Passion for Plug Ins Expanding in California


Californians have now a clear passion for plug-ins, with 2012 as the watermark year for electric cars in the state. Just four years ago, the U.S. $100,000 plus Tesla Roadsters was the only electric vehicle able to reach highway speeds. The past few years has seen an ever-increasing wave of plug in vehicles being introduced, not only in California’s showrooms, but all over the United States as well.

This summer alone, nearly a dozen plug in vehicles and crossovers would start to travel the U.S. roadways. About five to six models would be arriving right before the end of August, from electric car manufacturers such as Tesla and Coda Automotive and industry giants such as Toyota and Ford.

California has been long known as a trendsetter, with many factors being used to make this a testing center for what is considered as the golden age of personal transportation. The state has been known as hotbeds of technology and entertainment, with many first adopters having ready cash to spend on the new technology. Currently, an expanded charging infrastructure is being developed together with access to battery-powered cars to coveted carpool lanes on congested freeways.

Amongst the most awaited electric models of the summer would be the Tesla Model S luxury sedan, with its base price of U.S. $58,570 increasing to U.S. $78,570 depending on the size of the battery pack. The upgrade would have a consequent increase in the driving range on a charge. During its development stage, Tesla received more than 10,000 reservations without even the benefit of a test drive. The Model S was initially promised to be delivered in 2009, it was finally unveiled and the first delivery was made last June 22.

According to Paul Scott, co-founder of Plug In America, an advocacy group for electric car, “The people who buy this car are the movers and shakers – leaders in arts, entertainment, business.” Scott is now selling all electric Leafs at a Nissan dealership in Los Angeles, downtown area.

He added, “I sold a Leaf to Danny DeVito. He’s that kind of guy. But you’ve got a lot of people who just will not put themselves into a small car.” He further said that celebrities who live large are the ones who would drive the market if they adopt upscale electrics such as the Tesla, to later influence regular individual purchases.

After introduction of the Model S last weekend, the Tesla Motor Corp is providing thousands of test drives to those who placed reservations, with events to he held in Fremont and Los Angeles, before moving to other cities in North America. Other drivers are also getting behind the wheel of the Coda electric sedan. The U.S. $38,145 vehicle would be tested in events to be held in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. The car would be made available in four dealerships in California.

The major difference in the plug in vehicle market is the presence of the world’s largest carmakers, with their very own offerings in this car design and platform. Ford initially offered its U.S. $40,000 Focus Electric to its dealers last May and is expecting to sell about 350 cars in California, New Jersey and New York by June’s end. Another carmaker, Honda, is now providing leasing for its Fit EV priced at U.S. $389 per month in California and Oregon. The Japanese carmaker would then be expanding its reach to six East Coast areas in 2013.

Chinese EV Partners with Rental Firm


In a move to make the company truly global, Hertz has opened its participation in the latest New York Auto Show with the BYD E6 battery car. It stood side by side with the Chevrolet Volt that has been improved to accommodate wireless charging.

The two vehicles are part of the fleet of rental options in the Hertz Rental Auto offices in Shenzhen, China. These two vehicles are also being prepared to become part of the Hertz fleet in the United States.

According to Jack Hidary, Global EV Leader for the rental company, said, “We get a lot of support from the Chinese government.” He then explained the attraction with the E6, as the government of Shenzhen has fast-tracked the development of infrastructure to accommodate the EV, such as the construction of charging stations.

Shenzhen is also the only city in China offering the upgraded E6 to purchasers, with residents of the city purchasing electric vehicles such as the E6 receiving rebates around 120,000 renminbi or about U.S.$19,000. Currently, the cost of the E6 is about U.S.$58,000 in China and would be lower once it reaches the United States.

In another statement, Rich Broome, a senior vice president at Hertz, said that the company has a 600 rental cars in five cities throughout China and is projected to increase to 1,500 when 2013 rolls around.

Michael Austin, BYD America’s Vice President, said that the Hertz EV rental program would also be opened up in Beijing and Shanghai, where residents enjoy similar subsidies. He added, “The rental market is still very young in China. Many of the cars are being rented to chauffeurs.”

Austin further states that Shenzhen would have 500 E6 taxis on its streets and would also be converting its 1,600 vehicles into plug-in electrics, all made by BYD. Purchasers of electric vehicles would enjoy two free Level II chargers that would be installed near their homes or in their work facility built by their local utility together with low nighttime charging rates. The city currently has a hundred DC fast charging stations, also built by BYD. The E6 has a large sixty kWh battery pack that can provide 185 miles of range. These batteries can be fully charged at these stations in just half an hour.

It is expected that the E6 would be certified for sale in the U.S. by the end of 2012. These cars would be available for fleet purchasers such as Hertz but retail sales would soon be done when the charging infrastructure is developed further. He adds, “We feel the E6 is clearly ready for the American market. The performance, style and size are all very good.”

The EV Charger of the Future

Electric Car
Electric Car

Roush Manufacturing, a company based in Michigan, has unveiled its electric vehicle chargers for the home and commercial use. Aptly called the Blink, the chargers would be offered via Ecotality’s EV project. This project specifically targets owners of the Nissan Leaf EV and the Chevrolet Volt Hybrid.

Under the project, the company would build 10,000 wall-mounted chargers for residences and 6,000 pedestal chargers for the market within the year. Roush was previously making injection molded plastic components and now it has realigned its resources to meet the project’s demand. Overall, the project is well worth $230 million.

“Throughout each step of The EV Project, we’ve seen unprecedented consumer demand for electric vehicles, and partners like Roush have played a key role as we’ve brought our smart charging stations to market,” said Don Karner, ECOtality president.  With the full-scale production, the project in partnership with Roush would provide charging stations for the EV market.

On another note, a new government funded initiative to entice individuals to purchase electric cars would be including the charger for free when purchasing an EV. This project applies to purchasers of the Chevrolet Volt or the Nissan Leaf. Also covered would be the installation costs, which can total as much as $4,000.

Another part of the program would be the creation of public charging stations in major metropolitan cities such as Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.