Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Are EV's Victims Of Their Own Potential?

EV sales have been somewhat lower than expected and many are claiming this to be proof that the concept is flawed and the technology cannot work.  In truth this may simply be the result of the expected and likely future improvements that are going to take place, and that we have come to expect from modern technology.  Most people don't buy the first iteration of any new technology, be it computer, cell phone, flat panel TV, iPod, or iPad.  They know that waiting a few months to a few years will bring better and cheaper products, which is equally true for EV's.  There are always early adopters who must have the latest and greatest, and they pay a premium to do so.  Since a car is a larger investment than a cell phone or a flat panel display the population of early adopters is of course going to be smaller.  The difference that is often ignored is that early adoption of an EV can actually provide reduced operating costs during it's use, putting it's overall costs more inline with cheaper ICE vehicles.  Also overlooked is the ability to upgrade an older EV with a newer, better pack in the future, giving better than new performance.  Regardless, people know they will get better and cheaper with time, battery improvements and breakthroughs are not only expected but seem to be announced every few months, even though it will take time for them to make it into production.  The car companies themselves talk about future improvements to their vehicles, with longer range and lower prices, but by doing so they probably hurt potential sales in the present.
I'm not sure there is a solution to this problem other than time.  At some point, as with all new technologies, the entry price point will be low enough and the perceived value high enough that people will start to adopt it in large volumes.  In the mean time those of use who paid the higher prices, or put in the time to build our own, get to take advantage of the lower operating costs and get to enjoy the smooth, quiet driving experience, as well as the visceral pleasure of driving past gas stations and not caring about the price per gallon.

Why is this man smiling?  The answer is on his shirt.


  1. A lot of my friends are waiting for second gen, 200 mile range versions. I am going to put my name in for the C-1 by Lit motors since it has 200 mile range and should be available next year.

    At this point even if I could afford a Model S it wouldn't be ready for me until 2014 anyway. I don't have a car reserved. I had almost convinced myself to buy a ford focus ev as a commuter/errand car but when I found the C-1 it appears I do value the chance to do solo excursions of >40 miles distance away. Most of the hikes I go on have tailheads that are >40 miles away. Portland is only 189 miles away and Vancouver, BC is even closer. A 200 mile range Driver+1 vehicle would allow me to do a lot in that regard.

    40 miles range was the early adopter #, 100 has been the first gen commercial, I suspect mass adoption will be at the 200ish mile range.

    1. For a while now I've argued that there is going to be a convergence of range and price where suddenly EV sales will start to gain momentum. I'm thinking between 150-200 miles of range and an unsubsidized price of between $28-$35K could be the sweet spot. Higher fuel prices could make that happen sooner at higher vehicle prices.

    2. I agree with those numbers. 200 miles is the perfect range in the Seattle area as Whistler, BC is 200 miles away, Vancouver, BC is 135 miles away and Portland is 189 miles. All the hikes and day outings are between 30-50 miles and a Leaf or Focus can't do them without a charge. A 200 miler can.

      I do think that subsidization can bring this about sooner, but we need it passed. But a 10k credit through 2020 would go a long way to making EVs more accessible.

    3. I'm not sure we can expect an increase of the subsidy, and I'm not sure it's even needed. With a more aerodynamic design and some attention to lighter weight materials the LEAF could have hit 150 miles of range from it's 24kwh pack. That means it's already within range of the high end of my price point and the low end of my range point. I think Nissan is predicting 150 miles of range from it's ESFlow concept car with the same LEAF pack. Price will probably be higher since it's a sports car, but with the Tennessee plant starting production of the LEAF at the end of this year we might see a drop in LEAF pricing already. Throw in some improvement in battery density and cost and we aren't too far off from hitting our predicted numbers.