Growing Pains For Electric Vehicle Manufacturers

By Lee Patrick Sullivan, energyNow!

One estimate says more than 600,000 EVs could be on U.S. roads by 2014, but that’s a speck in the rear-view mirror compared to the 140 million passenger cars Americans already drive. And, high costs combined with range anxiety make many consumers leery to get off gasoline. So is the EV industry accelerating, or running out of juice?

energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan looked at independent carmakers and big auto companies trying to charge up the transition to EVs.

image via energyNow!

EVs hold promise for reducing our emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Almost 30 percent of America’s energy goes to transportation, and almost all that comes from oil, costing $300 billion per year. Compared to an EPRI estimate that running an EV costs 20 percent the cost of filling up a car with gasoline, and EPA’s estimate that EVs are half as carbon-intensive as gas-powered vehicles, the benefits are clear.

But many potential EV owners are concerned about the price and range of electric cars. An EV can cost anywhere from $32,000 to $120,000, and most EVs get about 100 miles on a single charge, compared to 400 miles per tank for internal combustion engines. Indeed, a recent Deloitte study found only 20 percent of U.S. drivers would buy an EV with a 100-mile range.

Perhaps no company better embodies the EV industry than Tesla Motors. Despite a successful launch, the company was running on fumes until a DOE loan enabled it to build a massive factory, raise $600 million in private capital, and launch its second vehicle, the Model S.

Several other notable EV manufacturers weren’t as fortunate as Tesla, however. Fisker Automotive had several delays in launching its extended-range EV, while Modec and Think Automotive declared bankruptcy. Major automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet debuted their EVs this year, but have only sold half as many cars as expected.

But better days may be just around the corner for America’s EV industry. At least five new EV models will debut from automakers like Ford, SmartCar, and Mini in 2012. And collaboration is occurring between manufacturers, driving down costs. Tesla currently makes battery packs and chargers for Daimler AG and Mercedes, and will soon make the motor for Toyota’s electric RAV4.

You can watch the full segment by clicking the video below:

Editor’s Note: This video content comes to us as a cross post courtesy of energyNow! Author credit for this content goes to Lee Patrick Sullivan.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QFQB3RYPV223ZOTPK6CA7UTB6Y Il

      As a replacement for gasoline powered cars, EV’s are D.O.A. u00a0Range, by far, being to biggest barrier.

    • S11

      Its inaccurate to claim that EVs are a DOA, although they may be a “Failure to Live Up to Current Media Hype”.nIts readily arguable that EVs are a rather good solution for residents of major Metropolitan Areas – especially those of the East Coast States.u00a0 Beyond the large sub-population that find No Reason to own a car in such a City, there is a larger segment who realistically never drive their car even as far as the current limited ranges of these EV offerings.u00a0 For many of them, an EV would be a valid choice (all other other decision elements notwithstanding).

    • S11

      Its interesting (and frustrating) to continuously see stories about EVs which make claims about the lack-of or reduced environmental impact, which take no notice of the need to build and install massive infrastructure for support of the Battery Charging requirements of EVs.u00a0 Gasoline distribution infrastructure already exists (no claim being made that it is anywhere near environmentally unimpactful), but everything from new large-scale electricity generation plants to high-voltage power lines to higher-than currently standard electrical service facilities to individual garages and parking locations.u00a0 Or of the heavy metals used extensively in the manufacture of the batteries and electric motorsu00a0 of these EVs.u00a0 Or of the need for stockpiles of replacement battery and motor parts.u00a0 Or of the need to dispose of similar worn out parts.nSomehow all of this is magically overlooked simply because there is so little coming out of the car’s tailpipe.