By on November 19, 2010

Did you know that there’s an Electric Drive Transportation Association? It’s a group that wants you to ditch your ICE-powered car and run on battery instead. Their member list is huge. Just about every important automaker is on it. Utility companies  from Austin Energy all the way to the Tennessee Valley Authority are members. Battery manufacturers, component suppliers, infrastructure developers are members. The City of New York is. Hertz is. And if things get dicey, the association can call upon their member L-3 Communications-Combat Propulsion Systems to provide fire support.

But as big as they are, they are scared. They are worried that customers may not plug in. Or, as Reuters put it, they are concerned that “the ‘range anxiety’ drivers of plug-in electric cars may suffer is preceded by anxiety over the wisdom of buying one.” And what do they do to allay these fears? Cheaper cars? Longer lasting batteries? Free charging stations?

None of the above. They started a website. GoElectricDrive.com tells you how to find an EV, how to charge it, and how much you will save. If I had traded in my (I admit it) 14mpg Ford Expedition for an unspecified EV, the website tells me that I would save $22.22 per fill-up.  Without asking what car I drive now and which one I will drive in my virtual electric future. Now I’m confused. What fill-up? I thought there won’t be any? And they think my fill-up is 14 gals. My Expedition sucked up 28 gals, and much more out of my pocket.

That calculator is suspect.  If they approach the matter in such a lackadaisical manner, then I won’t believe the other stuff either.  Like that “public charging stations are planned in  major metropolitan areas.” I believe that – duh  - “owners of plug-in cars soon get used to driving past the gas station.” But will they feel “good about saving money and the environment?” Maybe.

Range anxiety? Doesn’t exist on the website. But hey, it’s called GoElectricDrive.com – so when your battery runs flat, you still can walk. It’s good for you.

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31 Comments on “EV Interest Group Is Worried: Will You Plug In?...”


  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    For those that want to dump the Big Oil for their local power company, if they can do the home charging station and want to put up with the hassle, an EV will be fine.
     
    According to the EPA mileage figures, a conventional vehicle with an ICE that gets 24 mpg City and 35 mpg Highway uses $1300 worth of fuel per year.  There are no figures given for recharging an EV.  So, if it is half as much, then your EV savings will have covered the cost of a home charging station in less than 2 years.
     
    Also, there is the issue for those who live in multi-unit apartments or condominiums.

  • avatar
    ash78

    As I often mention, there is WAY more than the cost of fueling when considering a vehicle–from both a financial and environmental perspective. One guy trading an old-but-efficient small gas car for a new electric, in an area of coal-fired plants…that could be a financial disaster AND potentially create more pollution than had he just left it alone. His depreciation cost will skyrocket, his refueling will just shift the pollution, and the battery sourcing/recycling issue is always a hot topic (without a concise answer).
     
    Meanwhile, a guy trading a newer SUV for a small electric in a hydro power area could improve his situation several fold, both for his wallet and for his local and global ecology.
     
    YMMV pretty heavily, and it’s sort of insulting to see it all boiled down to simplistic range anxiety campaigns or calculators. Cars are the second largest purchase most people ever make (and among the biggest polluters), but we just don’t seem to put that much effort or thought into it, collectively, from either of the two perspectives.

  • avatar
    ambulancechaser

    Plug in power may sound cheap…for now.  What happens to the cost of electricity when several hundred thousand motorists make the switch and the demand on utilities companies skyrockets?  Not so cheap anymore me thinks.  And you’ll be paying that for your home as well as your vehicle, as though you had to fuel your car and the generator that powered your house.
    Then there is climate.  EV’s?  In Northern Canada?  Do they understand what happens to batteries at -40 degrees Celsius?  I do.  They fail.  “Don’t worry, you can always walk”?  Stranded in the frozen wilderness somewhere with a dead EV?  No, you won’t walk.  You’ll freeze to death.
    Sorry, I won’t be plugging in.  My question is what ever happened to hydrogen fuel cell technology?

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “What happens to the cost of electricity when several hundred thousand motorists make the switch and the demand on utilities companies skyrockets?”

      There’s a certain segment of the population that never pays attention…

      This is a non-issue.  Most charging can be done at night when there’s far more capacity available than demand and electric companies are begging people to use the juice.  You won’t see an EV from a major manufacturer on the market without the capacity to easily set up overnight charging.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      There’s also a certain segment of the population that deserves the occasional slap on the back of the head. Just because you can imagine a solution doesn’t make the problem irrelevant or unworthy of discussion.
       
      Since the lawshark asked about hydrogen, I’ll note that within the past day or so, there was a TTAC article that mentioned something about hydrogen cars slated for 2015. I have no idea what it referred to, but it caught my attention. Or maybe that’s just in Europe, where I keep hearing that big names like BMW are actually building hydrogen refueling stations.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      No. This is a significant potential issue.  Utilities use their least expensive option, usually coal, to supply their base load at night.  To supply their variable daytime demand they use natural gas powered generators that can power up fast, but burn relatively expensive fuel.  Use your peak load generators at night too and fuel costs to the utility go up.  Rates go up for everyone.  The increased nighttime electricity demand might justify building more coal base load capacity, but good luck getting EV owners to support this.  Would be reasonable to clear out some of the roadblocks to expanding nuclear capacity, but again I don’t see demand for EVs being coupled to support for nuclear power.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      “My question is what ever happened to hydrogen fuel cell technology?”
      1. Fuel Cells need platinum catalysts ($1650/oz.)
      2. Fuel cells have the same cold weather problems that batteries have.
      3. Hydrogen is energy intensive to manufacture, and extraordinarily difficult to store and transport. It will leak out of any container. To hold useful amounts requires either pressures of 10,000 psi or liquefication at -425 degrees. The only practical method of storing and transporting hydrogen is to combine it with carbon into a room temperature liquid like gasoline.
      So the real question is what problem did you think Hydrogen was supposed to solve? Whatever it was, Hydrogen won’t solve it.

  • avatar

    Not me either, rural living, long commutes, 20 miles to the nearest grocery/large town. It’s ICE for me for a long time.

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, at NYC and LI 22 cent kwH prices, plug-in makes no economic sense.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Bertel, has the consortium proposed anything like a guaranteed emergency charge/tow home program to rescue stranded EV drivers?
     

  • avatar
    stryker1

    The dirty little secret behind all of these developments, hybrid/ev/etc… is that gas still isn’t expensive enough to warrant the buy in costs. If gas doubles in price, you might end up paying and extra 1 or 2k over the course of the year, but thats still significantly less than the price of purchasing an EV over a similarly equipped ICE. Further more You can mitigate those gas costs by driving less. With an EV, all the costs are structural, and built in at the front end, so driving it less (even though you’ll already be driving it less than a normal car because of it’s range) doesn’t save you much.
     
    For the people who the extra grand or so in gas a year would hugely impact, EVs and hybrids are out of reach anyway.
     
    All of that aside, I’m still personally excited about the future of EVs and hope to own one, one day. I do not, however, recommend diving in until the tech is mature and something approaching a good buy.

  • avatar
    JMII

    What about my car stereo? If I crank it up do I lose range? Wait I can answer that myself… YES! A/C + nav system + day time running lights + stereo + iPod charging + power windows + heated seats + rear view camera + ??? (insert next new toy here). Forget “range anxiety” what about gadget anxiety? All these toys suck down battery juice… a few amps here and there and suddenly your batteries are flat.
     
    As much fun as it is to put down the Volt at least it will get home on good ole gasoline. On the flip side this should encourage stores and restaurants to install charging stations. What better way to gain customers then to offer them a quick battery boost with their coffee and danish, or a recharge while watching a movie. This is the only way EVs will catch on.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      It is being done already at our local Whole Paycheck grocery store.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Our biggest mall had charging stations about 10-15 years ago, but took them out several years back when it didn’t look like they would ever be used.
       
      Side note @OldandSlow: 2 months ago, I had to run into Whole Paycheck for some beer, and had to leave my wife and 2-week-old son in the car. It was pretty hot outside, and I was only going in for a couple minutes (you can guess where this is going), so I left the car running with the A/C on. My wife said she got at least 10 dirty looks from people going in and out of the store. All of whom had driven cars themselves, of course.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    All I keep hearing is “An electric vehicle doesn’t work for me, therefore they must not work for anyone.”
     
    The Nissan Leaf is sold out before it even goes on sale, yet we keep hearing that there is no market for electric cars.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Further, the media has a tendency to make electrics and hybrids sounds like they’re supposed to be an answer to everyone’s needs, when that obviously isn’t the case (and probably won’t be for 100 years or more).
       
      To make an investing analogy, our national auto portfolio SHOULD be made up of ICE (gas, diesel, LPG, CNG, etc), hybrids, electrics, H-fuel cells, and anything else that seems reasonable. The consumers will pick what suits them, with nudging from government and manufacturer intervention via rebates and subsidies.
       
      It’s like we’re all stuck with an old-fashioned stock/bond portfolio and get mad or defensive whenever someone mentions mutual funds, ETFs, TIPS, or any other form of diversification. You don’t have to choose them, but it’s nice to have options.

  • avatar
    slance66

    EVs are not the answer.  At best, they become a third car option for families will the desire to pat themselves on the back.  They might make good “zip cars” in urban centers for one way trips…but subways already do that job more efficiently.
    Many modern cars emit nearly zero emissions of real pollutants.   More than half of our (US) electricity comes from coal, which yields more real pollutants than modern cars (CO2 is not a real pollutant).  Yet the cheap coal powered electricity is the only thing that makes these remotely affordable.  Add to that the massive mining required to produce the metals that go into those batteries, and the shipping involved, and battery and hybrid cars are arguably an ecological downgrade from ICE vehicles.
    I think the ICE is here to stay, the question becomes what fuels it in the future.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    I get freaked when my gas level gets below 1/4 tank (100 mile range).  Here is a good article on examining Electric Vehicles from the Power Company perspective. It mentions the dramatic shift from one resource to another, the tremendous finacial stake from GE and other PUD companies, and the risky assumptions everyone in this business is making by expecting illogical adoption rates.

    http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2010/11/17/big-electricity-push-electric-cars/

  • avatar
    zenith

    Do EVs all run on the same voltage? Are the charger connections universal? If I pull into a Nissan-, Ford- or Toyota-dealer charging station in my Chevy Volt, can I hook up without needing an adapter, and vice versa?

    And, having lived in places with electric heat, I can tell you that it sucks down the kwhs. I live where I need heat 4-6months a year and live 14.5 miles from work. I also work nights-so lighting is mandatory. Will I get at least one full round trip to work out of a battery charge under those conditions?

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Manufacturers recently agreed on a standard charger connection.
    Here’s a few blogs about living with an electric Mini.  The upshot is, for 14.5 miles you can go crazy with the accessories and not run out of juice.
    http://electricminicooper.blogspot.com/
    http://electricmini.blogspot.com/
    http://myemini.wordpress.com/

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “EVs are not the answer.  At best, they become a third car option for families will the desire to pat themselves on the back.”

    Are you kidding me? A Chevy Volt or other plug-in would be the perfect 2nd car for our family and millions of others. Owning has nothing to do with a pat on the back, trust me on that one!

        

  • avatar

    Tomorrow I will drive from Boston to Northern Virginia, as I have twice before this year. I’ve taken about 4 other road trips this year, as well. These road trips are a big deal for me. So, I’m definitely not in the market for an EV at least until range and charging time are similar to ICE, or until the cost of gasoline becomes prohibitive. And I suspect EVs will be a niche for at least 10-15 years unless there are unforeseen breakthroughs, so I am not surprised that this EV group is worried. But for those who want to drive electric, despite the range and charging time, it’s fine with me.

  • avatar

    EVs will do much to make nuclear power more cost-effective. The N plants can’t be turned on and off very easily, so they have to run all night even when there isn’t much demand. EVs could ameliorate that problem.
    @Ash78  Very funny on “Whole Paycheck” (wholefoods, for those who aren’t familiar with the nickname that as far as I know was coined by Michael Dukakis)

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    What do you think will happen to power rates when they have to start building more power plants.  The one comment in that Fox article – essentially ‘we hope there are more solar powered charging stations, so we don’t have to build more power plants.’

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Reuters titled their piece, “Electric-car website aims to ease buyers’ fears”

    Truth be told, the EDTA aims their efforts at easing politicians’ fears. The EDTA’s primary model is the  axis of thugs who forced ethanol down our collective throats. To induce Congress and the alphabet agencies to invent yet another such boondoggle, it must first provide political cover by legitimizing in the media the notion of electric cars for ordinary people.

    Any other sources of EDTA inspiration? Recycling is one. Recycling is hugely cost-inefficient, and outside of aluminum and paper, no manufacturer wants to use collected glass, plastic, etc unless it is heavily subsidized. To make all this go down, the public first had to be bamboozled into thinking that all those streetside containers, special collection trucks, and separation facilities (not to mention the workers who man them) were a Good Thing.

    This brings us back to electric cars, or more specifically, the cost of infrastructure necessary to support them. Need several thousand dollars worth of electrical work at your home to plug in an EV? Really expensive gear to allow EV owners to sell excess power back into the grid at peak hours? Reserved charging spots at universities, malls, etc? It’s all easy as long as the public picks up the tab, and the collective PR machine demonizes anyone who disagrees. How much money would the various levels of government be willing to plow into such a program? Consider the province of Ontario, Canada, where the average cost of power is about 4 cents a kilowatt hour. Despite this, the Ontario government pays producers between 13 and 19 cents for wind power, and between 44 and 71 cents for solar power. Translation: there is no limit to the sums politicans are prepared to spend on a grow-the-government/green agenda — as long as they think they can get away with it.

    EXTRA:
    Wondering who else might be on the team? Here’s an example from Terence Corcoran, writing the other day in the National Post:

    The Canadian Council of Central Planning Executives, otherwise known as the CCCE, yesterday produced Clean Growth 2.0: How Canada can be a Leader in Energy and Environmental Innovation, the second in a series of strategy papers that propose turning Canada into an “environmental superpower” and “an energy and resource powerhouse.”

    The captains of Canadian industry and leaders of our free market economy want a “road map that provides clarity and predictability,” with key sectors of the economy — government, industry, stakeholders — all pulling in the same direction set by “smart” policy. Such policy would include a national energy strategy, a nationwide carbon tax, subsidized investment in technology, and mass government indoctrination to force lifestyle changes, including programs to “get more people out of their cars and using public transit, car-pooling, cycling and walking.”

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      If they believe that EV cars will (eventually) give us the same range and freedom as our gas cars, then why do they also talk about having to make sacrifices along with the tired old 70′s cliches about bike, walk and ride share?

    • 0 avatar
      LimpWristedLiberal

      FoW: Everyone is sacrificing.  One time I drove my old car along a Forest Service road and ended up crossing a stream.  I almost got stuck.  Now I don’t even own a car.  I can’t go see a show in the city without renting a car or riding the bus for hours because the last train is at 10:30 PM.  So if I bought a car capable of stream crossing, I would be sacrificing urban parking or vice versa.  Or I could buy a car and a truck and sacrifice even more money.


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