Projected Gloomy Days Ahead for EVs

hybridcarsign
hybridcarsign

Even if gas pump prices topped $4 per gallon, there are projected dark days ahead for electric vehicles. The continued slow sales of plug-in electric vehicles have slumped many companies, leading to many to reassess their goals and projections for this burgeoning market.

Market giants such as General Motors have halted the building of the Volt for five (5) weeks commencing on March 19. The sales have been disappointing to sale the least, but it is still fares better compared to the Nissan Leaf.

On the other hand, Toyota has reported that the sales of its hybrid Prius outpaced its plug-in electric vehicles ten to one. Despite continuous price increases for gasoline, the hybrid Prius still continues to lord over the market. The Prius hybrid is not a plug in, as it utilizes both gas and battery power to propel the vehicle.

According to Brett Smith, Co-Director of Manufacturing at the Center for Automotive Research, “All along you saw an enormous amount of hype for electric plug in vehicles. The public’s perception of the time frame for widespread adoption was way out of whack with the reality.”

There are projected troubled times ahead for the electric vehicle industry, as shown by the following circumstances:

  • According to Consumer Reports, a Fisker Karma all-electric that was being run on a test track died during its lap. The cost of the vehicle was $107,850 and the company is reeling from the recent loss of funding from the Department of Energy. The company also announced that it has appointed Tom LaSorda as its new CEO, a position he formerly held with the Chrysler Group.
  • In a recent statement, A123 Systems announced that it lost $257.8 million in 2011 because of the withdrawal of the orders from Fisker. On a similar note, Ener1, a builder of lithium ion batteries, declared bankruptcy last January.
  • Bright Automotive also announced closure and bankruptcy after high hopes in selling hybrid plug-in delivery vans to the market out of its Anderson, In. facility.

Many industry experts still keep the faith, saying that plug in electrics just need time in order to catch on with consumers and the buying public. In time also, the technology would improve allowing for increased range and lowering the cost of the car. There is also the roadblock of decades of internal combustion engine sociology and psyche that needs to be modified to accommodate the technological requirements.

Another factor is the continued high price of the technology but this can all change with the continued skyrocketing prices of fuel would be the key factor in changing the landscape, despite the projected doldrums ahead.

Consumers Still Wary of Electric Cars

Oil and the electric car market
Oil and the electric car market

Nowadays, consumers are now deciding between purchasing the latest hybrid or the recently unveiled electric car to replace the current internal combustion engine in their garage. Despite the tax breaks and discounts, car owners are still quite wary of electric cars.

This conclusion was reached after a survey was conducted on consumers, whether they prefer gasoline-electric hybrids, compressed natural gas engines, hydrogen fuel cell engines or full electric vehicles. The survey results still showed that fossil fuels still is top choice while the electric vehicle came up last in the survey. A total of forty percent of respondents indicated that electric vehicles are the least preferred fuel engine choice.

The survey’s respondents numbered a total of 4,000 whose main characteristic would be the inclination to purchase a vehicle within five years from the time of the survey. Their main issues are purchase cost, refueling, maintenance cost, and mileage.

Despite the appalling numbers, the major automakers are rushing to cash in on the electric vehicle market. Tesla has its Roadster and the soon to be released Tesla S sedan. Nissan had mass-produced the Leaf while others are following the lead, with Ford with its all electric Focus, Chevrolet with the Volt and even Rolls Royce with its version.

The survey identified the main issues that consumers have in the use of alternative fuels, which can be categorized as money against comfort. The participants said that if they would spend an additional $1,000 for the vehicle, the vehicle must have one of the three characteristics, namely savings of $300 of driving over 12,000 miles a vehicle range of 17.5 miles or a refueling time of not over 7.8 minutes. These characteristics is what makes the hybrid such a viable alternative vehicle option, because all three concerns are addressed with they hybrid.

As for the electric vehicle, only when these are addressed can it make a run against the efficient hybrid vehicle.

President Obama Expects More Hybrid Cars and Trucks in the US

President Barack Obama recently issued a memorandum order improving the energy security of the United States, by transforming America's fleet of cars and trucks from emitting harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. “America has the opportunity to lead the world in the development of a new generation of clean cars and trucks through innovative technologies and manufacturing that will spur economic growth and create high-quality domestic jobs, enhance our energy security, and improve our environment”, the President wrote.

He stated that the United States have made significant strides toward reducing greenhouse gas pollution and enhancing fuel efficiency from motor vehicles with the joint rulemaking issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The President's memorandum however is requesting for additional coordinated steps to be taken by all concerned agencies to produce a new generation of clean vehicles.

Brian Wynne, President, Electric Drive Transportation Association earlier said on the joint ruling that "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation underscore the importance of electric drive vehicles in helping the U.S. reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector."

Given that nine of the top ten most fuel efficient vehicles in the U.S. are hybrids, he said that he would expect continued growth of hybrids and new momentum for plug-in electric and fuel cell vehicles that offer even greater fuel efficiency, environmental benefits and improve our energy security.

"This is an important next step for integrating and advancing electric drive into the vehicle fleet. We are pleased that the EPA and Department of Transportation have acknowledged the benefits of electric drive in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and affording greater fuel savings," Wynne said.

While the Federal Government and many States have now created a harmonized framework for addressing the fuel economy of and greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light-duty trucks, medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses continue to be a major source of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas pollution.

President Obama is requesting the Administrators of the EPA and the NHTSA to immediately begin work on a joint rule making under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) in order to establish fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for commercial medium and heavy-duty vehicles beginning with model year 2014.

Obama is aiming that a final ruling will be issued by July 30, 2011.

UK Sees Greener Future

The United Kingdom’s new leader outlines a greener policy for the transportation, taxation, business, energy and climate change. The government, in a report released to the media, says it supports tougher emission standards, development of new transport technologies and plans to mandate a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Earlier this month, David Cameron's Conservative party formed a new government for the United Kingdom with Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats who is now the deputy prime minister.

They have recently announced the coalition’s program for government by outlining key priority policy areas according to issue-type and government department.

Towards energy and climate change, it said that they have outlined a wide range of approaches including: Creation of a green investment bank, introduction of a floor price for carbon, persuade the European Union (EU) to move toward full auctioning of ETS permits, establishment of a smart grid and roll out smart meters, seek increase for targets in renewable energy production.

The coalition government will also support an increase in the EU emission reduction target at thirty percent by the year 2010 in an effort to push the union to demonstrate leadership in tackling international climate change. Meanwhile, they are planning to introduce a new HGV road user charging system that will be fair for British haulers.

In a manifesto directed to the next government prior to the recent election, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) outlined key issues affecting the UK motor industry in the near future and advised on policy direction to maximize the industry’s potential.

“The automotive sector is a vital part of the UK economy with a turnover of £52 billion, exports amounting to 10% of the UK total and supporting more than 800,000 jobs and is at the forefront of low-carbon technology,” according to the SMMT.

SMMT has also started developing a technical training program that will guide the electric vehicle industry in the country.

The UK traders group supports and promote both locally and internationally the interests of the country's automotive industry by closely working with member companies. It also acts as a mouthpiece for the automotive industry in promoting its interests to the authorities, stakeholders and the mass media.

In the meantime, the report also revealed that the government intends to create the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20, without jeopardizing the interests of the manufacturing industries.

“Government is intent on creating a fairer and more balanced economy, less dependent on a narrow range of economic sectors and more evenly shared between regions and industries.”

“Consideration is underway to implement the Dyson Review to help make the UK the leading hi-tech exporter in Europe and refocus the research and development tax credit for high-tech companies, small firms and start-ups,” the report also stated.

Do Hybrid Cars Help or Hinder the Electric Car Market?

As we see the electric car market continue to develop around the world many of the breakthroughs in the headlines today have come via hybrid cars. While there is certainly demand for hybrid cars, i.e. vehicles which have two or more power supplies, do these types of vehicle hinder or help the electric car market?

The benefits of a hybrid car

There are many benefits available from hybrid cars which include:

Reduced emissions

Even though there are some hybrid vehicles on the market that appear to offer very little in the way of economic savings, any vehicle which has an electric power supply and another supply, such as petrol or gasoline, will automatically fall into the reduced emissions bracket.

Less maintenance

Even if your hybrid vehicle operates on electric power only 10% of the time then this will reduce the number of moving parts and ultimately have an impact on maintenance. Less moving parts mean less wear and tear which ultimately means less maintenance. Less maintenance means a more efficient vehicle and a reduction in maintenance costs.

Reduce fuel bills

Even though the likes of the Chevrolet Volt has been criticised somewhat because of the fact it is ultimately powered by traditional fuels such as petrol or gasoline for the majority of the time, it still appears to be more efficient than the traditional cars on the market today. Even just the slightest hint of electric power will significantly reduce fuel bills, and with the price of oil very volatile at the moment this can be of great assistance to drivers.

The ability to combine two power supplies

The ability to incorporate two different power supplies into one vehicle has obvious advantages in that if one power supply is low then the other can be switched on and vice versa. Hopefully as electric car technology continues to improve we will see new hybrid vehicles allowing a larger percentage of journey times to be powered by electric which will ultimately improve all of the above aspects.

The downsides to 100% electric powered cars

While there are many benefits to using cars which are 100% powered by electric, with no liquid fuel such as petrol or gasoline involved, there are still a number of practical issues to resolve. To put the whole matter into perspective, when was the last time you saw or heard about an electric vehicle recharging point?

The truth is that while there are many more benefits to the electric car than the vast majority of us will be aware of, until we have electric car power points available across the UK, and across the world, the market will remain subdued. While we see the likes of the UK government introducing a multi-million pound electric car trial across the UK and Boris Johnson hoping to introduce in excess of 100,000 electric vehicles to London's over the next few years, the signs are good but there is still much work to be done.

Do hybrid cars detract from the benefits of electric vehicles?

One vehicle which has caught the headlines over the last few months has been the Chevrolet Volt which has been introduced by General Motors. As we suggested above, this is a vehicle which has been put forward as a hybrid car when in fact it is actually 90% powered by traditional fuel although because the fuel powers the electric generator, which then powers the motors, it can be classed as a hybrid. But is this type of vehicle impacting upon the perceived benefits of electric cars?

There is no doubt that allowing hybrid vehicles to be predominantly powered by traditional fuels does take away much of the benefit perceived to be available via the electric car. Those who have not done their homework may not be aware of the situation regarding the likes of the Chevrolet Volt and ultimately may see this as the "car of the future". Even though there are obvious benefits to this particular vehicle, which uses fuel to power the electric motors which drives the car, there are still emissions and it is still using substantial amounts of fuel.

After fighting tooth and nail for many years to push electric cars into the limelight, surely General Motors (which has been long accused of trying to "kill the electric car") cannot yet again spoil the party?

The next few years are vital for the electric car industry

There is no doubt that despite a number of false dawns in the past, the electric vehicle and ultimately the electric car is entering a very important phase of its development. If the vehicles do not take off over the next 10 years, for whatever reason, then it is highly likely that their eventual delivery into the mass market could take many more years to complete. However, while the likes of General Motors appear unconvinced about the potential for 100% electric powered cars, companies such as Tesla Motors are leaving companies such as General Motors behind in this particular field.

If Tesla motors, and other similar companies committed to the electric vehicle, can become the leaders of the pack on a long-term basis then we could see the influence of the likes of General Motors, Ford and other prominent traditional car manufacturers reduced in favour of the likes of Tesla.

Conclusion

While there is no doubt that the hybrid vehicle offers a very useful halfway house between traditional fuel powered cars and electric vehicles, there is a need to be honest with the public and explain that many hybrid cars are in effect powered by traditional fuels. Many motorists who think they're buying an electric car might be disappointed to find out it is almost wholly powered by traditional fuel and this could scare people away from the sector.

However, as long as the likes of Tesla Motors and other electric car companies continue to grab the headlines, the ability of such companies as General Motors and the like to dictate the future direction of the market is reduced. Make no mistake, as soon as General Motors and Ford for example see that this particular market is here to stay and is taking off, they will bombard the market with their own electric vehicles!