QOTD: Is The EV Honeymoon Over?

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
qotd is the ev honeymoon over

Now that the Nissan Leaf is being made in Tennessee, Nissan has decided that a big price drop is in order. While the 2012 car retailed for $35,200, the 2013 Leaf starts at $28,800, thanks to a new base model. Anyone who bought a 2012 must be pretty ticked off at the resale-ruining price cut. Higher-end SV and SL trim levels will retail for $31,820 and $37,250 respectively.

The domestic production of the Leaf and its battery components undoubtedly help make the car cheaper, but one has to wonder how much of this is related to the Leaf’s slow sales and the general downward trend of EV enthusiasm. Past auto shows have featured a bounty of EVs in both concept and production form. This year’s NAIAS featured the Tesla Model X, which received far less fanfare than one would expect, and the Leaf was largely overshadowed by well, everything else, including Nissan’s own Versa Note subcompact.

One canard of the industry is that electric cars are still a decade out – and they always will be. Personally, I find it ironic that electric vehicles, derided as boring, appliance-like transportation for eco-weenies, deliver a very rewarding driving experience. They are fast, brilliantly packaged (look at the flat floor of a Nissan Leaf if you don’t believe me) and the ability to place the battery pack nearly anywhere can lead to excellent handling characteristics.

But issues like diminished performance in cold weather to a lack of charging infrastructure have confined EVs to playthings for affluent coastal dwellers. The question now is whether they will remain in this niche or not.

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  • Bd2 Bd2 on Jan 18, 2013

    Interesting how the Volt made the 10 worst list (it's actually a pretty decent driver) while the Leaf, i-MiEV and Prius-C (one of the worst drivers) did not.

  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on Jan 18, 2013

    I wasn't aware that the honeymoon had begun.

  • Amca Amca on Jan 20, 2013

    I think the future of the electric car is at the higher end of the market. Witness the new Cadillac ELR (fetching little thing, ain't she?): stylish as all get out, and electric. Face it: electrics are a fashion statement at this point. So they oughta be fashionable. A drab little Leaf doesn't make much of a statement. And the aesthetic statement it does make: eeewww.

  • CelticPete CelticPete on Jan 21, 2013

    It's all about price. With cheap fossil fuels ICE is a much better deal for the consumer - it's high energy density means fast refuelling and long range. It's the superior product.. If ICE cars had very high operating costs though we would suck it up and buy the inferior electric with their crappy range and slow refueling times. There is nothing 'new' about electric cars. its the same old technology with the same old problems. We had electric cars at the turn of the twentieth century but people went with the incredibly unreliable ICE engines at the time because of the range and fast refuelling times. Some things just dont' seem to change.

    • Sbunny8 Sbunny8 on Jan 26, 2013

      CelticPete, I find it surprising that the only factors your mention are operating cost, range, and refueling time. It seems to me that the most important thing about any vehicle is the question "Does it get you from point A to point B?". You also completely ignore the issue of carbon footprint. It's certainly true that some people don't care about things like energy efficiency, but that doesn't mean everyone shares this lack of concern. My 2012 Mitsubishi i Miev electric car goes about 60 miles on $1.50 worth of electricity, and over half of that comes from renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydro. IMHO, this more than makes up for the tiny inconvenience of having to plug it in at night. If, like me, you live in a town which is only 10 miles from one side to the other, then a range of 60 miles or 600 miles or 6000 miles is pretty much irrelevant. Anything over 20 miles is more range than I need on a daily basis. On the rare occasions (a couple times a year) when I go out of town, I have plenty of choices, like taking the train, or renting an ICE, or planning the route carefully so I can stop at high-speed charging stations (where I can get an 80% charge in under 20 minutes). Someone who lives in a large sprawling city and commutes 70 miles each way to work would have a completely different set of requirements. But those people are a small minority. You say things don't seem to change. I see two things which HAVE changed in the last couple years: #1 Lithium Ion batteries have come way down in price, making EVs more practical than the old ones which had big heavy flooded lead-acid batteries. #2 There are charging stations popping up all over the place -- thousands of them in Oregon, California and Washington.