a truck load of Blue Th!nk Cities to Oregon. Latest reports are that all the cars have been sold and there were also a few sales from their East Coast distributor so a good guess would be 10 cars sold in September.
Wheego didn’t sell any Wheego LiFe this month. Their production has been halted as they tried to get a waiver from the government on vehicle stability control requirements. They received this waiver for a limited number of cars at the end of September and production was scheduled to restart on October 1.
While armchair pundits continue to proclaim that Plug-in cars are a failure more and more people are beginning to learn that they are a viable alternative to gas cars. With the prospect of fuel shortages and $5 a gallon gas looming in California we might just see another bumper month in October.
Sunday Sep 30, 2012 – 2012 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo – Friday and Saturday saw the annual Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo being held at the Santa Monica Civic Center. I decided to go on Saturday morning.
This weekend was also the weekend of “Carmagedon II”, where the 405 freeway in West LA was closed for the weekend while part of a bridge over the freeway was being demolished. My route to Santa Monica is over surface streets but I did need to go under the closed stretch of the 405 and I was worried about heavy congestion in that area. It turned out that most people were staying away from the area and traffic was light for a Saturday morning.
The expo was also quiet when I arrived just after 10am and the exhibit hall was mostly empty. The mix of exhibitors was quite different this year. Usually there are several people at the expo who are doing EV conversions or are trying to develop a new electric car. This year the exhibit space was taken up mostly with charger manufacturers and there were a few stands with electric bicycles.
At the Plug-in America stand I noticed and old friend of mine, Paul Scott. I hadn’t seen Paul for several years so it was nice to catch up. Paul now sells the Nissan Leaf at the Nissan Dealer in downtown LA and he told me that the car was really starting to move since Nissan introduced the new lower lease rates. He told me that he had sold five last week and already had two more to be delivered next week. I think we might see much better sales numbers for the Leaf when Nissan report sales for September.
Honda was also represented in the exhibit hall with the first showing of the new Plug-in Hybrid Honda Accord. This car looks pretty much like the newly released 2013 Accord model but comes with a plug. I didn’t see anyone around to get more info about the car so I snapped a photo and moved on.
After grabbing a $2 cup of so-so coffee I decided to head for the ride and drive area outside.
Registration to drive the cars is pretty straight forward but for some reason GM wanted a separate form filled out before you could drive one of their vehicles. Since I had driven the Volt several times already I decided to pass on GM and walked over to the Wheego display
Wheego had a LiFe available for a test drive. My first question was to see if Wheego had received the waiver on vehicle stability control that they had applied for. The answer was yes so the Wheego LiFe is once again for sale. I was told that they were going to be allowed to build a limited number of cars and that production would start on Monday at their Ontario, CA factory. They are currently working on adding stability control and that should be available soon.
Another piece of information is that Wheego are also developing a new vehicle, this time a compact crossover. The new car should be ready to show at next year’s Alt Fuel expo.
I was a little disappointed in the Wheego LiFe. I had a little trouble getting it into the right gear. What confused me was that Neutral was marked green and this made me think that I was in Neutral when I was actually in reverse. It’s something that a driver would get used to quickly but it was still a little confusing for a newbie driver.
The car performed quite well on the road although it did have quite a high whine from the transmission in both acceleration and regen. This doesn’t bother me much; the sound was very George Jetson, but it may bother others.
After I got back from my Wheego test drive I moved next door to the Ford stand hoping to get a test drive of the C-Max Energi. They had a C-Max hybrid there but not the energi and as I had already driven the Focus EV I decided to pass on to the Honda Stand. Honda had three cars for test drive, the Civic CNG, the Clarity, and the Fit EV. Since the CNG didn’t really interest me and I have already driven the Clarity, I decided to give the Fit EV a drive.
The Fit EV looks very much like the standard Fit on the outside. I haven’t driven the standard Fit but I suspect the EV version drives somewhat better. This car is well build and lots of fun to drive.
Honda had provided a combination of six different driving selections and you can switch from one to the other on the fly as you drive. There are three different driving modes, Sport, Standard and Eco. For each of these modes you can select D for standard Drive or B for enhanced regenerative braking.
Each mode has its own characteristics and you can switch between modes depending on your current situation. For example is heavy stop and go driving you may chose eco mode with the drive set to B while if you have a short enough trip, and an open road, you can put the car in sport mode and D to really get the torque to the wheels.
I think the Fit EV just overtook the i-MiEV as my favorite EV. It is unfortunate that this car is only available in limited numbers and a limited market.
I just had time to test drive one more EV and the top of my list was the new RAV4 EV that just went on sale in California. This car has been jointly developed by Toyota and Tesla and I am getting some rave reviews.
Unfortunately everyone else is hearing the rave reviews too and the line for a test drive was way too long for the remaining time I had available. I decided to pass on the RAV4 EV and hope that they will have one available at the LA Auto show in November.
Instead I went over to check out the solar car port. Charging away under the solar car port were a variety of electric cars including Volts, a BMW Active-e, two of the older RAV4 EVs, a Leaf, and even a Porsche 914 conversion. I am happy to say that the City of Santa Monica has increased the number of charging stations at the Civic center and there were still a couple of charging spots available.
Charging there is free but the $10 per day parking fee still makes it an expensive option but if you are in Santa Monica for the day then it’s not a bad choice for parking.
Even though my time at the Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo was short I still had a very good time and I am encouraged to see the array of new plug-in vehicles that are now available, or will be soon.
Sunday Sep 23, 2012 – Climate Change Policy Failures – I just finished reading Howard A. Latin’s book Climate change Policy Failures (World Scientific, 2012) and it proved to be a major eye opener for me.
Howard A Latin is Professor of Law and Justice John J. Francis Scholar at Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, NJ. Over the last 30 years he has travelled the world conducting research into global climate change and international biodiversity conservation issues, and has published many articles on environmental law, torts, and product liability.
In climate change policy failures he points out how the existing approach, which is based on reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions to below a fixed level, which he calls business as usual, just isn’t going to work.
He reviews current legislation including carbon taxes and cap and trade programs and shows how they all have the same basic flaw so none of them will achieve the required results. He is able to show quite convincingly that such programs, based as they are on gradual carbon emissions reduction over decades, is going to be just too little too late.
He also goes into one of the basic issues of the climate change debate, the conflict between the developed nations, who want to reduce carbon emissions without impacting their lifestyles, and the developing nations who don’t want to do anything that will impact their growth and shows how this is creating a major block on building a workable carbon mitigation policy.
Professor Latin also proposes a solution; pursuing a greenhouse gas free replacement technology strategy. His mesage is that only by pursuing a strategy that stops any increase in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere can we hope to prevent severe impacts from climate change.
Professor Latin also sees the current lack of co-operation in our government and the influence of powerful special interest groups as a major road block to truly addressing climate change issues
If I would find any fault with this book it would be the lack of any review of climate change science. In my opinion a review of the science of climate change would help better understand the issues we face. Having said that, Professor Latin does provide a large number of references if anyone wants to do further reading on the subject.
This book changed my whole thinking about the issues of climate change mitigation strategies. It made me realize that even the most aggressive plans we have seen from government fall way short of what is needed to prevent serious issues caused by global warming. It is a must read for anyone interested in the welfare of future generations.
John Sliwinski, Philadelphia, PA Wrote
I have been reading your blog for a few years now. I really admire your ambition and dedication toward promoting the EV industry.You are really one of my hero's. As an environmentalist I have been worried about global warming for years. I am also concerned about peak oil finally arriving. I was searching You Tube about a month ago and ran into a BBC documentary called "The Great Global Warming Swindle".
I watched this in its entirety and I was totally shocked. I did some research and I started finding more and more data that I could not believe. It appears that people are very much divided on this topic like Republicans and Democrats. Most people seem to be believers and feel global warming and pollution is the same thing. I see a global scam that is using the idea of saving the earth in order to tax and control everything in our lives. There are just so many things that stink about the global warming science.- Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. We breathe this out all the time.
We would be dead if it were not for carbon dioxide. The plants need it to live. Greenhouses add it to make plants grow faster.
What is wrong with carbon? I am made of carbon the trees are made of carbon. Being carbon neutral is a biased slogan for the cause.
Al Gore mention in his movie that it is carbon dioxide that follows temperature and not temperature following carbon dioxide. This makes perfect sense because most CO2 is generated by decomposing organic matter on land and in the oceans. The data for his hockey stick graph was secret and had to be accessed from the freedom of information act. Also the graph was missing important data and changes sources half way through to support the conclusion. Al Gore has gotten rich from this. He has bought carbon credits from a company that he owns.
The earth has been cooling since 1998 even though CO2 levels have been rising. Up until 1978 we were threatened with global cooling after 4 decades of cooling even though man made CO2 production was increasing.- Carbon dioxide is only .003% of the atmosphere. Everything that humans do accounts for 3% of .003%. 97% of all CO2 has a natural source.- Global warming has not been proven to be caused by CO2.
Water vapor accounts for 95% of all greenhouse gasses.- Warming and cooling of the earth has been proven to be related to solar activity. Yes it is the sun that makes us warmer.- People that don’t believe this are call deniers and skeptics and are either discredited or are threatened in some way.
Things are dramatized. Ice-burgs falling into the sea. This is like leaves that fall from the trees, it has been happening for centuries. Smoke stacks with water vapor that leads you to think this is all CO2.
This list could go on and on. How much proof is enough? Global warming research has increased from $200 million to $4 billion dollars a year. I think we could get rid of a lot more pollution if we used that $4 billion dollars for solar panels every year. As an environmentalist I would like to see the pollution problem separated from the Global Warming problem.
Sunday Sep 9, 2012 – August 2012 EV Sales – After a disappointing July, sales of Plug-in cars rebounded somewhat in August, especially the plug-in hybrids.
GM had a relatively good month in July selling 1849 Volts, but in August they blew past that number to garner their bestselling month so far, selling 2831 cars. I’m not sure if they can sustain this level in September when the Hamtramck plant, where the Volt is built, will be closed for 4 weeks as they retool for the new Impala.
After an initial sales rush following its launch, sales of the Prius Plug-in had hovered at just under 700, with 695 sold in June and 688 in July. Sales for the month of August rebounded with 1047 cars sold. Considering that Toyota is only selling the car in 15 states this should be regarded as quite a good sales level.
Nissan Leaf sales rebounded up to 685 cars up from just 395 cars sold in July. Nissan began offering a lower cost lease option in July and this may account for some of the increase in sales. What might be damaging sales right now are persistent rumors that there will be a price drop on the Leaf.
Ford saw yet another drop in sales of the Focus EV falling to 34 cars sold down from 38 the previous month. Ford should be starting sales of the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid soon so it will be interesting to see how sales of that will go.
Ford is still selling through a limited number of dealerships in just three states so it isn’t surprising that sales are low. Volume should pick up as more dealers in more states are added to the group selling this EV.
Mitsubishi have re-introduced the name i-MiEV since nobody used the term Mitsubishi I. While overall sales at Mitsubishi were low in August they did see sales of the i-MiEV increase to 37, up from 33 in July, but still well short of the 88 cars they sold in May.
August was the first full month of sales of the Honda Fit EV but they only managed to lease 9 cars, up from 7 in July. The Fit EV is available only for lease and only in California and Oregon. They will only produce about 1,000 vehicles in total so sales of the Honda fit EV won’t have a big impact on the number of electric cars on the road, and I don’t expect to see big sales numbers for this car.
It also appears that Honda leased 1 Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle in August.
Insider.com reported that Tesla had 45 cars ready for delivery in August but a minor issue with a sensor meant that the cars were held until August 27 so we don’t know how many of the cars actually made it to customers.
Th!nk are still assembling the last few cars at the Elkhart plant in Indiana and there is a possibility that they may still be receiving cars from Norway. They have delivered a few cars to dealers in August but there is no indication of how many.
The other two major sellers of electric cars, Fisker, and Coda don’t report the number of sales they have each month. Insider.com reported that Fisker had sold about 250 cars worldwide.
With over 4000 plug-in hybrid sold in August, assuming that half the Fisker Karma sold were sold in the US. It appears that people are beginning to accept these cars. Given that the Chevy plant will be closed for most of September, it is likely that sales of the Volt will be down this month but I hope that we will see sales of plug-in cars trending up over the next few months.
Sunday September 2, 2012 – CAFÉ 2025 – This week, after months of wrangling, the new CAFÉ standard for 2025 was finally approved. This new standard effect cars from model year 2017 to 2025 and would require new cars sold by 2025 to have a fleet average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists the new standards would cut oil consumption by 3.1 million barrels of oil per day by 2030, save consumers and average of $8,000 over the life of a 2025 model year vehicle, and reduce the amount of global warming pollution produced in the US by 2030 which would be the equivalent of taking 85 million of today’s vehicles off the road.
Stephanie Dryer, a spokesperson for Operation Free, a group of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who gets most of their funding from the Truman National Security Project said, “Under the new gas mileage standards, by 2025 we will cut our oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day — equal to half of the oil we now import from OPEC. Making the cars and trucks on America’s roads go farther on a gallon of gas will save Americans $80 billion at the pump every year by 2030 and create 150,000 jobs. We applaud this forward-looking policy for providing a boost to the long-term security and economy of the United States.”
There were plenty of people opposed to this CAFÉ standard mostly those that see this as just another government plot to limit their freedom. Mitt Romney will be pandering to these potential voters; he has already vowed to overturn the standard if he gets elected.
So the question is will we see a fleet average of 54.5mpg in 2025, and the answer is most likely no. First of all the fleet average is not calculated using the current EPA test criteria which offers fuel economy numbers that are pretty close to what you get in the rear world. They are based on the earlier test criteria which gives inflated mpg numbers. According to John O’Dell at Edmunds.com, the true fleet average is going to be something like 36mpg but this is still quite a bit better than the 23 mpg that we had for car, trucks and SUVs sold in June 2012.
In the end the US automakers are going to have to make their cars more fuel efficient or they are going to go out of business, it’s as simple as that. The European, Japanese, and Korean carmakers are upping the fuel efficiency of the cars they build and they are going to keep doing that irrespective of if the US CAFÉ standard is in place or not. If the US carmakers can’t respond then they will see more and more sales going to their more fuel efficient competitors.
The good news is that the US carmakers are responding. Ford’s new Ecoboost system for example has been applied on the F-150 Truck, the most popular vehicle on the planet, producing a truck with the performance of the V8 and the 19 mpg combined fuel economy of the V6. GM is also doing well with the Cruze Eco which turned in a respectable 40.4 mpg in a recent Motor Trend test.
The question is can the auto makers really produce cars that return close to 54.5 miles at an affordable price. Right now the closest we have is the Prius line of hybrids starting with the Prius C which, at a base price of around $19,000, which can return an impressive 50 mpg. The Prius Liftback also comes in at around 50 mpg and the larger Prius V wagon turns in a combined 42 mpg. Clearly car companies can already build cars that come close to 54.5 mpg but many of these cars require new technologies and right now that moves the typical consumer out of their comfort zone.
US consumers are also notorious at thinking in the short term. They look at the car’s sticker price and don’t take into account the overall cost of ownership which includes fuel costs, maintenance costs and depreciation. In the end we are going to have to decide do we go for more efficiency now or squander our resources and leave the mess for our grandchildren. The new Café standard can help us stretch out the finite resource oil, and give us a chance to find long term sustainable alternatives.
Sunday August 26, 2012 – Romney Energy Plan – In a speech given in Hobbs, MN on August 23, 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney outlined his energy policy. The key part of his policy calls for energy independence for North America by 2020.
“North America” is the key phrase here. He isn’t calling for energy independence for the US by 2020 but for North America, meaning the US, Canada, and Mexico. What his plan really calls for is the shift from oil imports from the Middle East to oil imports from Canada and Mexico and will include building the Keystone XL pipeline to import oil from the Canadian tar sand deposits.
His energy policy also includes the concept of giving states control to issue permits for drilling on federal land. It would open up more offshore drilling starting with an area where President Obama has already approved oil exploration; but has not yet issued drilling permits; the Virginia Coast. The policy would also include an assessment of all US oil and gas resources, streamline the issuing of permits for new oil and gas drilling, and for the most part, shift development of new energy technologies to the private sector.
Romney claims that his plan will reduce the trade deficit and strengthen the dollar. I’m not sure how much the deficit will be reduced since it looks like most of the money will just flow to our neighbors to the north and south instead of to the Middle East. Oil prices are set on the international market so the fact that we are buying Canadian Shale Oil instead of Saudi crude makes little difference to the amount we pay.
He also claims that aggressive drilling will result in an additional 3.6 million new jobs. This claim appears to be based on a report by Citigroup published in March that many Economists think is wildly optimistic.
It also seems likely that to reach the goal of energy independence by 2020 we will need to cut oil consumption drastically. To help accomplish this Congress introduced new CAFE standards that would dramatically increase fuel consumption in new cars sold after 2025. This drive to achieve a fleet average of 54.5 mpg would produce considerable reductions in oil consumption even as early as 2020. The problem is that Romney has already expressed his intention to repeal the new CAFÉ standards. This could have a huge impact not only on energy independence but also on the ability of US carmakers to remain competitive against European and Japanese carmakers that are being driven by their local governments to produce cars that will meet or exceed a 54.5 mpg fleet average.
In the end the Romney energy policy is just a rehash of Sarah Palin’s “Drill baby drill”. It totally fails to meet any sort of effort to address global warming, it doesn’t really address true energy independence for the US, and it fails miserably at conserving a precious and finite resource; Oil. I hope we see some real changes to address these issues before the election.
Sunday August 19, 2012 – i-MiEV v Pikes Peak - Sunday, August 12 saw the running of the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb which now includes an electric vehicles category. Climbing steep hills can be a hard on electric cars often causing a substantial loss of range, so a hill climb race is the ultimate challenge.
The Pikes Peak hill climb has been run since 1916. The “Race to the Clouds” gains 4720 feet over a 12.42 mile course that includes 156 turns, many of them hairpin bends. The race attracts developers who use it as a proving ground for new automotive technology.
This year’s race was won by Rhys Millen in a Hyundai Genesis Coupe specially modified for the race. His willing time of 9:46.165 set a new record for the event, Winning the electric vehicle category, and coming in 6th place overall was the Toyota Motorsport TMG EVP002 driven by Fumio Nutahara in 10:15.38. Like Rhys Millen’s Hyundai this car was specially engineered for the race.
In 8th place overall and second in the EV category was Hiroshi Masuoka in a modified Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution. What makes this run more impressive is that Mausouka crashed the car on the first day of practice and the front end had to be rebuilt, meaning that he was unable to practice again before the start of the race.
Another impressive performance from Mitsubishi came from Beccy Gordon who drove the only street legal electric car in the race. Her Mitsubishi i-MiEV was unmodified with the exception of safety equipment like a racing harness and modified bumpers. She still managed to make the climb in 15:10.557 placing 6th in the EV category and 126th overall out of a total of 170 cars.
Commenting about the performance of the car Beccy said, "The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was awesome. It produced a lot more power – especially torque – than I had expected. The handling was also very good because so much of the car's weight – the electric motor and lithium-ion batteries – sit so low in the chassis. This allowed me to carry much more speed into the corners than I expected, and the torque from the electric motor helps to propel the car out of the corners. The car is really peppy,"
The fact that a street legal electric car can handle such a challenging route, and do so at an average speed of a little over 47mph, says a lot for the current crop of electric cars. And remember, while the car lost a lot of range on the way up it will gain some on the way back down something that your average family sedan just can’t do.
Sunday Aug 5, 2012 – July 2012 EV Sales – July sales of Plug-in cars continued to disappoint as sales slipped again over June fueled by further drops in the sales of the Plug-in Prius and all of the battery electric vehicles from companies that report sales.
Only GM seem to be doing well as sales of the Volt increased again in July to 1849 units up from 1760 in June. In July GM also celebrated a significant milestone as the 30,000th Volt rolled off the assembly line.
July saw another drop in the sale of the Plug-in Prius but this was only a very modest drop of just 7 cars, selling 688 Plug-in Prius in July down for 695 in June. Although these numbers are relatively low we should remember that the Plug-in Prius is only being sold in 15 States.
After a modest sales increase in July, sales of the Nissan Leaf dropped to just 395 cars. The reason for lackluster sales isn’t clear since dealerships, at least here in Southern California, do have cars in inventory. Nissan also began offering a lower cost lease option in July but it doesn’t seem to have had a big impact.
If sales don’t pick up again soon Nissan may re-think the decision to begin production of the leaf in Tennessee.
Sales of the Ford Focus EV and also soft in July where they sold only 38 cars down from 89 cars in June. Ford Dealers also appear to have cars in inventory here in Southern California although the number of vehicles they have is very limited.
Ford is still selling through a limited number of dealerships in just three states so it isn’t surprising that sales are low. Volume should pick up as more dealers in more states are added to the group selling this EV.
Sales for the Mitsubishi I, stayed level in July at 33, the exact same number as they sold in June.
Honda also began shipping their Fit EV to customers in July leasing 7 vehicles during the month. The Fit EV is available only for lease and only in California and Oregon. They will only produce about 1,000 vehicles in total so sales of the Honda fit EV won’t have a big impact on the number of electric cars on the road.
Th!nk still have a few of their 2011 model year cars left to sell and did ship a small number of cars to customers in July but total numbers are not available.
The other three major sellers of electric cars, Tesla, Fisker, and Coda don’t report the number of sales they have each month.
It appears that sales of battery electric cars falls and rises with gas prices. As prices pulled back in July so did the number of electric cars sold. Another issue I am seeing is that there appears to be less fleet sales of cars than we saw in the 1997-2003 period. At that time cities like Beverly Hills and Newport Beach would have around 10 EVs in their fleet but currently cities don’t appear to be acquiring electric cars. These fleet buyers could make a significant impact on EV sales.
I must say that I found July sales, other than the numbers for the Volt, to be very disappointing. Of course we don’t know how many of their Model S that Tesla has delivered which may have been a sizable number given the number of orders they have. Overall, I am quite disappointed with the lackluster BEV sales for the past month.
It does appear that people are voting for Plug-in Hybrids over pure electric vehicles at the moment but that was to be expected. Once plug-in hybrid owners realize they can run electric quite happily with a 40 miles range Plug-in hybrid then a 100 mile range BEV will quite possibly be their next choice, I’m hoping to see better sales numbers for August.
Sunday Jul 29, 2012 – Drought and Your Gas Tank – According to Federal Government statistics 2012 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record. The Mid-West and parts of the East Coast are baking in unusually high temperatures and low rainfall and more than three thousand counties have already been declared disaster areas due to severe drought conditions.
The drought is wreaking havoc with crops in the farm belt which will lead to unusually low yields on crops this fall. Especially hard hit is going to be two of the major cash crops grown in the USA, Corn and soybeans.
It is amazing how many product use these two crops. Most soft drinks sold in the US for example use high fructose corn syrup in place of sugar. Soy protein is used in a whole bunch of foods. One of the big uses of these two products is in animal feed stocks.
A shortage of these two crops is going to drive up food prices. Economist expect to see a short term drop in the price of meat, especially beef, as farmers sell of their stock early to avoid the higher cost of animal feed. Once the initial selloff has occurred meat prices will begin to rise. Other products that use these two staples as their base will probably not be so lucky so look to see higher costs for a whole range of food products toward the end of the year.
The US also exports large quantities of both these products and it is likely that exports are going to be the most severely hit. This means that we can expect to see a big increase in the trade deficit and this will impact countries that rely on imports for the US to feed their populations and in the end people are going to go hungry.
So you might ask what this has to do with your gas tank.
Most states now use ethanol as an oxygenate for gasoline. It is added to gas to help it burn cleaner. In states like California gasoline contains 10% ethanol and the EPA has just upped the maximum amount allowable to 15%.
In the USA most ethanol is produced from corn so if the price of corn goes up so does the cost of ethanol and this will lead to higher gas prices. Since ethanol makes up only a small portion of the cost of gas that price rise won’t be too much, but even a few cents per gallon adds up to a lot of money when you consider the millions of gallons of gas sold each day. People who use E85, a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, will be more severely impacted as will those who use commercial bio-diesel produced from soy beans.
The current drought highlights one of the biggest issues with bio-fuels; the feedstock to produce the bio-fuel often competes with the feedstock that powers people. At the moment most bio-fuels are made from either corn which is used to produce ethanol, or soy beans which is used to produce bio-diesel. It is hard to consider using these food products to drive to the beach while people around the world go hungry.
Of course bio-fuels, especially ethanol, can be derived from other sources such as switch grass or algae, but so far there are very few plants capable of doing this economically. If the drought runs for an extended period of time this might be an incentive to implement alternatives to the current corn and soy bean based bio-fuels, but new production facilities are going to take some time.
Several things are clear to me. We are going to go into a period of higher inflation driven by higher food prices caused by the drought. We are going to have to deal with a likely shortfall of ethanol production possibly by reducing the amount of ethanol in gasoline which will potentially increase air pollution. Once again we are seeing our way of life being impacted by our addiction to gasoline, this time in a way that doesn’t concern oil directly.
It is clear to me that we have to move away from the liquid based fuel paradigm that we have been following for more than a century. Electric cars are one way to reduce our dependence on liquid based fuels and at the moment this appears to be the most viable alternative.
Sunday Jul 22, 2012 – Understanding the EV Fueling Model – I was reading the comments on an article about conventional hybrids and electric cars and one of the comments really stuck me as highlighting how people still don’t understand that owning an EV changes the rules about how you consider fueling your vehicle.
The commenter started by saying that he owned a volt and as he only drove about 40 miles a day he was using about one tank of gas a year. He then went on to say that he wouldn’t buy an electric car if it didn’t have a range of 300 miles.
Of course this poster could be an internet troll, there are plenty of them out there who are anti EV to the extent that they will post falsehoods and half-truths to make them sound bad, but somehow this guy didn’t strike me as a troll just somebody who just hasn’t come to terms with some of the key features of owning an electric car.
The Chevy Volt gets about 300 miles on a tank (GM quotes 344 miles of range but most people will not wait until the tank is empty to refill) so if the guy uses one tank of gas a year then we can assume that the 40 mile range of his car covers most of his driving requirements. Now, 300 miles is a little less than 1 mile per day so an EV with 50 miles of range would cover all his driving needs.
That may be true but it is more than likely that the tank of gas was mostly consumed in a single trip – let’s say a 200 mile trip with the rest being used to drive around while at the destination.
In this case the 50 mile electric range EV would require multiple recharges during the trip. A 100 mile range EV would just barely be able to handle the trip and a 150 mile range EV would be able to handle it fine as long as there is a place to charge at the destination.
It is clear that this person does not really need a 300 mile EV, but he is probably used to having 300 miles of range on his gas cars with another 300 miles after just a 10 minute fill-up. It’s the model we are used to from more than a century of driving gas cars and it is so ingrained into us that it’s hard to consider that there might be a different way. It’s part of our comfort zone.
Electric cars are different; they can be filled up by plugging them in almost anywhere. You don’t drive them for 300 miles then charge them up. You top them off every night so you always have a full tank in the morning. Even when you have a 300 mile car like the Tesla S, most people would still top it off every night rather than waiting until the batteries are low to fill up since a fill up of the Tesla S batteries could take a very long time especially if you only have a 110V outlet to charge from.
We’ve all heard about range anxiety but in the end, if you have 70 to 100 miles of range when you wake up each morning then it’s unlikely that you will suddenly find the need to drive further than this in a day.
Just to put this in context, the EVs with the longest record are the 300 or so RAV4 EVs that Toyota sold during 2002 and early 2003. The mileage champion of these cars has done over 200,000 miles in the 9 years since it hit the road. That is over 22,000 miles per year, much higher than the 15,000 mile average of most cars. The RAV4 EV has an EPA estimated range of around 120 miles, and will get around 70 miles of range when being driven at freeway speeds, yet many drivers have been able to match the number of miles driven by their gas guzzler counterparts.
It is true that some people drive much more than the average and if a person is driving 100,000 miles per year it would be very difficult for an EV driver to meet that sort of mileage but very few people drive anything like that far.
So, if you are considering an electric car forget about the gas station model that you are used to. The new fueling paradigm is to plug your car into the wall and let the car charge overnight. The next morning you wake up with more than enough fuel to see you through your daily driving.
Sunday Jul 15, 2012 – Delivery by Electric – Earlier this week my friend Jerry forwarded me a picture of a Coca Cola Hybrid delivery truck that had been delivering to the place where he works. Coca Cola and UPS are perhaps the two most high profile companies to use Hybrids delivery vehicles in their fleet, but some companies have gone further and are beginning to experiment with all electric vehicles.
This idea isn’t new, electric delivery vehicles have been around since the early 1900s, and the first successful electric vehicles were electric taxi cabs built in the 1890’s. When I was growing up in the UK I would see electric milk floats delivering milk each morning. Electric had a huge advantage in this application because it was so quiet compared to a gasoline powered delivery vehicle.
One of the companies that build these milk floats is still around. Smith’s electric vehicles still builds a range of electric vehicles for both on-road and off-road use. Smith’s electric vehicles are now made in the USA and some pretty high profile companies are beginning to use their delivery Vans
One such company is Staples who has 68 Smith’s electric delivery vehicles used mostly in Southern California. PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay operates a fleet of 176 electric delivery vehicles and will expanded that number to 276 by the end of 2012. Their electric delivery fleet has logged more than a million miles which has saved a lot of gasoline
Another company selling electric delivery vans is Navistar. Like Smith’s they have brought the basic design from a UK company, this time Modec. FedEx currently has two of the Navistar delivery Vans on trial in Los Angeles with additional vehicles to be added soon. They also have 10 Modec vehicles on trial in London and another 5 being used around Paris.
Electric vehicles often work well for delivery as they are usually used on a fairly fixed route that is both low mileage and low speed. Routes are often as short as 22 miles but some of Staples routes are as long as 70 miles which is still well within the 150 mile maximum range of the Smith’s Newton vehicles they are using.
The trucks can be charged overnight and then driven all day on the delivery route without being worried about lack of range. While the cost of these electric vehicles is much more than the equivalent diesel delivery truck maintenance costs are much lower and reliability is better. This not only translates to lower cost but also less down time.
Electric delivery trucks work well in many environments and I expect to see this as a major growth area for electric vehicles over the next ten to fifteen years.
Sunday Jul 8, 2012 – June 2012 EV Sales – June sales of Plug-in cars slipped slightly from May fueled by a big drop in sales of the Plug-in Prius after initial orders had been filled.
Like May, GM took the lead in Plug-in vehicle sales selling 1760 volts, up from 1,680 sold in May. GM has sold a total of 8,817 Volts in 2012 which, if current sales continue, puts them on track for sales of about 18,000 cars for the year.
June was the first full month of sales for the Plug-in Prius after the initial orders had been filled, and sales dropped from 1086 in May to 695 in June. Although these numbers are relatively low we should remember that the Plug-in Prius is only being sold in 15 States.
Nissan saw another month of increased sales of the Leaf growing from 510 cars in May to 535 cars in June. Part of the issue is that supplies are still constrained on the Leaf and Nissan say that this situation will remain until the 2013 model year cars become available in September.
Hybridcars.com reported that Smart, which only leases cars, sent 127 of their Smart ED to customers in June and this appears to be the first sales they have had in 2012. So far I have been unable to confirm this number but Car-To-Go uses Smart cars in its San Diego, Austin, Washington DC, and Vancouver locations so it isn’t hard to believe that they have added additional cars in one or more of these cities.
Ford have finally started to sell their Focus EV and actually outsold Mitsubishi this month with 89 vehicle sales after shipping 6 cars to customers in May. With the 2 they sold back in January that makes 97 cars sold this year and 107 cars in total.
Ford is still selling through a limited number of dealerships in just three states so it isn’t surprising that sales are low. Volume should pick up as more dealers in more states are added to the group selling this EV.
After two straight months of record sales for the Mitsubishi I, sales dropped from 85 cars in May to just 33 vehicles in June. To help offset this they introduced some low cost lease options which should help sales in July. Mitsubishi has sold a total of 328 of its electric subcompact in the US so far.
Tesla finally began to ship the Model S to customers selling one to a Tesla board member in early June and another may have gone to Elon Musk. On June 22 they began shipping to regular customers and during the launch event we saw them send 10 sedans on their way to new homes. Tesla usually announces sales every quarter in their stockholder report so we may not hear how many they sold until late October.
Th!nk is currently in bankruptcy but have been selling off their inventory of about 150 2011 model year cars they still had at the Indiana factory. It appears that most of these are now sold and I would estimate they reached 100 sales in June. Considering that the cars were being sold through only three dealers this was quite an achievement although the sales price of these cars was so attractive that many found the risk of purchasing a car from a company in bankruptcy was worth taking.
The other two major sellers of electric cars, Fisker, and Coda don’t report the number of sales they have each month.
I am now beginning to see Fisker Karma on the streets of LA so they must have sold a number of cars here by now. Given that the company has been dealing with some reliability issues that have been widely reported in the press, including negative publicity over a garage fire, it doesn’t surprise me that they are reluctant to post sales numbers.
Coda appears to be doing OK and they have added a fourth car to their demo vehicles at the Experience Center in Century City. They did have orders from companies like Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Hertz but I haven’t heard of any cars arriving in rental locations yet.
The number of plug-in vehicles continues to grow steadily. With 3260 plus whatever cars were sold by Coda and Fisker sold this month, plug-in cars continue to be a choice for consumers looking to skip the gas pump.
At the current sales rate we are would expect to see more than 36,000 plug-in cars sold in 2012 and with new models from Toyota (RAV4 EV) and Honda (Fit EV) coming soon, and Tesla targeting delivery of 5000 model S this year, we should see the number push well past 40,000 which puts us well on target to beat second year sales of hybrids, which managed to hit 36,035 cars in 2001.