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Thursday, June 08, 2006

 

Who Killed The Electric Car?


The Consumer killed it. Not George. Not Big Oil. Not Greed. No one cared except CARB and a few hundred consumers that bought the GM EV-1 and Ford Ecostar and Ford Ranger EV (the latter two purchased by fleets).

Saw the preview...I will admit I haven't seen the movie. If the movie follows along the lines of the video, as an acquaintance used to say, "if it's not Scottish, it's crap!" Frankly, for those of us who worked on the EVs, and saw consumer reaction, this crap enrages me.

As some know, I worked on Electric Cars. For 5 years. 1991-1996. Hopeless. Problems:

Where do I start?

  1. Not enough range (50-60 miles/day)...worse in cold weather states and with AC running
  2. Not enough charging stations for slow charging (120 v/40 amp plugs) at work places to charge in 12-24 hours
  3. Not enough charging stations for fast charge (240 V or higher) to charge in 1-4 hours
  4. Batteries were expensive (Thousands of dollars requiring replacement every 2-3 years)
  5. Vehicles were very expensive. If sold based on true cost, $30,000 or more each. And that didn't include the battery replacements every 3 years (Minimum $3,000-$7,000). In 1996 dollars, not 2006 dollars.
  6. Not enough energy/power in most applications and duty cycles. EVs are great 1 or 2 person haulers/commuters in traffic going 50 mph. Or short haul light delivery. Terrible if you're moving lots of people (families) or going distances in stop/go with drains on load (AC, heat, etc.)
  7. Consumers hate changing behavior...we don't buy cars based on need...we buy them based on want. We loaned EVs to consumers and found that it freaked people out to know that they could get stranded if they didn't charge regularly. I did several trips this Sunday...total of 40 miles in 2 hours with AC running. Various errands. Not in an EV if at 40 miles you realize, damn, I might not make it home. Take a look at the best selling Accord and Camry. 200 hp with lots of electronic gadgetry and convenience that suck power.
  8. Very, very limited market - movie stars and people with an axe to grind (Nader and various other people who don't mind living an impractical lifestyle). Limited market means low volume which means high cost. You can't build safe cars inexpensively at low volume. Ever notice how low volume cars typically cost $50k and up? Cost of tooling and assembly can't be spread over large production.
  9. Can't make money selling EVs. In a capitalist market, companies have to make a profit or "GM" happens to them. Massive layoffs and shrinking market share. Out of 17 million new cars and trucks to be sold this year...how many hybrids? Quick, quick!! Less than 1% The only one selling well is the Prius. The rest have incentives.
  10. The EV1 is/was a 2 seater. Anyone know how many 2 seaters are sold in America in high volume? That's right...zero. The Corvette is the best seller. Why? Two seaters ARE NOT PRACTICAL for ANYBODY. It's a toy/fun car.
Better solutions?

Many...yes, many. Conservation is about changing lifestyle and/or making other alternatives more appealing emotionally and financially. We could cut our energy consumption in half if people commuted on bikes. Said this a long time ago in this blog. Lots of people laugh. We solve several problems

  1. Obesity...Americans are gargantuan beasts.
  2. Energy reduction...short trips pollute the most and use the most gas
  3. Potential for reduction in traffic deaths. Bike on bike accidents rarely result in airbag deployment and twisted wreckage. I'll admit...Car on bike is a different story.
So, Dubya, get moving. Let's get some bike lanes approved and tax credits for riding a bike to work. Let's get tax credits for showers installed at work. Even better, all of us idiots paying for health club memberships? Buy a bike and invest in a shower at work. Leave the car at the office for "important" business meetings. And a change of clothes.

And puuuuhhhhhllleeeeaze. Enough with the idiotic electric car initiatives. A 30 Kw battery, that gets 70 miles range and weighs about 800 lbs has about as much energy as a gallon or two of gasoline that weighs 7-15 lbs. Our Ford Ecostar had a 75 horsepower motor. There are no cars sold in the US with less than 150 hp these days. Do you understand the problem now?

More later...when I calm myself.

Comments:
I'd like to know who killed the Toyota Eco Spirit, a vehicle which got 100+ mpg. Was shown at a number of auto shows in the early 2000s, but Toyota decided not to produce it! Not as sexy as the Prius? Where is this vehicle when we need it NOW!? I'd like there to be a write-in to Toyota to produce this car, even if it might be a diesel. What do you think?

Bob
 
If you "worked on EVs" for 5 years, you sure must be oblivious. The EV1 had a range of 110 miles for the lead-acid car that gm crushed, and 160 miles for the 1999 EV1 that gm crushed. Today, I drive a Toyota 2003 RAV4-EV with 68,000 miles on it and a range of 120 miles.

The only reason auto makers were forced to put out EVs was California's ZEV mandate, and they sabotaged EVs and lied, cheated and stole by raising gas prices.
 
If you "worked on EVs" for 5 years, you sure must be oblivious. The EV1 had a range of 110 miles for the lead-acid car that gm crushed, and 160 miles for the 1999 EV1 that gm crushed. Today, I drive a Toyota 2003 RAV4-EV with 68,000 miles on it and a range of 120 miles.

The only reason auto makers were forced to put out EVs was California's ZEV mandate, and they sabotaged EVs and lied, cheated and stole by raising gas prices.
 
When it comes to the (short term, I hope) death of electric cars I think there is lots of blame to go around.

- Legislative complacency is at the top of the list. No realistic energy policy. Almost no resistance to self-serving manipulation. Big tax benefits for those resisting or delaying change and too few tax benefits to promote even picking low hanging fruit. No sense of urgency.

- Corporate investment focuses too heavily on keeping things the same for instant gratification. When the wells run dry (or fuel prices rise completely beyond access) they are not going to be ready.

- Consumer ignorance causes us to buy more from lust than from love. I really don't think there is much focus beyond the glorious sheet metal, the smell of the leather and the monthly payments. The entire concept of long term thinking is under educated and under evaluated when making purchases.
 
G'day, Dave!

Like the rest of America, you, too,knew not of the 1991-1996 battery electric technology development at Toyota that was secretly trying to meet the California mandate, and found the going quite easy.
Can't make money on them? Rather, an ev showroom and small service bay is the inverse of ICE economy/Detroit model. Our NiMH batteries run great, at 5 years like others'.

I heard a good one. Next time you see someone in a ev golf cart, odds are they'll be having a good time; our EVs provide our EV grin.
 
David,

Not all the EVs were 2-seaters. My wife & I leased Honda's EVplus, a 4-passenger mini-van with a 100 miles-per-charge range. This all-electric mini-van satified 99+% of the family driving needs, from freeway commuting to costco shopping and more. In just less than 4 years we logged 90,000 non-gas miles in the greater San Francisco area.

Performance was great. We could leave most gas cars from a stop to 40mph without having to floor it. Even with commuting, 100 miles range worked great for a round-trip in the SF area.

The only problem was that Honda only built 300 of these EVs for California. When others asked where they could get one, all of the limited production were already leased. And Honda had no intensions for selling them.

And they required almost no maintenance. After 90,000 miles it was still a zero-emissions vehicle, with no smog check, no oil changes, etc. The problem is, the auto repart market couldn't do anything to improve this vehicle, even with 10-year old technology.

Everyone who rode in the EVplus loved it. And every morning it had a full-tank, costing only $0.02/mile in electricity to fill up. Typically we could drive up to 600 miles per week without having to fill up anywhere else except at home in the evening. No smelly expensive gas stations nor waiting in line. What a concept.
 
David,

Not all the EVs were 2-seaters. My wife & I leased Honda's EVplus, a 4-passenger mini-van with a 100 miles-per-charge range. This all-electric mini-van satified 99+% of the family driving needs, from freeway commuting to costco shopping and more. In just less than 4 years we logged 90,000 non-gas miles in the greater San Francisco area.

Performance was great. We could leave most gas cars from a stop to 40mph without having to floor it. Even with commuting, 100 miles range worked great for a round-trip in the SF area.

The only problem was that Honda only built 300 of these EVs for California. When others asked where they could get one, all of the limited production were already leased. And Honda had no intensions for selling them.

And they required almost no maintenance. After 90,000 miles it was still a zero-emissions vehicle, with no smog check, no oil changes, etc. The problem is, the auto repart market couldn't do anything to improve this vehicle, even with 10-year old technology.

Everyone who rode in the EVplus loved it. And every morning it had a full-tank, costing only $0.02/mile in electricity to fill up. Typically we could drive up to 600 miles per week without having to fill up anywhere else except at home in the evening. No smelly expensive gas stations nor waiting in line. What a concept.
 
David,
I will not flame you for having an opinion. I love that abnout America. I would like to CLEARLY point out that you OPENED your entire article with the BASIS "The Consumer killed it. Not George. Not Big Oil. Not Greed. No one cared except CARB and a few hundred consumers that bought the GM EV-1 and Ford Ecostar and Ford Ranger EV (the latter two purchased by fleets)."

We live in Atlanta, GA. We never even HEARD of the EV1 or the RAV4-EV until last year! The film is going to expose a LOT more consumers to this idea. Like allot of other GREAT ideas, it takes market FORCE and MONEY to SELL as well as to build.
I am NOW an avid EV driver and EV technician. We drive a RAV4-EV DAILY from COnyers to Atlanta (40+ miles) and I don't charge every time befroe the RETURN trip either. I hhave NEVER been stranded in 60,000 miles, and this city is ALL start-stop bumper to bumper if you care to visit.
I find it hard to believe that you have worked in this field and hold the opinions you do, but like I said, having yours is the best part of our Democratic Republic.
I KNOW if we had known about the EV1 we, as a family, would have purchased more than two-and remember you weren't ALLOWED to own them; very un-American. My parents own a hybrid as do we, and so do my borthers and sister. We are neither tree huggers nor greenpeace wild environmentalists; I simply DO care about leaving my children a future and don't like seeing HUMMERS idiling next to me-it is a selfish waste and always seems to be a single guy too. While I cannot contradict myslef and say that too is not the American way-choice, I know better. Do your homework. There was MAJOR deception in (lack of) advertising.
Last point on the UN-availability of these cars by the Majors, and the market; As a technician (ASE certified and all) I have worked for Toyota, Chrysler, and private shops over the last 20 years. I never ever even ONCE heard the name EV1 or RAV4-EV while standing in a Toyota shop and reading the monthly newsletters of my industry. Uninformed? Me? NO!
Lack of advertising and effort on the part of GM and others? YES.
Don't blame ME if you bring something to market and keep it hush hush. If American Idol was on a community access channel, I doubt you or I would know who Ryan Seacrest is, much less any others on the show.
Good day to you sir.
-EVRIDER
 
Oh, dear God, it's uninformed crap like this that killed the EV.

To answer your points...

1) Wrong. 50-60 miles is the range of neighborhood EVs (NEVs) like the GEM. Range of "real" EVs is 100 to 130 miles. Even on a bad day, the lead-acid EV-1 would do 80 miles per day, or 29k/year with home recharging. (I've never driven an Ecostar, but from the doc you linked to: "Data gathered by Ford as part of its 105 vehicle demonstration showed its test Ecostars averaging a 94 mile driving range with a maximum recorded range of 155 miles.")

2) Wrong, and I should know, I've done week-long evaluations of 3 different EVs using the LA-area public charging network. It does not require 12 to 24 hours to recharge an EV. With my longer-than-average 15 mile commute to work - and keep in mind I had no charger at home, so we're talking 30 miles used - I needed <2 hrs to rejuice. Virtually all EV owners charge at home and leave their garage with 100 miles or more, so they don't need to charge in public.

3) Wrong. If memory serves, most EVs can charge to 80-90% within 4 hrs. Longest I ever had to let an EV cook was 6 hrs, and that was after 3 days with no charging (range down to <10 miles).

4) Wrong. Toyota estimated that the RAV4 EV's batteries would need to be replaced every 10 years or so. The cars haven't been in the field long enough to put this to the test.

5) $30k is not very expensive by today's standards! Anyway, they were expensive, as is any limited-run vehicle. Mass production would lower costs. As it happened, tax incentives in California made EV acquisition costs similar to gasoline cars, plus they almost never needed maintenance and fueling was cheap (one two-EV family I talked to estimated $20/month/car in electricity; another guy used solar power and estimated his running costs at $5/month).

6) Wrong. 100 miles with 4 people and A/C running is within the capabilities of cars like the RAV4 EV. Again, I know from personal experience.

7) Had you done this trip in a RAV4 EV, you would have made it home with 50+% SOC (state of charge) -- enough to do it again tomorrow even if you didn't hook up to the home charger that every EV owner/lessor has.

8) Hard to say how limited a market was when you only sold a handful of cars in a couple of states. With dozens of EV-Plus drivers extending their leases, bunches of EV-1 lessors offering to extend (and actually sending money to GM, which was refused) rather than see their perfectly good EV-1s crushed (http://www.saveev1.org/photos/thumbnails.php?album=3), and RAV4 EV drivers going to the cost and uncertainty of buying rather than leasing their cars, it's downright dumb to say the market was limited. The EV-1, EV-Plus. RAV4 EV and TH!NK City all had waiting lists when production was cancelled.

9) GM leased 800 EV-1s. It's hard to make money selling 800 of any vehicle. Build 100,000 or 200,000 and you can do so profitably; just ask Toyota about the Prius.

10) If 2-seaters were impractical for everyone, than Los Angles freeways would have 5 carpool (2 or more occupants) lanes and one single-car lane in each direction rather than the other way around. As it happens, the RAV4 EV and Honda EV-Plus both seat four people.

So it's irresponsible reporting like this that lead to the demise of the EV... not the EVs themselves. Don't forget that fuel cell cars (one billed as the car of the future... whew, we can get off that crap now that America is distracted by Ethanol-gasoline blends, another Holy Grail) are EVs with a different battery. Matter of fact, the Honda FCX, a working fuel-cell car, is - guess what? - built from an EV-Plus.

Just the fact that you are talking about 75 horsepower as inadequate shows that you are uninformed as to what makes a car perform. Torque is what makes a car accelerate; that's why a 90 hp turbodiesel car feels as sprightly as a 140 hp gasoline car. The EV-1's ability to run 0-60 in 8 seconds or less demonstrated clearly what electricity *can* do. What do the world's fastest trains use for power? Electricity. How do frieght locomotives get 10,000 ton trains moving? Their diesel engines spin alternators which supply electric motors on the wheels. Electricity is far, far, far better than an internal combustion engine for getting power to the ground.

If you are going to pass yourself off as an authority, then please, please, please do a little more research before you start writing. Even a few minutes spent surfing the web would have shown you that your apparent experience with the Ecostar was not typical of the experience of most EV drivers.
 
1500 miles per gallon @ $3 per gallon of gasoline vs 20 mile charge cost 5 cents.
Electric bikes typically travel at speeds of 10 to 20+ miles per hour and go up to 12-20 miles charge. Charging your electric bike for four to six hours uses 5 cents worth of electricity from common 110 wall outlets. The electric bike power can give you a break from pedaling or supply more power when you're going up hill.
http://www.bicycles-electric-bikes.com/bike_to_work.htm
 
1500 miles per gallon @ $3 per gallon of gasoline vs 20 mile charge cost 5 cents.
Electric bikes typically travel at speeds of 10 to 20+ miles per hour and go up to 12-20 miles charge. Charging your electric bike for four to six hours uses 5 cents worth of electricity from common 110 wall outlets. The electric bike power can give you a break from pedaling or supply more power when you're going up hill.
http://www.bicycles-electric-bikes.com/bike_to_work.htm
 
At the end of your post, you said, "There are no cars sold in the US with less than 150 hp these days."

Just a cursory search of the various automakers' websites turns up:

Ford Fusion: 130 hp base engine
Chevy Aveo: 103 hp
Scion (Toyota) xA: 103 hp
Nissan Versa: 122 hp
 
Electric Bicycles and Electric Scooters

Elmo The Electric Bike and Electric Scooter Guy

This is an excellent blog for electric bicycles. There are not too many around like this. Thanks for making this such an interesting subject. Oh, by the way, Wired Magazine has a great article on hybrid cars this month. (Jan 2008 issue).

God Bless,
Elmo
 
Watched "Who Killed the Electric Car" recently (great documentary), then i heard that GM and Tesla are making another run at the electric car (yay for progress!) hopefully development of this technology can go on unhindered by the corporations that depend on oil consumption.
 
@Doug Korthof

I drove the EV1 and knew the engineers. In cold weather or with AC running, it didn't get close to 100 miles. Still, a great design at the time. Just not ready for prime time. Automakers don't control gas prices...if they did, they wouldn't have produced trucks and then went Ch. 11 when gas prices went up.
 
@Simo

Agree on grins in EVs...just need to figure out how to make 24 kwh batteries for less than $15,000!
 
@ EVrider

To be frank, I currently work for an EV car company. When I take customers for test drives, they love it. The most difficult part is the price of the battery. If we can reduce the cost of the battery and then lease it, we can sell lots of them. My $0.02 worth.
 
@ Dorri732

You got me on that one...at the time of the post, I couldn't find any sub 150 hp cars. Even my Honda Elements have more HP. But you are correct now. Having said that, 99% of the cars and trucks have more than 150hp (don't flame me...I didn't research that, just a quick look at the charts)!
 
@Autonerd:

I do appreciate your passion, but I did do my research. We loaned the Ecostar to 100 people for 2 weeks at a time and listened to customers.

So you know, I currently work for an EV company (feel free to google away). In cold weather, cars with LiIon batteries get 50-60 miles range when you run the heater.

If you charge using the 120 v Level 1 unit, it easily takes 12-24 hours...depending on your SOC.

I'm not against EVs, I make a living selling them. They are fantastic commuter solutions, but over-hype and poor technology killed us the first time around.

This time, we have better batteries, but if you're knowledgeable, you know that a decent 24 kwh battery runs about $12-$15,000. You can buy a Nissan Versa for that. That's the crux of the problem.

If we can lease the battery and get volume of purpose built gliders to 20,000 plus/yr. we can make it work. The offset and cheaper operating cost makes the EV a better solution. But we need help with battery cost.
 
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