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Electric Car Revolution Is Facing Headwinds

From Reuters, of all places:

Electric car revolution faces increasing headwinds

By Ben Klayman
March 21, 2012

DETROIT (Reuters) – Scott Kluth has a love-hate relationship with his new Fisker Karma luxury electric sedan. The 34-year-old car lover bought the plug-in hybrid electric Karma in December for $107,850, but five days later the car’s battery died as he was driving in downtown Chicago. While the car he affectionately calls a "head turner" was fixed in a recall, Kluth remains uncertain how much he will drive it.

"I just want a car that works," Kluth said. "It’s a fun car to drive. It’s just that I’ve lost confidence in it."

For the record, this problem of dead batteries is not exclusive to Fiskers. We had reports about ‘bricked’ Teslers back in February. In fact, this is a problem every electric car battery faces if you run drive it with too low a charge.

The Karma’s problems — one vehicle died during testing by Consumer Reports this month — follow bad publicity arising from a probe of General Motors Co’s Chevrolet Volt and weak sales of the car, and the closure or bankruptcy of several electric vehicle-related start-ups.

The unrelenting bad news has led to questions about the readiness of electric cars and raises fresh doubts about a technology that has been around since the late 1890s but is still struggling to win over the public…

"It’s going to be a slow slog," said John O’Dell, senior green car editor at industry research firm Edmunds.com. "Maybe there’s too much expectation of more and quicker success than might realistically be expected of a brand new technology."

Weren’t we just told that the "technology… has been around since the late 1890s"?

President Barack Obama’s administration has been a strong proponent of electric vehicles like the Volt and set a goal of getting 1 million battery-powered vehicles on the road by 2015. Lux Research estimates that number will actually be fewer than 200,000…

Isn’t that par for the course with Obama’s ‘goals’?

Electric cars aren’t a new concept. Henry Ford bought his wife, Clara, at least two electric cars in the early 1900s offering at best 50 miles driving range and top speeds of about 35 miles per hour, according to the Henry Ford Museum.

But analysts said automakers have not done a good enough job getting the costs down and explaining the technology to win over anyone beyond early adopters like actor Leonardo DiCaprio, pop idol Justin Bieber, comedian Jay Leno and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

The head of the Republican Party drives an electric car?! What are we waiting for?

"You can do all the advertising and promotion you want, but if people don’t buy into the message the needle’s not going to move," said George Cook, a marketing professor at the University of Rochester’s business school and a former Ford executive

Of course, Obama could always just issue a mandate that everyone has to buy an electric car. Since it worked for health insurance.

"The expectations have always been too high for electric cars," said Bill Reinert, Toyota’s U.S. manager for advanced technology. "The realities have always been clouded by the dreams. I like to say it’s the first law of thermodynamics versus the first law of Disney. Disney is wishing it will be so. It doesn’t work."

Toyota has always been skeptical EVs would quickly boost its share of the auto market

Huh. Well, no wonder the administration hates Toyota so. And we thought it was just because they were non-union and the top competitor to their own car company, GM.

GM, which recently launched a new advertising campaign centered on testimonials by adoring Volt owners, has made the car the centerpiece of efforts to seize from Toyota the mantle as the world’s greenest automaker

Time will tell if that’s wishful thinking.

"It’s been the Kool-Aid that the entire political system has been drinking for a decade," said Bob Martin, a senior consultant with auto product development firm The CarLab. "Electric cars are not ready for prime time. They’re really interesting toys for very, very rich people."

Electric cars are like the Democrat Party itself. Only the very rich and the very poor can afford to be a Democrat, or own an electric car.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Electric Car Revolution Is Facing Headwinds”

  1. JohnMG says:

    ……set a goal of getting 1 million battery-powered vehicles on the road by 2015. Lux Research estimates that number will actually be fewer than 200,000…”

    I think they’ve got it wrong because they’re using the same math as they use to calculate unemployment. A more likely scenario is………….they will have 2015 battery-powered vehicles on the road by the year 1 million.

  2. untrainable says:

    If you drive an electric car into a headwind, the mileage goes down by an order of magnitude. And don’t turn on the heat… or the a/c… or the headlights… or the radio… or the cigarette lighter… whatdya mean there’s no cigarette lighter? Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia, is it?

  3. Rusty Shackleford says:

    I have often referenced a book I read back in high school and have since re-read. It’s Eddie Rickenbacker’s autobiography. In it, he talks about the jobs he had before joining the Lafayette Escadriles in WWI and becoming a pilot. One of those jobs was as an apprentice mechanic for a shop in Ohio that made—electric cars. They were nice cars but couldn’t go very far on the charge they had. In one anecdote, he discussed how he had used one without the permission of his employer, taking side trips and running the battery down instead of bringing it straight to the shop, as instructed. However, he was able to let the lead-acid batteries sit for a bit where they would build up a small charge and he could drive it a few feet before it gave out. He did this all night long and had it to the shop as the sun was coming up the next day…and he had to still work a full day after that.

    This was in the early 19-teens prior to WW I. The “new technology” which the Fisker uses has batteries that when dead, stay dead until charged again. You can’t let them sit and they’ll develop a slight charge. So in that regard, there is a bit of a trip backwards in terms of wiggle room on the batteries.

    However, all else is going to plan and the Obama administration has put in place a mechanism to keep gasoline prices high and/or make them reach European levels. But the plan, probably intended to make electric car demand catch fire, to coin a phrase, hasn’t seen such a spike in Yurp and most likely won’t occur in the US either. Nope, people still buy gas-powered cars over there across the pond and electric cars aren’t being seen as a viable alternative even if they don’t drive the distances they do here in the US. I wonder how the wizz-kids in the Obama administration ‘splain that one.

    I really hate it when idiot children are in charge of deciding things for me. I hate it bad enough when idiot conservatives do it.

    To add insult to injury, I just had my Spring meeting with the airline management and they just got done telling me that fuel prices are high because of “speculators”. Oh my god….I guess that yes, they are that stupid. And…they added that it’s “congress’s fault”. Mmmmmmkay…. So….I think we’re in serious trouble as an airline. *sigh*

  4. Anonymoose says:

    As a student in college in the mid-80’s I was expecting the sky to fall any day now having been raised on a diet of media pablum about the gas crisis I went to the library and read furiously about alternative energy and the future, but gradually began to notice a few things. Gas prices were going *down* and the research on alternative energy with all these swoopy fiberglass vehicles that went maybe 30 miles an hour on an hour long charge all stopped when Carter got out of office.

    Batteries today are years ahead of where they were in the 70’s, but still face a fundamental problem; the output drop as it runs down, and they take a long time to recharge. There are many alternatives to a plain gasoline engine, everything from Stirling cycle powerplants to fuel cells to gas turbines. They also are all more expensive and problematic than your average gasoline engine.

    The only one that comes close is the diesel running on vegetable oil, which is semi-sustainable but would take an enormous infrastructure to keep going. And it’s still a nasty evil polluting engine. The media/government is hung up on the idea of some magic electric non-polluting vehicle, but never seem to realize the batteries are as much or more environmentally dangerous than plain old cars, and the electricity has to be generated in the first place, which is less efficient then getting it from gasoline. In this respect only a hybrid car seems viable—provided you can keep up with batteries for it.

    So what does the government do? Try to artificially make “green” power look better. Seen any cigarette ads lately? Or tobacco companies sponsoring anything? The government knew what was better for us and clamped down on them, and are trying the same thing with gasoline.


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