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.
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.
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