By on March 31, 2012

It’s “another broadside for the EV industry,” says Automotive News [sub]. The alleged artillery barrage was sent by the Center for Automotive Research. It cancelled its 2012 Business of Plugging In conference. The reason? Lack of interest.

Says Brett Smith, CAR’s co-director of conferences:

“Some could look at this as the industry is dead and no one cares about this anymore.”

Not completely true, says  Smith. The newness of plug-in vehicles is wearing off, and with the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf EV on the market, “we don’t need the message of how they will fit in. They’ve got to live or die on their own.”

According to AN, “car companies are seeking to distance themselves” from electric vehicles. CAR also has lost interest. The Business of Plugging In conference won’t return for 2013 either, Smith told AN, claiming “that CAR knew from the beginning it would have a finite life span.”

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

56 Comments on “Interest For EVs Fading...”


  • avatar

    I just received, from the GM archives, a copy of a 1969 report on a broad range of alternative energy and lower emissions projects that GM was working on in the 1960s, including, interestingly enough, some parallel and series hybrids.

    The truth is that EVs and hybrids have been around since the car’s beginning and even during the 1930s to 1960s drought of EVs that most EV timelines mention, there were tinkerers and inventors working on electric and other alternative energy concepts. Gas rationing during WWII saw a number of EV concepts and limited production cars in Europe, the US and Japan. In the 1950s, a number of the microcars the sprouted during Europe’s postwar reconstruction were EVs. Concern in the US over air pollution in the 1960s led to a number of research projects at the domestic automakers. Hell, even AMC was involved and had their AM general division electrify some postal Jeeps.

    So EVs spring eternal. They’ve been around forever and they always run into the same problem that they have had since the beginning: energy density.

    Great minds have tackled the problem. I just saw one of Thomas Edison’s Nickel-Iron batteries he hoped to use for EVs on display at the Automotive Hall of Fame. Jack Goldman, who founded the Xerox PARC facility that invented much of the personal computer, was hired away from running Ford Scientific Labs in the 1960s, where he was working on Sodium Sulfur batteries for EVs.

    Every time it’s the same barrier: batteries that can’t store enough power or be recharged in a short enough amount of time for the car to have enough range, speed and power. Unfortunately, Moore’s law doesn’t apply to batteries and gasoline is a terrific fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      jhott997

      “They’ve been around forever and they always run into the same problem that they have had since the beginning: energy density.”
      BINGO! Some of us have been talking about this for years.
      The real breakthrough will be in several decades: fuel cells. Until then, “electric cars” are a novelty and a political talking point.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        As the EV craze of late that has come and gone proves, it won’t take very long for EV to catch up with regular cars, once the required battery breakthrough has been achieved. That’s the key. We should concentrate research effort on battery technology, once these has been achieved, development of the actual ready for primetime EVs will follow very quickly. Until then, though, spending money developing EVs are just throwing money down the drain. Just look at all the failed EV companies of late.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        A clean sheet design for a mass market car takes more than 5 years and the number of successful semi mass market car makers launched in the west in last 50 years is one (and that one is Tesla).

        Fuel cell cars have the problem that they will mostly be operated in battery mode and as such don’t allow fuel stations to survive.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      It’s one of the reasons why I know the ICE and liquid fuels won’t disappear during my lifetime or the century after that; the combination is far too versatile a power source to abandon. Fuel cells may eventually replace combustion engines, but that won’t happen until the cost and density per unit power achieves parity, which won’t be soon.

      For fixed point power delivery, electricity can’t be beat; just look at how cities work. That delivery mechanism is not viable for use in mobile applications; range and infrastructure limitations have restricted its use to compact devices with endurance inversely proportional to the amount of power consumed.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        A liquid fuel reformatter/fuel cell/electric engine is already lighter/smaller than a combustion engine/transmission setup. Problem is that the fuel cell is so expensive that it doesn’t make any economic sense.

    • 0 avatar
      G.D.

      There is no Moore’s law, but battery costs are decreasing at a rate of 6-8% a year. At that rate, within a decade you will see affordable 300 mile range automobiles. That rate halves the cost of the Volt battery pack from $12,000 to about $6K: http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1074183_how-much-and-how-fast-will-electric-car-battery-costs-fall

      Economies of scale will help drive prices down even further. ICE rates of efficiency increases are not growing at 6-8% a year, and gas price speculation is keeping prices high even in an overall global recession.

      It is premature to start the electric car “death watch”.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        There is a Moore’s law for batteries. The problem is that it isn’t 1.5 years but 30 years.

      • 0 avatar
        G.D.

        @charly

        *False*

        Anti-battery propaganda will not change the fact of 6-8% yearly battery improvement, which far outstrips anything happening in the internal combustion world. 300 mile fast-charge battery capability is a mere decade away from widespread availability, at which point both price and convenience will swing in favor of electric vehicles.

        The upcoming Tesla Model S shows what is possible with today’s technology. In 10 years it will likely be commonplace and affordable.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        You are talking about price. I’m talking about capacity.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Price is only one constraint. Weight and size also limit their practicality.

  • avatar
    tkewley

    Even at $4/gal, EVs remain economically unjustifiable, and battery technology has not advanced to the degree EVs proponents forecast. They continue to represent poor value. End of story.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Funny, I walked past I think 3 Leaf’s last evening on my way to the store to get milk and then across Broadway to get 2 slices of pizza for dinner – and 2 of them were parked out in front of an apartment building – on the street, don’t know if they lived there or simply were parked there visiting.

    The other one was parallel parked on Thomas St up a couple of blocks from my apartment building. I didn’t see any extension cords, nor were there any charging stations where any of them were parked.

    And there is a guy who drives a blue one at work as I see it sometimes parked in a sport where there is an outlet for it to charge.

    This is in Seattle BTW.

    • 0 avatar
      FJ60LandCruiser

      There is no interest for EVs in AMERICA, not bastions of left wing lunacy like Seattle, San Francisco, and New York.

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        Oh you mean the areas that support bankrupt right wing states with their federal tax dollars – those places?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Right-wing states like California?

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        So the Leaf’s I also see are a myth? Or are Seattle, San Fran & NY not American cities? Americans are buying Leaf’s and that means interest.

      • 0 avatar
        ckb

        “Right-wing states like California?”

        No, right wing states like WV, AK, LA, MS, VA, etc…

        For every dollar that California sent the federal government it only received $0.78 back. Those states listed (among others) all got more than they put in. If CA had those extra $0.22, they might well have their budget in order. Source:

        http://www.taxfoundation.org/press/show/22659.html

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You’re confusing your side’s lies. He said bankrupt states. California is one of the most irredeemably broke, and it wasn’t conservative policies that broke its back.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        Those figures, unfortunately, don’t account for the state and local income tax deductions. Were we being honest, we’d have to consider them transfers from the federal government back to state and local governments.

        But, again, that would be honest…

    • 0 avatar
      lw

      Certin parts of the country adopt fads earlier and let them go longer. More discos in NYC vs. Topeka.

    • 0 avatar
      TW4

      @ probert

      So you have finally discovered the problem with high federal taxation. Federal funds get allocated according to “need” and the cash cow states end up paying higher state taxes to make up for the money supply siphoned away by the federal government. Then the red states use their unrealistically low tax rates to lure away businesses and workers.

      Naturally, the solution is to create a straw man argument against the greedy 1% so income taxes and payroll taxes can be raised.

      BTW, look at FICA entitlement spending compared to the deterioration of apportionment. FICA has been the big tax hike over the last 30 years, and FICA taxes and distributions are jeopardizing the integrity of the union.

  • avatar
    lw

    Just a fad folks… Like Disco…

    The real question is what fad will replace it… I’m thinking wild paint colors. How about a Sonic In Orange Chrome!

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’d rather have steam anyway, why haven’t there been too many developments there?

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      I think the problem for steam (leaving questionable running efficiency aside) is the time it takes to “build a head of steam”. You’d either have to plan your departures 15-20 minutes in advance, keep pressure ready at all times, or use a flash boiler to generate immediate steam. I think the wait time is the model killer for most people and the alternatives are just too expensive to make them practical. No matter what your effiency during driving you’re literally burning any savings during start up.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Boilers were a bit nasty when they exploded (and that wasn’t entirely uncommon back in the old days), and the old steam car boilers required a lot of maintenance. Excellent for power, but also lots of disadvantages.

    • 0 avatar

      One of the technologies mentioned in the 1969 GM document I referenced above was steam. GM built two steam powered but they concluded that weight, freezing and the need to build up steam would still be a problem. One used an engine of GM’s own design. You can search for SE-101 the Grand Prix’s experimental designation. Bill Lear of Learjet and 8 Track fame sunk millions into trying to develop a modern automotive steam engine. There’s a British team trying to set a land speed record for steam. BMW has also been working on their TurboSteamer concept, which uses waste heat from a combustion engine to run a Rankin cycle device that adds 10-15% more power and increases fuel efficiency by a similar amount.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Steam is not an energy source, nor is it an energy storage medium. It is a working fluid for a heat engine, and one that cannot be very efficient without very big condensers.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Manufacturer interest in EVs is directly related to the likelihood governments will hand their makers fat, valuable carbon credits all out of proportion to the number of actual EVs.

    For example, no manufacturer wanted to miss the boat in case Washington richly rewarded its friends at GM/UAW for the Volt, so they all made sure they had a similar product ready to roll out. (The plug-in Honda Fit due out next year is an example.) For that goal, getting the EV production-ready is all that needed to happen. Then the manufacturers pull back, cut costs, and wait to see if they actually need the EV they’ve prepared as an insurance policy.

    Also, it’s possible that extravagant subsidies for purchase by consumers might not be there in the future. Manufacturers may have already picked up on this. The signposts are already there. For instance, all over Europe, broke governments have been slashing the huge subsidies they were paying for electricity produced by windmills and solar panels.

  • avatar

    Alternative and viable drivetrain technologies exist.

    They are being suppressed to keep oil in place.

    Believe it or don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      tkewley

      Uh huh…

      How the JFK investigation going?

      Elvis is alive, you know.

      Aliens live among us.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Don’t.

      If an oil company could sell gasoline for less than the other guy, they would do so in order to gain more market share.

      Similarly, if a car company could produce an alternative drivetrain, they would do it. Oh wait, Nissan, Toyota, GM, Ford, and Mitsubishi are doing just that.

      Enough with the conspiracies.

  • avatar
    Oelmotor

    Perhaps in the USA, but I saw a rather interesting report, “The Quiet Revolution – Electric Cars are the Future,” on Deutsche Welle. For most Europeans, the EV would be our first choice from Monday to Friday.

  • avatar
    powerblue

    This thinking is all way too premature. And to the person who said fuel cells are the future, your a pure fool. Fuel cells are ridiculously expensive and its estimated that it costs Honda $120,000 to $140,000 to build a single FCX Clarity. Not only is the fuel cell car a ridiculous price but currently hydrogen in California can sell at $5 to $10 a kilogram. As it stands right now there is natural gas and electric and in my mind both stand a decent chance at gaining some market share. I am going to wait and see how the Toyota Plug-In Prius performs on the market before I make my final judgements on electric vehicles.

  • avatar
    probert

    Thats’ funny – I just read the the ampera/volt was pretty much sold out in europe. And the prius C5 is the best selling car in Japan.

    Is this one of those “if I say over and over it will become true” type of articles?Shall we join hands and journey to the realm of magical thinking.

  • avatar
    TheHammer

    Is there any possibility of using methane gasses as a propulsion method? I am in the midst of designing a system that will both provide an alternate to petroleum and offer relief to waste treatment burdens on local utilities or septic systems. My design features a built-in commode for each seat in the vehicle. Simply put, the driver and passengers are not only encouraged but are indeed required to defecate while riding. A chamber in the vehicle captured the waste matter and collects methane gas to power the vehicle. The only snafu so far is in the case of multiple passengers and a driver. When is it apropriate to drop your draws? Each vehicle would also have heavy duty air filtration as well.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I remember that after the first Arab oil Crisis in 1973 there was a mad scramble by auto companies and others to find alternatives to the ICE. One that got a lot of copy was the Stirling engine, a type of external combustion engine. It seemed an elegant solution. Powerful and able to run on a variety of fuels such as CNG. Anybody know if this ever went anywhere? If not, why not?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Too many problems when translated into the real world. Exotic materials, high thermal inertia (means poor “throttle” response), the only way to get anything resembling decent power output is to use helium under high pressure as a working fluid and that’s hard to seal in. Nowadays, with automotive diesels having over 40% thermal efficiency, a Stirling would actually be less efficient in the real world. Continuous combustion still produces NOx, so that problem is still there.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Sssh you’re absolutely right Probert. Everything is fine. Now calm down and no more angry remarks about the right wing states, OK?

    They make everyone think you’re some sort of zealot and that’s bad for the cause.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I don’t think it’s waning interest. It is more like EV’s are changing from “new” to mainstream. Kinda like the Prius generated lots of press when it arrived and after but nowadays you don’t read to much about them because they have their niche. People buy them, they don’t explode or turn the owners green. Nothing more to report there but it does not mean there is a diapering interest in them.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    For a while, I was planing on a 12 Camry SE. But, when I went to pull the trigger, I selected a 12 Camry LE Hybrid. Before taxes and plates, I paid 24,500. This thing is delivering 40 mpg. And, it drives like a normal car. This is a GAME CHANGER.

    FYI … I tried to purchase a Pruis plug in, because I am getting worried about a gas shortage. If you keep up on the news, you will see gas lines in the UK. They will be here. But, on the east coast, it is very very difficult to get your hands on one of these, so I opted for the Camry Hybrid. With the 17 gallon gas tank, it goes nearly 670 miles on a tank of gas.

    FYI … I actually gave the 13 Malibu a look before the Camry purchase. From the outside, it looked great. But, the inside had a cramped feeling. I could not stand the way the dash curved. But, the deal killer was the mpg. I don’t understand how the 13 Malibu Eco Hybrid can cost the same as the Camry Hybrid LE, but deliver so much less mileage.

    I am now keeping my Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Acura TL gas tanks full. When the gas shortage hits, I will have three tanks for the Cam Hybrid. I would have preferred the Prius plug in, but I was not willing to pay massively over the sticker to get one.

    If I was GM, Ford, or Chrysler, I would be scared. A gas shortage will put Toyota back in the drivers seat. Prius. Prius V. Prius C. Cam Hybrid. Prius Plug In. This is the same story as before. Detroit talks gas mileage. Toyota delivers gas mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      Prices will skyrocket before we ever see a gas shortage in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        On wall street, some economists are now considering a gas shortage as a possibility. We were just discussing this last week, even before the UK gas lines. The view from wall street economists is people topping off their tanks because of politics should not have caused such a great problem so quickly. There must have been an underlying shortage that was exposed once everyone hit the gas stations.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      The US is an exporter of gasoline and diesel.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-29/u-s-was-net-oil-product-exporter-in-2011.html

  • avatar
    sideshowtom98

    People bought AZTECS too. Seems I saw a lot of them in Seattle at one time.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    On wall street, that report is viewed as political. Wall Streeters think the Obama administration ( which runs the energy department ) cooked these numbers for political purposes.

    Bottom line is millions of vehicles are comming on line in the developing world. There will be a shortage, and it will just show up.

  • avatar
    TW4

    I’ve never been a big fan of EVs b/c they’ve always been a shoot the moon strategy. Hybrids and plug-ins are a stop gap solution that will allow us to develop the electrical or alternative fuel technology we need.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India