June 14, 2014
Are Battery Electric Cars Failing?
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Failing? Like ready to be pulled from dealer showrooms? Probably not. But consumers aren't exactly waiting in lines at dealerships to buy them either.
Consider the Big Automotive Picture here in the States.
In June, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) there were 4982 battery-only electric vehicles sold in the U.S. That seems like a lot. And it is. Battery electric vehicle sales are growing: There's roughly two times as many on the road this June than last, Now, the U.S. battery-powered fleet stands at about 220,000. Sales of all types of plug-in cars, including plug-in hybrids and extended range electric vehicles are rising as well.
However, overall vehicle sales of all types of cars and light trucks – mostly petrol fueled – reached about 1,400,000 in June. Do your math. Battery electrics are a very small portion of the vehicle marketplace: A mere blip on the radar screen of cars.
Why so little interest in battery electrics?
The obvious, mostly reasons you already know:
--- The price of gasoline is fairly stable, and in fact could go down. Consider this as a newsy example of the state of gasoline: Even with Iraq falling apart (Iraq being potentially the second largest oil producer in the world) there's barely a change at the gas pump. This means the global petrol market isn't concerned about supply disruptions from Iraq, nor does it care about more development in Iraq oil. The world is awash in oil, in other words. Iraq isn't needed. Further, consumers have adjusted to prices at the pump. There's no clamoring to switch something else, to alternative fuels like electricity. Plentiful, affordable gasoline means few electric car sales.
--- The electric cars are too expensive for their category. Low twenties to over fifty thousand dollars for an small econobox; and a hundred thousand for one that will go the distance? Give me a break.
--- The cars don't go very far. Some people can survive with less than 80 miles range for a workday commute. That's fine. But even a Saturday's shopping excursion can gobble up more miles than that. For the masses, owning an EV means you need two cars. An EV can't be your only car.
--- Too long to refill (with electrons). Pull in. Fill up in a few minutes, drive off for another 300 miles or so. That's what people want. That's what people have learned to expect. That's what people won't get with most electric cars. Only Tesla can offer that. (But then there's that price.)
--- As cars, mostly poor choices in the market place.
With that last comment let's take a look at battery-electric only cars available (or soon to be) in the US. (And sorry, it's time to be a little harsh.)
Even though it seems that pure battery-only electric cars are headed to failure, car makers probably won't ditch them, at least until something better, zero-emission-wise, comes along. They need a clean car in their product lines to meet California standards as well as fuel economy standards set by the Obama administration. But fear this. Fuel economy standards could be lowered in the next administration.
For electric cars to make it on their own there needs to be a shake up in the technology: Vastly better and cheaper rechargeable batteries for longer range; fast refueling and much lower vehicle costs; or better, a switch to swappable, recyclable batteries. Or maybe hydrogen is the better bet after all.
It's time for vehicle manufacturers to scramble to make vastly better EVs.
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