By on May 22, 2011

Though an global Accenture study [via Green Car Congress] found that up to 68% of respondents would consider a plug-in electric vehicle for their next purchase, the issue of range continues to be the great unknown. And unfortunately for all the models and predictions of future EV sales, the issue of range points to some severely irrational consumer behavior. Namely, there’s a giant disconnect (nearly ten-fold in fact) between the actual number of kilometers driven each day and the range expectations for future EV purchases. Meanwhile, 62% of respondents rejected battery swapping, the most credible current solution for range anxiety, for reasons that are not immediately clear. In short, Energy Secretary Chu had beeter be right when he says EV range will triple and costs will be reduced over the next six years… otherwise, EVs will die a quick death at the hand of consumers’ outsized range expectations.

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90 Comments on “The EV Expectation Gap...”


  • avatar
    kkop

    There’s nothing irrational about it: the daily commute may be short, but people will want to visit family and friends farther away sometimes and not have to worry about stopping every few hours for a 12-hour recharging session.

    You might as well say that any gas tank larger than 5 gallons is irrational because 5 gallons will take you through much of your commuting week and gas stations are everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      ChevyIIfan

      +1, summarizes what I think everyone feels exactly.

      • 0 avatar
        downhill56

        Not everyone…I have an EV and my ICE car just sits. Don’t want to let go of it for those reasons. I may soon though and just rent an ICE car for the long trips. My fuel saving in one month will more that pay for a 3 day car rental.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. To put it slightly differently, the figures in the graph are for AVERAGE daily mileage. Peoples’ desires for range probably reflect their MAXIMUM daily mileage. Or, to put it in concrete terms, if your typical daily mileage is 30, but on weekends you often do more than 100 miles, and sometimes more than 150 miles, you’re going to want a range that is greater than 150 miles, especially given the time it takes to recharge an EV. Even Dan Sperling considers EVs to have limited appeal, as second cars.
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/does-better-place-have-a-better-plan/

      As for battery swapping, that’s going to have to be demonstrated before people get comfortable. As Greg Nowell of SUNY Albany points out in my Better Place article, the cost of transporting batteries to swapping stations might be quite significant, and there could be supply problems in periods of peak demand, such as holidays. Storing batteries at refueling stations is not nearly as easy as storing liquid fuel.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Gasoline is poisonous and explosive liquid which makes storing actually hard compared with a solid (from the outside) battery

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Gasoline is an energy-dense liquid, which makes it easy to store in a large tank, and dispense via a lightweight hose/nozzle.

        Batteries are very large, *very* heavy bricks of potentially inconvenient shape, that are not “man-portable” via any interpretation of the phrase.

        Battery swap will only work if the battery packs are standardized.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        “Gasoline is an energy-dense liquid, which makes it easy to store in a large tank, and dispense via a lightweight hose/nozzle”

        This sounds more like the description of a fire bomb than a transportation fuel

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      If an EV is your only car, then kkop’s point is valid. However, if it’s a family’s second or third car, no sweat. For longer trips, just take the gas car(s).

      • 0 avatar

        Depends on whether at least one of the car users never drives much further than their regular commute.

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        Yeah, but that “one user” can be traded around. You don’t have to shackle each car to a respective family member.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        No, because sometimes the gas car is being used by another family member. The idea that everybody’s got spare cars and can rearrange their lives in a pre-planned way around the limitations of an EV is patently ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        protomech

        @SVX pearlie

        “The idea that everybody’s got spare cars and can rearrange their lives in a pre-planned way around the limitations of an EV is patently ridiculous.”

        Where’d that idea come from? EVs won’t work for every person, for every trip. Nor does a two seat sports car when you need to carry seven people. Nor a seven seat truck when you commute to work alone. Use the best tool for each task.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        @proto: A 2-seat sports car carries less, sure. But in terms of being able to get around when you need to, it’s better than a BEV. BEVs are great when the world is well-planned and favorable. The thing is, in the back of people’s minds, they know the world isn’t always favorable.

        A simple example, you want to pick up an hot item at the nearby mall after work. You get there, and they’re sold out of the particular color/size/style you want, but have one at the store in the next closest mall, and will hold it for you if you pick it up tonight. If you have a normal car / EREV / PHEV, it’s no big deal. If you have a BEV, you’re screwed.

        I would buy a 2-seat hardtop sports car over a BEV for my DD without hesitation. We have a 3-row hauler for anything big, and that 2-seater would do just fine for my commute, probably get better mileage, too. If I need to go to a customer site or offsite meeting, no problem. The only thing I give up is being the lunch driver.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        @ Proto,
        I agree with what you say, the right tool for the right job. But having an EV, means I have to have another tool. I don’t get to sell one.

    • 0 avatar
      bpmcgee

      kkop is exactly right. People can’t afford to own 4 cars to cover every possible scenario, so they buy one vehicle which can cover everything, even if they rarely ever use it all.

      With insurance and car prices so high, who can afford to own a car they can only take to the grocery store?

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        Multi-car families, that’s who.

        I grew up in a middle-class family of four, and we owned 3 cars most of the time, usually 2 cars and a truck. My Mom’s commute was pretty long, but my Dad’s was maybe 20 miles R/T, tops. Hi car could have easily been an EV, and I think it would have been a rare day indeed when that would have caused any inconvenience whatsoever to the family. Long trips? Not a problem. Driving outside of the commutes? Not a problem. Even the EV would still have plenty of extra range for cross-town errands.

        It’s true, though, EVs aren’t for everyone. And if you don’t like ‘em, you certainly don’t have to buy ‘em.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        As a 3rd vehicle, I agree that a BEV is possible, because you have 2 other cars that can reshuffle.

        But then, as the 3rd vehicle, you can get away with anything. Motorcycle, pickup, roadster – it doesn’t matter.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        No, multi-car families it isn’t.

        My family when growing up did have 3 cars for 2 adult drivers. But, that was also very poor financial planning. None of my siblings are making that mistake. Is it seriously going to be cheaper to have 3 cars one of them being an EV instead of 2 cars?

  • avatar
    Doc

    My question is, if this technology does not pan out, who do us taxpayers see about getting our money back? By this I mean, how do we get the hundreds of millions in subsidies that we have poured into this industry back?
    Politicians need to be held accountable for this stuff.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Put a class 2 or 3 box hitch on the back, and have an optional/rentable “range extender” genset pack that has a small motor (ecomotor?) or microturbine and say 5 gallons of fuel, within the tongue weight of the hitch. Problem solved.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      This solution is SO much better than towing a fairly heavy gas engine around EVERYWHERE (like every hybrid).

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Volvo built a prototype along those lines something like ten or twenty years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Assuming an effective 40 mpg, 5 gallons would add 200 miles of range.

      If using a noisy, dirty portable generator, wet boxed “tongue weight” could be roughly 250 pounds.

      If using a clean microturbine, maybe 400 pounds fully-enclosed?

      Not a bad thing, but I’d hate to be trying to load & install that thing by hand… And for 250-400 pounds, wouldn’t it be easier to simply integrate it into the car chassis?

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        http://www.autoworld.com/news/GMC/Series_Hybrid.htm

        Prototype 40kW genset and fuel in about 250lbs in an EV1, looks to be circa 2001, presumably the weight could be reduced somewhat..

        A tongue-mounted unit could be wheeled on retractable/relocatable wheels, or worst case could be built into a trailer that would provide an additional “trunk”.

        A few reasons to have an auxiliary power unit instead of having it built-in:
        * Regulatory: true ZEVs have access to HOV privs, other state benefits that may not apply to even serial hybrids
        * Weight: why carry the motor, fuel, etc around until you actually need it for long road trips?
        * Price: why buy the motor, fuel if you don’t need it very often if at all, for urban/city use cases renting would likely pencil out
        * Loopholes: perhaps a trailered motor could get around emissions requirements, especially if it’s not attached when the vehicle is inspected?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    most gas powered cars have a 300 mile range on a tank. In klicks that is about 480. Get back to me when you find an electric sedan at least Corolla size that has that range. BTW, wabbout my 1200 mile avg one way drives when I’m on vacation?

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      Rent a car for your annual vacation. Buy a car for your daily commute. Americans can’t seem to figure this out.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Bingo. And you can go another 300 miles after a refueling stop that takes only a few minutes.

      I think electric cars will be seen as equivalent to ICE cars in the market place when the range gets close to 300 miles and you can recharge to at least 250 miles range in half an hour. Why half an hour? Let’s say you want to drive from New York City to Raleigh, NC which is a little over 500 miles. If you start in the morning, by the time you get to the other side of Washington, DC you will probably want to stop for lunch, and it’s also getting towards time to recharge. If you can recharge during the time it takes to eat lunch, you’ll have enough electrons to get you to Raleigh. And if you want to go farther, recharge again while you eat dinner. It all works as long as there are quick charge stations at Cracker Barrel.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    The issue is not so much the range, as the recharging time and availability of public fast-charging stations.

    I need about a 400 km range to cover my sales region. If every workplace (or at least the far-away ones … but the ones that are far for me are close for someone else, and vice versa, so it ends up that you need them everywhere) had a public fast-charger, cut that in half. That would address “work”. For the long trips, a stop for half an hour every 300 – 400 km wouldn’t be a show-stopper. But until such a time as public fast-charging stations are as common as filling stations on the motorway … an EV doesn’t work for me, at all.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with fast-charging stations that take a half hour can be illustrated with the following thought experiment: How many cars go through a typical gas station in a half hour? That’s how many you’re going to have to have in the charging station at any given time.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes and no. On the one hand a certain number of users will only (or mostly) charge at home. On the other hand someone who would use it beyond it’s basic range on a regular basis could possibly visit the fast charge more frequently than they would visit the pump.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      the problem isn’t only the 30 minute charging time on a fast charger, but a gas station needs many charging “pumps”. A gasoline pump takes 2 minutes to fill up my tank incl. credit card transaction. IF each transaction takes 30 minutes (and that doesn’t charge the battery full, but to 80%…the remaining 20% likely would need another 30-60 minutes) you needed 15 times the number of “pumps” if you don’t want to have long lines. your gas station then looks like the size of a shopping mall parking lot.

      I’m still not sure how public charging stations are supposed to work since the charger (the electronics that are tuned to the specific battery – it is quite tricky to charge without damaging the battery, all battery chemistry is pretty proporietary) is not in the car itself. My Nissan Leaf needs a different charger than the volt etc. In addition newer batteries will need different chargers. a 2017 Leaf won’t be compatible with a 2011 charger.

      if the charger was in the car along with a wide range voltage input, I only needed any 120-277 V power source and it would work. But because the charger is outside the car (at extra cost) it is impossible. My Samsung cell phone has the charger built in and I hook it up to any USB power supply and it would work, no need for me to ever buy any Samsung cable or power supply. I can use my iPod car power supply (which is a USB power supply, my nokia USB cable etc.) or jsut connect it to any PC via USB port and can charge it. Why couldn’t cars be the same way and have the charger built in (and not needed to spend extra money)?

      Battery swapping won’t work for the same reason, I drop off my 2011 Leaf battery and get a 2017 Volt battery or a 2015 corolla battery… how will my Nissan home charger react to that? In addition I wouldn’t trust that a battery that gets given away, gets treated well by the owner. It is like everyone treats a rental car.

      I really think EV are a good idea for short distances and a second cars in families (or only car if you are willing to rent a car for long distance). but the problems mentioned above prevent me from believing in long distance EV. which is sad, all the issues i mentioned with compatibility could have been prevented if car companies (or the government) would have created a standard to have built-in chargers and a universal plug with wide range voltage input.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Swappable batteries would be standardized like today’s D-cell, C-cell form factor and 1.5V output.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        A gasoline pump is much more expensive than a recharge station. There are also all kind of safety and environmental issues with gas pumps. In short: having 15 times the number of “pumps” isn’t a problem

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Sorry, you’re wrong. 15 times the number of charging stations is unworkable. Think about it, in most places, the pumps are already in place, they’re there and don’t have to be installed or anything and they are in sufficient numbers to handle traffic. But charging stations that can do fast recharges don’t exist now and would have to be installed for long range elctric travel to be possible. Those don’t appear one day out of thin air just because you want them there to prove your point.

        As much as you want it to be so, long range fast charging ev’s aren’t possible at this time. And the infrastructure to support them doesn’t exist and won’t without major expense paid by someone.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    That’s what I’ve been trying to say and that is while range is important, it’s being ABLE to charge the damned thing conveniently in the first place. If all some of us have are 120V outlets that are barely convenient to use at best if available at all, then what good will it do us when our batteries are depleted and can’t recharge, if at all?

    As other are saying, get back to me once fast charging stations are as common as gas stations or some other method of supplying the juice or through battery swappage or something makes keeping one’s EV fully charged in a convenient manner.

    If the infrastructure isn’t in place, EV’s will die a not so slow death IMO.

  • avatar
    sfenders

    Yeah, it’s misleading to portray that as a gap. There are probably at least two things going on: First, people will want some margin for error, maybe even they’re smart enough to realize that a 100-mile advertised range might work out to 50 miles in the winter on the freeway after the battery is no longer new. Second, people are obviously smart enough not to think about the average miles driven in a day when asked about what range they want; they’ll think of the longest trip in the typical week/month/year. “What’s the longest trip you normally take in a month” is a much more relevant question.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      “What’s the longest trip you normally take in a month” is a much more relevant question.

      Exactly right. Nobody wanting longer range is saying that the BEV needs to drive coast-to-coast on a single charge. But a BEV should be able to cover the longest trip one typically takes in a week (or month).

      As a second car, 7-day utility is important, not just 5-day commuting.

  • avatar
    daviel

    kkop hit the bullseye. I do not want a car that limits my options. Might as well bicycle and take public transportation. Get back to me when the ev is not such a hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      If I want an expensive toy, I’ve already got a bicycle that needs $500 a year in maintenance. I can work from home, so my car doesn’t even get driven every day. It was a major convenience a couple weeks ago when the people I was going to ride with to a wedding were running late and I hopped in my car and made a 150 mile round trip without needing to do any planning though. I call it freedom.

      • 0 avatar
        downhill56

        Sorry, just can’t let this obvious exaggeration go unnoticed. $500 a year to maintain your bicycle? Come on now! I’m an avid cyclist and unless you cannot fix your own flats and do basic maintenance yourself, this is not possible.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It is at the Trek Superstore for a chain, cables, brake pads for the hydraulic discs, and bottom bracket. The preliminary estimate is $210. I spent about $70 on tires two months ago. In November, the bike was in for a tune up, chain, and cassette. IIRC, that was about $130. Yes, that only totals $410, but that is what I’ve spent in only the last 6 months. I changed bike shops just before that, so the November service came up on their computer when I asked them how recently the chain had been replaced. I know that I had the bike in the old shop I went to last fall, and that I spent a few bucks there before taking it to the main Trek store. $500 a year was a conservative estimate. I’ll almost certainly exceed that total by the end of June, as my pedals are due for replacement. I ride 5 or 6 days a week, when the bike isn’t in the shop waiting for Hayes brake pads to be sourced. I fix my own flats, not that I have had many since switching to kevlar belted tires, and I lube the chain. Other than that, I take it to the shop.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Welcome to why I learned to build and repair my own bikes forty years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Jaeger

        If you ride a lot and have a bike with high end components it’s actually very easy to spend $500/year on maintenance. Figure a cassette, chain, brake pads, cables, tires and bar tape as consumables and check the prices of high end road bike components. If you ride 4000 miles/year or more in all weather bike maintenance is certainly not cheap. And we’re not even talking shoes, lycra, Gatorade, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        @Kevin Jaeger, thanks for backing me up. I’m not sure what motivates the downhill56s of the world to offer testimony on topics they either haven’t a clue about or are lying about. I don’t even go over the top on what I spend, and I think the guys at the Trek Superstore consider me a bit of a cheapskate. I wasn’t thrilled that I only got 6 months out of my last chain, and asked if I should be buying more expensive chains. They were honest and told me that more expensive chains are lighter and would only stretch faster under my 230 lbs and daily Mount Soledad climbs. I know that if I was obsessed about bike performance and riding an $8,000+ road bike I would only spend more than I do keeping it in top form.

      • 0 avatar
        Dekinorman

        $500 is reasonable for an annual maintenance on a good bike. A 10 speed chain and cassette for my bike will set me back $250, and I can get maybe 5000 km out of that. Good tires are $100.00 or more, could be much more if you are running Tubulars. Check out the cost of a Campy 11s chain and ceramic bearings for your Lightweight wheels if you want to see the costs add up.
        I still have limited range on my bicycle, though. The best I’ve managed is 312km before having to rest and refuel. I still manage to use it daily to commute, and feel that I’ve not given up too much of my freedom.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The people who insist that an EV needs to be able to run for 300 miles at 80mph through a blizzard in Siberia, are mostly the same ones who insist that they need a Tahoe in case they have to tow a utility trailer sometime in the next five years.

    • 0 avatar
      Tree Trunk

      Right on!

      It is nice to think that you might one day go off roading with half a baseball team as passengers all while towing a 10000lb trailer, but as can be clearly seen on any shopping mall parking lot, 99% of the time the full size SUV is the grocery getter for a hand full of people.

      If you need or think you need a vehicle for very long commute, frequent out of town trips, off roading, towing a monster trailer, outrunning an alien spaceship up a steep mountain pass with 5 sumo wrestlers a passengers an EV is not for you at least not yet.

      For the rest of us that have two or more cars per household, we should be able to us an EV for second cheap to run commuting and as a grocery getter. The other car could be a little larger to handle the road trips and heavy hauling.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @bumpy ii & Tree Trunk

        When I drive my F-250 Crew 4X4 to the city, I’ll stuff it into a compact parking spot just to get a reaction. I’ll have it detailed including a powerscrub to the frame and axles just because. We’ll sit across at a diner and watch the citybois in full rage.

        I don’t assume that most SUVs & 4B4s at the shopping mall spend 99% of their life chasing errands that a compact or EV can do (not even close) but if you like assuming that, enjoy. Truth is alot of us are scaling down our fleets to just one. Just not worth owning a second car when I can rent a Cobalt the 3 days a month I go to Nevada.

        I like EVs and I’m glad they’re picking up momentum instead of CNGs and I’ll have you & and the rest of the early adopters to thank when I’m ready to buy. By then every Sonic, Walmart, Mcdonalds, carwash and work site will be a charging station and most of the gas stations will be converted into nail salons or something.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        “99% of the time the full size SUV is the grocery getter for a hand full of people.”

        So? A full-size (3-row) vehicle is a great choice for a family of 4+.

        Consider that a lot of people drive their childrens’ friends about and/or older relatives from time to time. SUV / CUV / minivan / van, the functionality is still to seat 6+ people & gear.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        @Mike: If you’re overflowing the “compact” space and I have to wedge myself to get in/out of my car, I’m keying your truck down to scratch into the bare metal on my way out.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Reality Check time. Car and Driver has had their long term Leaf for a month now. The average range is 58 miles. Nissan won’t risk a magazine having the thing in Michigan during any but the mildest weather, so they have to give it back before August. Every trip is a stress laden adventure. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch than EV early adopters.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      @CJinSD:

      May I ask: Why are you so angry? Everything you have posted for the last week has been negative, but no suggestions to the contrary do you put forth.

      At least put forth an alternative!

      Just a kindly query.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’m not angry. I live at the beach, my best friend is visiting this weekend, another good friend walked away from crashing a 707 the other day, I’m sailing on a new 41′ sloop in the next few days, and I might start capitalizing on Obama’s coring of the US. Do you need an alternative to electric cars? US oil production. We’ve got more of it than you’ll let yourself believe.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Hmmm…Interesting takes just the same, “angry” or not.

        If I lived in the San Diego area, I’d be pretty happy too – if I could afford it!

        The U.S. seems dead-set against U.S. oil production for some reason.

        BTW, I read about the 707 (KC-135) crash. Those were the planes we flew on to and from Okinawa many years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It could have even been one of the same planes. It was built in 1969.

        The reason our government is opposed to domestic oil production started out as a naive effort to develop other oil rich nations but is nothing other than treason today.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Could be. I was in the air force up at Beale (home of the SR-71, whose outfit I was in) from 1969 – 1973!

  • avatar
    ajla

    PHEV FTW?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    An electric vehicle only makes sense if your commute can justify it – that’s all these cars are for – commuting! IF you have a home 240V setup AND your daily destination also has a 240V setup, O.K., you’re set. You still need a second car for the other stuff. Isn’t most of the fuel burnt up used for the daily commute around the world, specifically the USA? Fine – the more gasoline engines off the road, the better, and who cares how the electricity to recharge it is generated, anyway? Coal, Gas, Nuclear, Wood, Garbage, Hot water, Hydro, Wind or wave, it makes no difference, just avoid as much as possible using gasoline while sitting in traffic.

    Would an EV work for me? Probably not, as currently I have a commute of 42 miles R/T, but will end in a few months. My wife has less than 10 mi. R/T – you can’t dynamite her out of her CR-V either! My commute will soon be 100 mi. R/T, unless I can find another job – and for a 60-year-old guy, that’s not likely to happen, so I’m stuck and may as well get used to it!

    Do I buy a new car? If yes, than what? I want and need comfort at my age, not luxury. I have no idea of mpg my Impala will get, but it has 81K miles on it. My MX5 gets 32, but the daily ride would be punishing.

    Once my new commute is underway, I should propose a “Piston Slap” and put it to “the best and brightest” for the best options and ideas – just don’t suggest a panther!

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      A Panther electric conversion would be kind of cool. They’re not that heavy for their size, and that monster engine bay and famous four-hooker trunk would hold a LOT of motor and batteries.

  • avatar
    daviel

    I am not ready to change my mindset to figuring out that I only drive X miles per day and getting an ev that only goes X+1 miles as long as the AC isn’t running in the Texas summer heat and I am not listening to sirius radio; and I can’t decide to drive to Austin without a major hassle. Not my idea of a car I’d buy.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    I like the part about EV’s dying a quick death, unfortunately I think it will be a slow and expensive one.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I can easily wind up writing up an article on top of Ed’s as it pertains to EV’s, hybrids, diesels, ICE’s. and what consumers will pick when it’s all is said and done.

    I’ll just stick to the obvious conclusions.

    There are 236 million vehicles on American roads as of 2011. Almost all of which are internal combustion engines. Think about that. There is more than one vehicle for every legal driver in the United States. Even if we end up with several year of sales comparable to the nadir of 2009, where we lost three million vehicles net, it will take well over a decade for there to be anything remotely resembling an ICE transportation shortage in this country.

    Let’s say gas goes up to $7 a gallon like it is in parts of Western Europe. Will people stop driving ICE vehicles? Nope. So long as folks need to cover substantial distances and the costs of buying one used are reasonable, the ICE engine will have a very long future in the years ahead.

    There is also the fun factor to consider. Virtually every automaker has been unable to build a hybrid that offers a ‘fun’ experience. Insights, CR-Z’s, Fusion’s and Prii may be fun for certain folks. But that’s three manufacturers and a combined marketshare presence that’s still less than 3%. EV’s are going to have to offer something well beyond the economics of ownership to have even a 6% share of the U.S. market.

    What is not clear is whether commuters and others who drive short distance drivers are willing to ‘break the bank’ to buy an EV. Most won’t want to throw 20k to 35k into the winds of experimentation. Some will. But it won’t be substantial until the reliability of these vehicles rival the Prius.

    Let me be blunt about this. The LEAF and Volt have absolutely no track record at this point, and their cost is damn high compared to a $3,000 beater. However the Volt does have a healthy extension of it’s range and the LEAF may follow in those footsteps if the marketplace dictates that need. As someone already implied, there is nothing here that is set in stone.

    I believe EV’s will more than likely have to go through a similar curve as hybrids in the country. Demand for hybrids was virtually nil when gas was cheap in the early 2000′s. When gas prices went from a $1.50/gallon to $3/gallon and beyond, the demand exploded. But until then there were very few sales of hybrids. The 1st gen Prius only averaged about 5,000 sales a year and the 1st gen Insight only registered 2,000. That does not make a revolution.

    But whose to say that gas won’t stay high? Nobody knows, and the scholars of society have been dead wrong before. One thing that is clear is that the economics of owning an EV do work for right now. Beyond that, hybrids and EV’s do have a strong ‘prestige’ halo with many consumers. So does diesel to a smaller extent. I don’t see that going away so long as gas prices remain at or beyond their historical highs.

    The Volt or LEAF will have a good 2011… and if they don’t offer an opportunity for the fear driven elements of our society, they will likely have a good 2012 as well.

    After that it’s the black swan that will determine what technology endures.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      “There is also the fun factor to consider.”

      I know that you’re referring to hybrids, but Tesla considered this prior to their entry into the EV market. Say what you want about the company’s troubled history and (possibly?) troubled future, but I always thought that their strategy was spot on. People by nature would rather eat their dessert than eat their vegetables.

      “Let me be blunt about this. The LEAF and Volt have absolutely no track record at this point, and their cost is damn high compared to a $3,000 beater.”

      I don’t think anyone will cross-shop a Leaf or Volt with a beater of any type. These are MPG fetishists who are willing to pay crazy premiums (purchase price, trade-in value, sales tax, insurance, etc.) to upgrade to a Prius or EV in order to save $25 per fill-up or whatever it is. Nevermind that the break-even point is seven years and another new car away, they’re getting great mileage!

      • 0 avatar
        protomech

        I bought a $6000 Honda Insight (1st gen) in early 2010 and have put 16000 miles on it to date (~60 mpg).

        Had the LEAF been available at the time, I most definitely would have cross-shopped it. I would have cross-shopped the Volt as well, but I am more interested in a combination of a commuter (pure BEV would be fine) as well as a trip / pleasure vehicle.

        As is, I will be watching sale prices of lightly used Nissan LEAFs with great interest. 80-85% of the miles on the Insight would be displaced to a commuter vehicle. If a pleasure / trip vehicle is only being driven for 2000-3000 miles a year, I don’t much care if it only gets 15-25 mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        GiddyHitch

        Given the $3000 price point, I assumed that Steven was referring to an older car with a 4-cyl ICE getting 30+mpg rather than a well used first-gen hybrid.d

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Steve, as for an exciting driving experience goes, all I can give is a 60-year-old’s opinion and experience. I do have a lot of fun driving my MX5 – whether (mildly – due to being legally blind in my left eye) carving a few corners and a particular S-turn not far from my house, or just piddling along with my wife and listening to the Reds or a CD. My Impala? That’s strictly a cruiser, as it has a very narrow “performance” envelope that I not dare to exceed at my peril. What does excite me about it is how I have added to the trim that makes mine just a bit different from all others.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Oh, so most people would like their cars to be able to go much further than one’s day’s worth of average driving before needing to be recharged. This isn’t exactly amazing news.

    Who would buy a car which needed to be refilled with fuel every day or two?

    How many car owners live in rented homes or apartments where adding a dedicated car charger isn’t in the cards?

    The battery swap thing isn’t likely to work either. Who determines what a standard battery pack is?

    All in all, hydrogen fuel cells are a more viable long term approach than are rechargeable batteries.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Hydrogen has the problem that it needs to compete with its own plug in battery which makes the whole refuelling station business to expensive to be on the same scale as gas stations.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    The results of this study remind me of some of the ridiculous comments on the Leaf articles. I never realized that so many people add spontaneous 100 mile trips to their daily routine and that those same people are likely to harbor an irrational hatred of EVs. As for me, I figure that EVs are a good fit for probably 50% of drivers but only 5% will seriously consider them. Both of these numbers will go up as battery technology improves and the associated EV infrastructure gets built up. Not to mention the effects of Peak Oil. I find myself wishing that I was driving an EV on a daily basis – the recharge stations are some of the few open parking spaces at work these days. The stations are mostly used by Tesla Roadsters, but there is a Volt and I saw a Leaf heading in the other day.

    • 0 avatar
      manbridge

      Is it really necessary to capitalize the rather dubious “peak oil?”

      People have been talking about “peak oil” forever. In Jimma Carter days we were told there would be no oil by now. Didn’t happen. Why? Because we solve tomorrows problems with tomorrows technology, not todays. Oil was found then and it will be in the future.

      And I imagine tomorrows tech will solve a lot of EV issues as well. Not currently viable except at the margin.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The real advance will come from integrating supercapacitors into the power system. They will allow a more complete absorption of regen braking energy due to the fact that the energy is stored in an instantaneous electric field rather than a slower chemical reaction. Properly managed, a 50% increase in range is possible even when using a battery of the same size.
    Increases in range due entirely to battery technology are limited by the ability of chargers to deliver the required amount of energy within a realistic charge time.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      Better capture of braking energy would certainly extend range. Perhaps not by as much as you might expect.

      Let’s say the LEAF driven conservatively gets 250 Wh/mile (at the pack). My 12 mile (one-way) commute would then use around 3.0 kWh of energy.

      My commute has the following stops:
      5x < 20 mph
      2x 35 mph
      3x 45 mph
      1x 55 mph

      Given a 3800 lb mass, the total kinetic energy in all stops combined is 0.65 kwh.

      http://trunc.it/gj9zs

      Let's assume (for the sake of argument) that the conventional battery pack is only 25% efficient at recovering that kinetic energy, giving 0.16 kwh back into the pack. Total trip energy outflow is then 3.16 kwh.

      If supercapacitors are 100% efficient at returning energy to the pack (or back to the wheels), then we should expect to see net trip energy usage of about 2.5 kwh (3.16 – 0.65). 20% increase in range is nice (3.0 kwh / 2.5 kwh), but that's with some very favorable assumptions that are likely inaccurate.

      To get 250 kwh/mile I would already recapture most of that kinetic energy by slowly decelerating, where safe to do so. Supercapacitors will make strong deceleration more efficient – or alternatively, extend the efficient driving performance envelope – but the likely gains will be far below 50%.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        It is not the supercapacitors and better regenerative breaking that saves the energy but the fact that the battery will not experience the added stress of regenerative energy storage so you can build them closer to the limit. also the battery doesn’t need to be able to deliver peak performance during acceleration but only average high demand with also allows more energy per pound of battery.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I glossed over your math (interesting website, BTW), and I agree that my estimate may have been overblown is some situations (as the one that you cite). I’ll revise my “thumbnail” estimate to say that in a certain level of stop-and-go traffic (where distance/speed traveled between stops is small enough to negate most losses due to rolling friction and wind resistance), that supercapacitors could still realize a 50% improvement over a lithium-ion pack, simply because of the ability of the caps to absorb the l-ion’s share of the energy (ahem) that would be lost to the pack, and use it for the next burst of acceleration. Over longer distances between stops, I see your model holding sway.
        And as Charly says, the battery pack can be optimized for more moderate peak current requirements, thus realizing an efficiency gain as well. Good Stuff :-)

        Edit – (add). And think along these lines- the capacitors can be “slow charged” to capacity by the battery pack, allowing for instant bursts of acceleration, increasing performance in those situations (but alas, no “Bullitt” car-chase capability – though I’d like to see a Tesla Roadster try that!).

        Kudos to the engineers working on these ultracapacitor/battery hybrids, and their awesomely sophisticated switching systems – they’ll be a big step in energy recovery and efficiency.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Pointing out consumers’ “irrationalities” does not strike me as a good way to influence their behaviour. It just comes off as yet another batch of sour grapes from the greenie crowd.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    Regarding the whole second car being an EV…

    A commenter suggested people won’t want to rearrange their whole lives around needing to swap cars with their spouse or child for a day.

    Have we really become so pathetic as a society that no one will lift a finger to achieve the benefits that an EV will deliver. What’s next? Everyone gives up putting litter in trash cans because it is inconvenient? How does anyone expect our society to survive if every member mindlessly takes the laziest path possible and can’t be bothered to trade cars for a day with a spouse because your spouse needs to go 60 miles today instead of 10?

    Our family with three drivers and three cars switches cars all the time so the person driving the shortest distance takes the worst mileage car. We can easily have one electric car and a gas car.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      When you’ve got 2 car seats to strap in, a double stroller in the back, etc. it’s not so easy to just swap cars back and forth.

      The effort going back and forth is non-trivial.

      Try it yourself and see how many swaps it takes before you decide that it’s stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        djoelt1

        We have three kids and three seats and used to have two strollers. Boosters are easier when you get to that stage. Many families have extra car seats for drop off/pickup duty. As has been said one hundred times, it isn’t for everyone, but it is adequate for many.

        Let’s put it this way: if the cost of ownership of an electric car, including depreciation, fuel, etc, was half the cost of a gas car, people would choose the electric car for their families’ second car. They would live with a modest inconvenience.

        Personally, I can live with the inconvenience of an electric car for one of our cars in exchange for not needing to sacrifice my children in the cauldron of the ME for more oil, or destroying the environment for them.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        OTOH, the cost of a used car is less than a new EV, with less depreciation, etc.

        And the cost of keeping ones current car is cheaper yet again.

        For an EV to make pure financial sense, it’s never going to beat what I can buy used, much less what I already own.

      • 0 avatar
        protomech

        Here’s a handful of comparisons from Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator.

        2011 Versa S 5 door (similar capability new car)
        $18k out the door $32k 5 year cost
        http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/versa/2011/tco.html?style=101331383

        2007 Versa S 5 door (similar capability used car)
        $9k out the door $27k 5 year cost
        http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/versa/2007/tco.html?style=100759289

        2011 Nissan Leaf 5 door
        $40k out the door $36k 5 year cost (w/ $7500 fed tax credit)
        http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/leaf/2011/tco.html?style=101301094&zip=35802

        2011 Lexus HS250h (similar out the door cost)
        $43k out the door $52k 5 year cost
        http://www.edmunds.com/lexus/hs-250h/2011/tco.html?style=101361016

        Edmunds TCO calculator makes a lot of assumptions that won’t always be valid ($3/gal gas prices) — and so it’s hard to compare with actual costs — but it does provide a consistent set of inputs for a comparison.

        The 5 year cost for the Leaf is pretty close to the 5 year cost for the 2011 Versa, with the large federal tax credit and the cheaper fuel not quite overcoming the much larger depreciation (Edmunds predicts both cars will depreciate by 50%, which may or may not be accurate).

        Buying used will always be less expensive than buying new, comparing like to like; and right now there are no used mainstream EVs to buy.

        By the way – you can add $2k to the 5 year cost for each gas vehicle for every $1 above $3 for gas. At $5/gal, the $40k Leaf is as expensive (in sum) as the new $18k Versa. At $7/gal, the $40k Leaf is as expensive (in sum) as the used $9k Versa.

        I suspect gas will settle out at around $3/gal for the near future.. so Edmunds may be on track.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @SVX pearlie

    Nah, I don’t care. It already has plenty of scratches from the tall brush I go through. Plus I can say my ex-girlfried put them there. If I catch you though, you’re gonna have problems (of the legal variety of course).

  • avatar
    musiccitymafia

    An ICE car has a 300-500 mile range between “refills”. Places to refill are everywhere. It only takes a couple of minutes.

    If refill locations are restricted (maybe severely) then logic says people will want more range. Ditto if it takes longer to refill.

    Market fragmentation perhaps.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The Volt would seem to have solved the problem of range anxiety. (I realize saying anything remotely positive of GM is not well received here).

    There are two kinds of people – those who can accurately assess their needs and say yea/nay to pure EVs based on their needs, and those who can’t accurately assess their needs, and so reject EVs out of hand. Rejecting an EV because it doesn’t work for you isn’t range anxiety, anymore than rejecting a Miata when you need to haul a 5th wheel camper is towing anxiety. If an EV works for you it works for you, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Again, Chevy seems to have made a car that can be used in EV mode most of the time, but still can be driven on the spur of the moment 350 mile trip, so there would seem to be little need for considering range limitations.

    The cost of EVs is a problem, and for now it will only be the early adopters who get them. As with most technology, costs will probably come down.

    Most of you guys arguing that EVs have no future probably would have been arguing that the horseless carriage had no future – had you been living just over a century ago.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    My average daily mileage over the last seven years is 36 km. Most days, my car doesn’t leave the garage, while some days, it goes 1500 km. Drives of 250 km or greater occur about twice a month. I don’t see myself owning an electric car anytime soon.


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