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Transportation Power

Electric Cars: Drivers Love 'Em, So Why Are Sales Still Low? 810

Posted by timothy
from the opportunity-cost dept.
cartechboy writes "The electric car challenge is what insiders call "getting butts in seats" — and a lot of butts today still belong to humans who are not yet buying electric cars. The big question is: Why? Surveys show drivers are interested in electric cars--and that they love them once they drive them. EVs also cost less to maintain (though more to buy in the first place) and many experts say they're simply nicer to drive. So what's the problem? Disinterested dealers, uneven distribution, limited supplies, and media bias are some potential challenges. Or maybe it's just lousy marketing--casting electric cars as a moral imperative or a duty, like medicine you have to take."
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Electric Cars: Drivers Love 'Em, So Why Are Sales Still Low?

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  • 2 Words (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rhyas (100444) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:23PM (#45497993) Journal

    Infrastructure

    Range

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      You forgot cold weather.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        Cold weather mainly limits range. Electric heaters are not a problem for driving in cold weather and only in extreme environments like Antarctica (which also has almost no infrastructure as well) will it be a major problem.

        Otherwise driving an electric automobile might even be beneficial as you have the weight of the batteries distributed more evenly on the automobile than the bulk of the engine up in front of the car as well as how many electric automobiles have all wheel drive (aka power to all wheels an

        • Re:2 Words (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:29AM (#45498403)

          Note also that even for gasoline engines you have reduced performance in cold weather... for many of the same reasons.

          False.
          Gasoline engines are more powerful in cold weather because cold air is more dense than hot air. Cold/dense air means that more air makes it into the cylinder. As every gearhead knows, more air = more power.
          About the only time this wouldn't be the case is right upon startup, before the motor temps start climbing. Fluids will be cold and harder to move throughout the engine. After 30-45 seconds, this becomes a non-issue.

          • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Informative)

            by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:35AM (#45498447)

            Note also that even for gasoline engines you have reduced performance in cold weather... for many of the same reasons.

            False.
            Gasoline engines are more powerful in cold weather because cold air is more dense than hot air. Cold/dense air means that more air makes it into the cylinder. As every gearhead knows, more air = more power.
            About the only time this wouldn't be the case is right upon startup, before the motor temps start climbing. Fluids will be cold and harder to move throughout the engine. After 30-45 seconds, this becomes a non-issue.

            Of course, more power doesn't necessarily translate to better fuel economy.

            That dense air also works against you on the road:

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-is-the-fuel-economy-o [scientificamerican.com]

            Finally, a vehicles aerodynamic drag is proportional to air density. On a 70-degree-F day, the density of the air is 16 percent lower than on a day with temperatures around 0 degrees F. Although this makes little difference in urban driving, it could account for a highway mileage per gallon reduction of 7 percent on the colder day (including a 1.5 percent allowance for improvement in fuel efficiency at the higher engine load).

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by gl4ss (559668)

              running the heater fan could account for more...

              anyhow, in finland I never noticed that much of a difference in fuel range from +30c to -30c.

              besides, with colder weather areas comes sparser population density which is the real problem... the trips you're taking are longer.

              • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Informative)

                by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @03:10AM (#45499225) Journal

                anyhow, in finland I never noticed that much of a difference in fuel range from +30c to -30c.

                Agreed. Most of the apparent range difference between summer and winter is attributable to differences in the wheel diameter. Usually studded winter tyres are less compliant with the road, thus having a greater effective diameter, even if their nominal diameter is about the same as summer tyres on the same car. The odometer on cars is just counting revolutions of the wheels, so a difference in effective diameter of a couple of percent gives a comparable effect in apparent fuel economy. The engine is working slightly less hard for the same apparent distance.

                On our cars (both diesels), the apparent economy difference between summer (10C to 30C) and winter (-30C to -10C) is less than 8%, about half of which is due to the compliance and diameter of the tyres. It's easy to check the accuracy of the odometer by passing through the roadside speed checks at a constant 80km/h according to the speedometer. The speed indicated by the roadside radar gives the error in the speedometer.

                I never noticed any particular difference when using the same tyres all year around (in Canada) on a car with a petrol motor. Then again, fuel in Canada was so cheap it was almost an irrelevancy and I didn't track economy much. Here, the price of fuel is more significant, being about US$8 per US gallon.

                • by Type44Q (1233630)

                  Usually studded winter tyres are less compliant with the road, thus having a greater effective diameter, even if their nominal diameter is about the same as summer tyres on the same car.

                  Nonsense; any miniscule gains in fuel efficiency (due to negligibly taller gearing) are going to be greatly offset due to increased rolling resistance.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by icebike (68054)

          What southern tier state do you live in where you can say cold weather is only a problem in Antarctica?

          Range is certainly the issue but price is equally the issue, and mostly because of range.
          If people have to buy a second car for longer trips, they aren't going to want take that long trip in a piece of crap tin can with no amenities.
          So that means two fairly expensive cars.
          Extend the range, make recharge station more frequent, shorten the charge time and the cost problem goes away. But mostly you ha

      • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geoskd (321194) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @06:30AM (#45499783)

        You forgot cold weather.

        I own a Miev, and cold weather (Upstate NY) barely affects my range. The effect on the batteries is basically nil. The only real difference is the need to use the heater, which does affect range a bit. (Maybe takes 5% off the range for any given trip).

        The real problem is complete lack of quality marketing. Even the local Mitsubishi dealership complains that corporate does basically no advertising, and what little they do is centered around the "save the planet" thing. This is stupid. You're not going to get people to cough up an extra 10 - 15k in one lump sum in support of the environment. Their marketing should never even address environmental issues. The most effective marketing they could do would be a total cost of ownership comparison between themselves and a corolla, or civic. You might throw in a little bit about safety ratings, but not a peep about the environment.

    • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:50PM (#45498183) Homepage

      One Word: Price.

      They look nifty, but for the price, you can have an extra nifty gas burning car - why spend $30K on an econobox when you can get a "real $30K car" instead?

      • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Informative)

        by robot256 (1635039) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:13AM (#45498317)
        The $30k EVs--at least the ones that actually sell--are far from "econoboxes". They come with all the bells and whistles of similarly priced cars, and serve the same purpose if you get one that matches your lifestyle. Buy a Chevy Volt for and you won't have range anxiety, but you'll be among drivers who go an average of 900 miles between gasoline fill-ups. Buy a Nissan Leaf (like my own), and you may have to borrow a gas car or ride with a friend once in a while, but never have to worry about oil changes.
        • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Interesting)

          by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:32AM (#45498429)
          That is nice, where is my EV full-size SUV for a similar price to my gas full-size SUV?

          I drive a 2012 GMC Yukon XL Denali - very well equipped, I would be very interested in an electric version for a similar price. But it isn't an option, and the little cars being sold in EV trim are of no use to me.

        • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JWSmythe (446288) <(moc.ehtymswj) (ta) (ehtymswj)> on Saturday November 23, 2013 @01:59AM (#45498941) Homepage Journal

          Lets compare..

          The Chevrolet and Nissan cars, straight from their sites. These are all "starting from..." prices. We could compare options all day. I've excluded the high end sports cars (Corvette and GT-R respectively)

          $12,170 Spark
          $14,170 Sonic
          $17,270 Cruze
          $22,140 Malibu
          $23,555 Camaro
          --- Average ---
          $26,860 Impala
          $34,185 Volt <--- EV
          $43,475 SS
           
          Chevrolet "average" is $24,228
           
          Nissan
          $11,990 Versa Sedan
          $13,990 Versa Note
          $15,990 Sentra
          $16,760 Cube
          $22,010 Altima Sedan
          --- Average ---
          $25,230 Altima Coupe
          $28,800 Leaf <--- EV
          $29,990 370Z Coupe
          $31,000 Maxima
          $35,110 Pathfinder Hybrid
          $41,470 370Z Roadster
           
          Nissan "average" is $24,758

          Really, a $1,190 difference between a Leaf and a 370Z? $19.83/mo difference with 60 month financing? A buyer would switch up the the 370Z if they want performance, or they'll happily save $3,570 by going down to the Altima Coupe.

          The same applies to Chevy, except stepping down to a gas car saves $7,325. Stepping up is a bit more expensive.

          The EVs are a great idea. They aren't priced to sell to most consumers. They're priced to sell to people who want to brag they have an EV, much like pricing on high end sports cars.

          I *want* an EV. If I had to buy a new car today, I wouldn't buy one. Besides the above average costs, I see longevity being a problem. The car I have now is over 10 years old. I have serious doubts in the longevity of the current EVs, and part replacement costs. As I understand it, the Volt battery pack is $8,000. Nissan Leafs batteries cost $15,000. Nissan has a payment plan deal, which still ends up costing you thousands.

          There are other pesky issues, like the cost of recharging.

          • Re:2 Words (Score:4, Informative)

            by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @03:37AM (#45499309)

            Charging and range is the problem.

            If you pocket the the $3500 and go for Altima over the Leaf, you can drive it across the state and across the nation, and the money you save will buy you 30,000 miles worth of gas.

          • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Interesting)

            by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Saturday November 23, 2013 @07:06AM (#45499889) Homepage

            The Leaf isn't suitable for everyone, but there are some big advantages that make it attractive. Fuel is extremely cheap, and basically free if you have solar panels on your house. It has some features that gas cars don't, like being able to turn the heating on in the morning 20 minutes before you drive to work so that it is nice and warm immediately and you don't lose any range. In Japan it can be used as a whole house UPS system as well, in the event of a power cut, but I don't know if they offer that anywhere else. Some places also offer priority parking for EVs.

            If it suits your lifestyle it's actually a very attractive automobile.

        • by mlts (1038732) *

          In most cities, who really needs horsepower when at most you have a couple hundred feet between lights, or 5-10 feet away from the next bumper ahead. Crowded towns is where an EV or a hybrid shines. When stuck in traffic, you are using zero fuel other than what keeps the A/C going unlike an IC engine where it is still spinning at 800 or so RPM when stopped.

          IMHO, the Volt or a Plug in Prius [1] is a pretty decent all around vehicle for all but off-road use. They use no fuel if one plans a daily commute, b

      • If your car gets x mpg in the US, your cost of gasoline over the lifetime of the car is about $1M / x. ($5 per gallon * 200,000 miles / mpg) So a 20mpg SUV will cost you $50K in gas, or a 50mpg Prius will cost you $20K. (Pro-rate if you're just keeping the car a few years, of course.) If the price per mile for electric is equivalent to 100 mpg, then it's going to save you only $10K over a Prius, but $40K over an SUV.

        I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lot of the driving I do is less than 10 miles e

  • I'll buy one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:23PM (#45497995)
    ...when I can buy a used one for $5,000 and expect it to last me five to ten years without major maintenance.
    • Re:I'll buy one... (Score:4, Informative)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:53PM (#45498197) Homepage

      One big issue I have is battery life.

      I'm driving a 14 year old pickup truck, and a 23 year old sports car, both purchased brand new. Ya know the most common replacement component in both? Batteries.

      Yes, Lithium-Ion / Fe whatever is different from lead-acid. Do you hear any electric car company making a claim that their multi-thousand dollar battery packs are going to last anywhere near 14 years? How about 23?

      • Re:I'll buy one... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324) <{ten.orezten} {ta} {gninroh_trebor}> on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:19AM (#45498355) Homepage Journal

        One big issue I have is battery life.

        I'm driving a 14 year old pickup truck, and a 23 year old sports car, both purchased brand new. Ya know the most common replacement component in both? Batteries.

        Yes, Lithium-Ion / Fe whatever is different from lead-acid. Do you hear any electric car company making a claim that their multi-thousand dollar battery packs are going to last anywhere near 14 years? How about 23?

        I think this is a legitimate issue. Tesla battery packs are claimed to last about ten years before they need to be replaced (where they are expected to have about half of the charge capacity as a new battery pack). Tesla even wrote a blog post about the topic a little bit before they started to deliver the Roadster, and showed how they reprocessed the old batteries with almost a 100% recovery of the contents with recycling efforts (hence the environmental issues are almost moot). Still, when you are calculating the per mile cost of operating an electric automobile you do need to consider the cost of the battery pack replacement in the figure.

        I haven't seen the actual figures from Tesla or other similar companies, but some "fans" have estimated a battery replacement cost of about $10k-$15k. Cheaper than buying a new car, but certainly a non-trivial cost.

        The funny thing is how the Baker Electric automobiles had a battery technology that didn't need nearly so much maintenance, and in spite of the fact that those batteries are now over a century old many of those automobiles (largely in museums now... but still serviceable) still have the original factory installed batteries that have only needed minor refurbishment and some new chemicals put into the battery. The trade off is that they don't really hold that much charge.

      • Re:I'll buy one... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by firex726 (1188453) <firex726@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Saturday November 23, 2013 @01:37AM (#45498827)

        You're not considering the reduced maintenance costs.
        You have one $8,000 maintenance item with the battery, as opposed to twenty $800 items over those 14 years; of course by then you'd be ready for a trade in anyways.

  • money? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387)
    A cheap electric car that performs well will sell like crazy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Roger W Moore (538166)
      Not if it's range is a few hundred km and the recharge time is 30+ minutes. Many of us may use our cars for in-town trips much of the time but we still want them to be able to go on long distance journeys a few times a year for family holidays. This, plus the current cost, are the only reasons we've not gone electric.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        but we still want them to be able to go on long distance journeys a few times a year for family holidays

        I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to a fledgling little company known as Hertz.

      • Re:money? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:39AM (#45498491) Journal

        Many of us may use our cars for in-town trips much of the time but we still want them to be able to go on long distance journeys a few times a year for family holidays. This, plus the current cost, are the only reasons we've not gone electric.

        For most people, it isn't just a few times a year. The national average commute to work is about 16 miles, or a 32-mile round trip. The worst case range on a Nissan leaf is only 47 miles. So if you have to make an extra stop across town to drop your kid off at school or pick up groceries, then even a driver with an average commute under worst-case conditions might not make it home without a charge. So for about half of all drivers (assuming the median is probably near the mean), electric cars aren't practical or are just barely practical when brand new.

        Oh, but it gets worse. The older the battery gets, the less capacity it has. By the time a car is ten years old, I would expect it to have about half as much range as it did when it was new. Thus, the range of a 10-year-old EV is likely to be inadequate for the overwhelming majority of drivers in their day-to-day activities.

        The magic number is 200 miles for the worst-case range. This ensures that when the vehicle is a few years old, its range will likely still be enough to handle the majority of owners' commutes. This translates to about a 300 mile average range. In other words, the batteries on existing EVs are undersized by more than a factor of 4 from what I would consider to be a usable vehicle. They're simply nowhere close to being ready for prime time.

    • Re:money? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:53PM (#45498199) Homepage Journal

      A cheap electric car that performs well will sell like crazy.

      Define "cheap". I bought my Nissan LEAF because, compared to every other new hybrid or ICE-only vehicle I looked at, it was the cheapest option.

      Now, I was looking to buy new, not used, which means I was looking at a higher price point than a lot of people, and I am willing (and able) to spend a little more money up front in order to save it over the longer term. Within those parameters, though, and making some assumptions about the price of fuel (which, I have to admit, are pretty far off base right now; I didn't anticipate such a dramatic drop), the three EVs I looked at were all significantly cheaper than any of the other options over an eight-year time horizon -- and that was without even considering the lower maintenance costs, didn't factor in the tax credits and included some pretty pessimistic assumptions about EV resale value.

      With the tax credits available, the break-even point against the next-best vehicle (the Honda Insight) as just a bit over two years. And the price of the LEAF has dropped significantly since I did the analysis.

      Assuming a LEAF or an i-MiEV or similar fits your driving needs, they are very cost-effective options. And my LEAF is a lot of fun to drive; it performs quite well.

      • Re:money? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by slinches (1540051) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:35AM (#45498449)

        I've been trying to price out electric car ROIs as well and I'm getting basically the opposite outcome. They all seem to be ~$7500 more after the tax credit than the comparable gas powered car (e.g. leaf vs versa S plus) and that pays for quite a lot of gasoline. I calculate ~65k miles worth at 35mpg and $4/gal and that doesn't include the electric power costs.

        Using this calculator [driveelect...linois.org] I keep coming up with a break even point of about 8 years.
        Cost of New Gas Car: $13970
        Fuel Efficency of Gas Car: 35mpg
        Cost of Gas: $4/gal
        Cost of Electric Car: $21300
        Cost of Electricity: $0.06/kWhr
        kWh/100 miles: 34
        Annual Driving Distance: 10000mi

        • by swillden (191260)
          Well, none of the gas cars I looked at were $14K. The cheapest was $18K (IIRC), mostly because I wanted an apples-to-apples comparison and the EVs are pretty loaded. And, I actually wanted all the gizmos. In addition, I drive quite a bit more than 10K miles per year, which increases the operational cost advantage of EVs.
        • Re:money? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by RubberChainsaw (669667) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @01:12AM (#45498707)
          Cost of Unleaded Regular gasoline in 2003 was avg. $1.50 (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?ap), and is $3.60 in 2013. We can likely expect similar rises in price over the next 10 years.

          You might want to run your cost calculations with a higher value on the price of gas to see a more accurate picture.
  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:25PM (#45498011)

    It's as simple as that.

    I live in an apartment building. I've discussed the matter with the building management but we haven't come up with an answer. While new buildings must have electrical hookups for electric cars, there is no incentive to retrofit old buildings.

    ...laura

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      This is a chicken-and-egg problem, but once a critical mass buys electric cars, you'll start to seeing them in parking lots at your apartment, work, at restaurants, and many other places you spend time. They will do this because it offers a competitive advantage, the same way that offering free wifi does.

      Gas stations will also provide this service, but I figure they will mostly go extinct once the entire country converts to electric (assuming this actually happens).

      • Unrealistic cost (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:57PM (#45498229)

        They will do this because it offers a competitive advantage, the same way that offering free wifi does.

        You have got to be joking - do you have ANY concept of how much it costs to add a WiFi router to an internet connection the business already has, vs. running a high-load electrical connection out to even just TWO parking spaces? Not to mention cost of the electricity, not to mention the high likelihood of outside connections being vandalized...

        There is no way you can justify the cost of adding car charging outlets to every small business.

        This is the reason Electric is failing, because there's just so large a gap between the fantasy and reality.

        • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday November 23, 2013 @01:25AM (#45498763) Homepage Journal

          You have got to be joking - do you have ANY concept of how much it costs to add a WiFi router to an internet connection the business already has, vs. running a high-load electrical connection out to even just TWO parking spaces? Not to mention cost of the electricity, not to mention the high likelihood of outside connections being vandalized...

          Except that companies like SemaCharge and ChargePoint will actually install and maintain the equipment for almost nothing. They make their money by charging for use (you get an account and they mail you a card which you have to tap to charge).

          I'll readily admit that I haven't looked into the details, but I know these companies are trying to address exactly the issue you're talking about, and to profit from solving that problem.

  • by elrous0 (869638) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:28PM (#45498039)

    Let me know when a used one is in my working-class budget range, and we'll talk.

  • PRICE!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:31PM (#45498049)

    PRICE!! I'd buy one in a heartbeat if they were a sane price compared to a gasoline equivalent.

  • by fozzy1015 (264592) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:31PM (#45498051)

    Seems obvious to me. I, like many others, live in an apartment. My parking spot doesn't have an electrical outlet anywhere nearby, and neither does my office parking lot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlueStrat (756137)

      Seems obvious to me. I, like many others, live in an apartment. My parking spot doesn't have an electrical outlet anywhere nearby, and neither does my office parking lot.

      In addition, how exactly does one bring a "can of electrons" to a car that's died along the road somewhere? I know they have meters for the amount of charge, but there will still be times when people end up having their electric car die along the highway.

      If there's a storm and a power failure, possibly for days, what then? Tie up money and resources to have both a gasoline and an electric car? Tell your boss you can't come in because the electricity is out?

      I can carry enough gasoline in one hand to fuel a c

  • Range. That's #1. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tugrik (158279) <tugrik@@@gmail...com> on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:39PM (#45498099)

    The three year lease on my Nissan Leaf is over in a few months. I absolutely adore the car. It's been the best commuter vehicle I've had in all ways but one -- range. This is the biggest complaint of all those I've shown it to, as well. Many of the co-workers and friends who have ridden in my car over the years want one! Then they hear what the range is like and they lose interest.

    My daily round trip (+lunch) comes in at just under 50 miles. With the highway speeds in my area (75 and up) and putting slightly better tires on it instead of the no-traction-in-rain stocks that I went through all too quickly, my real-world run-until-empty range is about 65 miles (When new with the super-eco tires and driving 65 on the freeway, I could get closer to 80-85 miles of range). This means that by the time I get home I can go back out to shop and return, and that's about it. I cannot use the Leaf for longer weekend runs, road trips, or even for the once every three weeks that I have to commute from San Jose to San Fran (about 120mi round trip). Therefore I have to have a second gas-powered car.

    Being that I work in Silicon Valley, owning one gas car and leasing an electric car alongside is feasible. With how much I save on gas the lease is nearly 75% covered anyway. With my office soon installing chargers at work my range will extend considerably. But for most of my friends having more than one car is out of the question, budgetary-wise, and the limitations of a car that can only go about 65 miles before it has to charge for 5 hours (my usual L2 charge is 4h:40m or so, overnight) are just too restrictive. With L3 chargers being few and far between, and often having a cost associated with their use, they don't help much. So, no EV for them.

    When my lease is up I'll probably try to get a Toyota RAV-4 EV. It supposedly has a real-world range of over 110mi - nearly double my Leaf. It's more affordable than the Tesla models, and more important to me, I can fit in it (I'm very tall-torso and short-legged; I simply can't get in the sports-car-low roof line of the Model S, and no Model X's exist that they will let a consumer sit in to see if they fit!). I'm bummed that Nissan hasn't found a way to 2x the range of the Leaf, or I'd gladly stick with that model. The Tesla-drivetrain RAV4 is still more expensive than I like, but it'll fit my EV driving needs far better.

    When battery technology increases enough that 150+mi range EVs are Leaf-level affordable _then_ you will see sales take off in the urban areas. Any advancements in fast-rate (L3 or better) charging will help that too. Until then, for all of their benefits and wonderfulness to drive, they'll remain a niche for packed-urban-area dwellers who can afford to have a second, dedicated commute car.

  • Climate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:40PM (#45498105)

    Up here, at least. In the depths of winter I think you'd be using a lot more power for heating than for driving. Though, it would blow hot air right away, which would be nice.

    I imagine battery performance would be seriously hurt by the cold as well. I don't know how bad NiMH and Li-ion drop off in cold, maybe not as much as lead acid but still quite a lot I imagine, being how chemistry works... Get a big battery blanket, I guess.

    I'm yet to notice any EV rollin' around here, anyway.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I imagine battery performance would be seriously hurt by the cold as well. I don't know how bad NiMH and Li-ion drop off in cold, maybe not as much as lead acid but still quite a lot I imagine, being how chemistry works... Get a big battery blanket, I guess.

      The battery packs all have built-in heaters.
      The power draw for heating the battery means less range, but your battery's life/performance is more or less safe.

  • People have been driving combustion automobiles since the industrial age. It takes time for new technologies to move through adoption stages, not to mention time for manufacturing costs and yields to improve.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      People have been driving combustion automobiles since the industrial age. It takes time for new technologies to move through adoption stages, not to mention time for manufacturing costs and yields to improve.

      Sigh. Not this 'electric cars is new technology!' nonsense again.

      Our ancestors had been driving electric cars for years before the internal combustion engine came along. They are an ancient technology, not a new one.

      They dumped electric cars almost immediately when internal combustion engines became viable, because electric cars sucked so bad. They still suck, for all the same reasons they did then.

  • How long does the battery last before it must be replaced? And will that cost offset any savings I've obtained during the life of the vehicle?

    How does the environmental footprint of the battery compare with the environmental footprint of an oil burner?

  • My personal "why": I code from home, so my car leaves the house twice a week and even then only to go 5-10 miles. My car is a '98 Mustang Cobra with a supercharged V8. I paid 15k cash for it used in 2002. I only get 17 miles to the gallon, but so what? I fill up maybe once every two months. I do a lot of my own maintenance. An all-electric vehicle would be perfect for my needs, and I could easily afford one, but I plan on driving my '98 until it rusts out from under me. It is a blast to drive, and t

  • it's easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by bitt3n (941736) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:00AM (#45498255)
    show me an electric car I can slap my truck nuts on without it looks like I'm doing it ironically, and you got yourself a sale
    • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:22AM (#45498367)

      Elon Musk got quoted this week saying Tesla will be building a pickup truck in 2015.

      So... give it a couple-three years and you can dangle your nuts in public all you like.

      And knowing Elon, it won't be at all ironic. The motor on a Roadster is 60 lbs. With the space available in a truck frame, you can bet he'll put in a couple of fat puppies with so much torque it can drag around two F-150s like a pair of really dangly truck nuts.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:10AM (#45498299)

    1. I like to do a lot of my own maintenance but the high voltage warnings under the hood scare the bejesus out of me.

    2. I don't drive enough to make it economically justifiable.

    3. I'm old and cantankerous and have noticed mostly hipsters drive electric cars. Not really a hipster fan.

  • Too expensive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:15AM (#45498329) Homepage Journal

    Here in Australia the Leaf and Miev are both above $50k. I can buy two corollas and ten years of fuel with that amount of money.

  • Um, duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:33AM (#45498435)

    Price, range and infrastructure.

    Maintenance, schmaintenance, when was the last time you heard of an American spending more in something and thinking ahead to spend less later? (see: phone contracts)

    Anything that only goes only 60 miles at a time and then takes all night to be able to start again is worthless other than for very short, painstakingly planned, local trips.

    Even if the infrastructure *was* there, who is able to stop every 60 miles for several hours on end?

    Even if you're buying it to be "green" (ugh), how much energy was needed and how much pollution was created in the manufacturing process vs. that of a dead-dinosaur automobile? There are reports that these figures are tremendously high *just* for the batteries. Are you really causing less pollution or just relocating it?

    Speaking purely in terms of range capability, I think the Chevy Volt has the right idea. The propulsion is 100% electric. The batteries are charged by plugin or an gas-powered generator, so you use no fuel for short trips but can still make longer ones when you need to.

  • by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:37AM (#45498475)
    I see two primary issues...

    First, we are a 2 truck family, so we could easily replace 1 of them with an EV, leaving 1 gas truck for long trips (or a "volt" technology version with plenty of range).

    Selection is a problem. All of the current EVs are little cars, which are only useful for people who want little cars. There are no big vehicles in EV trim.

    Price is also a problem. The EV version of all the cars is much more expensive than the gas powered version. The price needs to be the same, then you'll find customer interest.

    Give me a EV version of my 2012 GMC Yukon XL Denali and sell it to me for about the same price as I paid for this one ($58K) and I'm seriously interested. Even better, put Volt technology into it, give it a small engine for generator duty for long trips, batteries for all the small around town trips, and I'd pay about $5K more for it than I did for the gas only version.

    I suspect that the true cost would have to be $20K more, which I won't pay, which is why there isn't a "volt" version of the Suburban/Yukon/Escalade line of full size SUVs.

  • by TheHappyMailAdmin (913609) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:38AM (#45498481) Journal

    Electric cars are still just too expensive for most buyers and don't come in the right options. No EV minivans, full size SUVs or pick-ups means a lot of buyers can't find an electric version of the type of car they want. I think the Model S is an awesome car but it's effectively a luxury sedan and the market for luxury sedans isn't that big. To get "butts in seats" someone has to come up with an EV pickup and sedan which get comparable range to their gas counterparts at the same price point.

    Hopefully battery prices will fall significantly with the new technologies being developed, but until they do I think we'll continue to see more gas powered cars than hybrids, and more hybrids than full EVs.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @01:06AM (#45498667) Homepage
    Right now electric cars are for very specific people who have fairly specific needs plus they are missing critical features.

    There are two sorts of people who can use a modern electric car: People who commute well within a basic battery range (less than 100km round trip) and the other are people like me who live downtown and mostly need a car to avoid using the terrible bus system or bike in bad weather.

    Quite simply it is impossible to build a reasonably priced electric car that can match a gasoline car so the simple solution is to not bother. So if you make a case to the less than 100km round trip commuter that they will basically never buy gas for their commuting again then you will have their attention.

    If you tell me as a very infrequent driver and generally short trip driver that I will never buy gas again then you will have my attention.

    But if you lie to me and tell me that electric is basically the same as a gas car then I will call BS and you won't have my attention.

    On top of all that there are a few bad design decisions. First is they keep trying to put too big a battery in the cars; this is just stupid until batteries get cheaper and better. Just meet the average commuter's needs for a round trip with margin and you will sell them a car. The next design disaster is when they try to simulate a real gas car by putting a piston engine in as in the volt. The best solution would be to have a low power gas turbine (5-10hp) that can charge the car's battery slowly. This way you eliminate range anxiety by allowing the person to realize that they don't have enough juice to complete the journey so they kick in the turbine (or automatically when they set a destination that is beyond the battery's range) which will buy more range. If the turbine doesn't provide enough immediate range the driver could pull over and get a coffee while the turbine adds a mile of range every minute or two.

    Then you roof the car in solar so that the battery is charging during sunny days. For a commuter this would be great as they might use 30% of their charge getting to work and come out having recovered 10%. Then when they get home they would get an hour or two more charging not quite topping them up but reducing their electrical bill.

    For an occasional user like me a solar roof might mean that my battery is nearly always charged as it should get topped off most sunny days.

    Lastly there are all kinds of engineering gaps in these cars. One interesting one is heating in colder climates. In the winter around here a smaller battery would be eaten just keeping me warm, especially if I am waiting in the car. One simple solution would be to have an alcohol heater which would be simple and single purposed for keeping me warm. This would be great if you could turn it on 10 minutes before you get into the car and it would warm up the car and maybe even the batteries.

    Then the last and most important bit which is battery life. That is how many years will these batteries run the car. We all have laptops where the batteries have cacked after a year or two; often fairly suddenly, one moment we had a battery life and then the battery is complaining seconds after unplugging the laptop. So the car companies need to either warranty the batteries and maybe even set an eventual replacement price in stone. This way you know that in 8 years they will sell you a new set of cells for $2,000 or something. This might be a bit of a risk for the car companies but I would think that the odds are in favor of better cheaper batteries being generally available in less than 8 years.

    Lastly there is nearly zero customer education. Most people don't know that most of these cars can be charged slowly with a normal outlet and that the "advanced" outlet is basically a higher amperage dryer plug. The slower charging is important as they know that they can do things such as go to the cottage and charge the car overnight.

    The stupid thing is that without fixing the above they are
    • by dgatwood (11270)

      On top of all that there are a few bad design decisions. First is they keep trying to put too big a battery in the cars; this is just stupid until batteries get cheaper and better. Just meet the average commuter's needs for a round trip with margin and you will sell them a car.

      With the exception of the Tesla, none of the EVs today meet the average commuter's needs with a reasonable margin. The worst-case round-trip for a Leaf is only about 47 miles, which is barely over the 32 mile round-trip U.S. commute

    • by SIGBUS (8236) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @07:52AM (#45500011) Homepage

      On top of all that there are a few bad design decisions. First is they keep trying to put too big a battery in the cars; this is just stupid until batteries get cheaper and better. Just meet the average commuter's needs for a round trip with margin and you will sell them a car. The next design disaster is when they try to simulate a real gas car by putting a piston engine in as in the volt. The best solution would be to have a low power gas turbine (5-10hp) that can charge the car's battery slowly. This way you eliminate range anxiety by allowing the person to realize that they don't have enough juice to complete the journey so they kick in the turbine (or automatically when they set a destination that is beyond the battery's range) which will buy more range. If the turbine doesn't provide enough immediate range the driver could pull over and get a coffee while the turbine adds a mile of range every minute or two.

      Gas turbines have been tried in cars, but the problem is that a large mass spinning at extremely high speeds doesn't work out well in a car environment. The sudden changes in direction (both turns and especially bumps) are horrible for large turbine bearings. Something the size of a turbocharger can handle it, but the equivalent of an even a small aircraft APU is a different beast.

      Lastly there are all kinds of engineering gaps in these cars. One interesting one is heating in colder climates. In the winter around here a smaller battery would be eaten just keeping me warm, especially if I am waiting in the car. One simple solution would be to have an alcohol heater which would be simple and single purposed for keeping me warm. This would be great if you could turn it on 10 minutes before you get into the car and it would warm up the car and maybe even the batteries.

      Note that resistance heaters have given way to far-more-efficient heat pumps, so it's no worse a range hit than using air conditioning in summer. The HVAC on even a Leaf can be remotely fired up while still hooked to the charger.

      Then the last and most important bit which is battery life. That is how many years will these batteries run the car. We all have laptops where the batteries have cacked after a year or two; often fairly suddenly, one moment we had a battery life and then the battery is complaining seconds after unplugging the laptop. So the car companies need to either warranty the batteries and maybe even set an eventual replacement price in stone.

      Setting the price in stone might be a bit of a problem, but they are putting warranties on batteries. The Leaf's battery warranty is 5 years/60,000 miles, Tesla's 60 kWh pack is 8 years/125,000 miles, and their 85 kWh pack is 8 years, unlimited mileage.

      Even with all that, an electric still isn't workable for my own use case, though it comes close. It's still the whole road trip issue for me. A Leaf would fit 90% of my driving, but it's that last 10% that's the deal-breaker. Sure, I could rent something for the long trips, but that can get expensive.

  • by markhahn (122033) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @01:28AM (#45498779)

    My daily commute is less than 10km, and I would love to have and affordable, safe, less-consumptive/polluting vehicle. I would be very tempted by a car-like EV that was very small and light with range 50km if it cost something like $5-7k. (for $10k I can get a small used ICE that burns absurdly little gas.) It has to be able to take me up a decent-sized hill at 50 kph, though. An in-town EV could make a lot of sense, market-wise, but I think it should be purposed-designed, not just an ICE vehicle with a the engine swapped out.

    Otherwise, the problem is that EV or hybrids try to deliver long range and highway performance and wind up simply being too expensive. Hybrids in particular wind up carrying so much extra weight that you can usually do better pure EV *xor* ICE. It doesn't make sense to pretend that the technology supports non-premium EVs yet (Tesla is great, but it's a sports car at sports car prices.) In some sense, the problem is that petroleum ICE sets a high bar of energy density. I often wonder if there's a place for an EV that has an optional IDE add-in module for range (maybe fuel cell some day, maybe petroleum+turbine today or just a conventional diesel.)

  • by Endo13 (1000782) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @03:32AM (#45499291)

    Not enough range, refueling takes too long.

    Gotta fix one or the other.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @10:26AM (#45500571) Journal

    "Surveys show drivers are interested in electric cars--and that they love them once they drive them. "

    Yeah, except the real-world has considerations outside the scope a 30-second commercial or magazine ad, or that marketers are 'uncomfortable' to address (and we're not *quite* to the point of Idiocracy where we simply do what the market-wonks tell us we should):
    - range: most people seem to drive 20-30 miles to work, with commutes of approximately 20-45 minutes. Can I drive this (to AND from), plus run and get groceries, and maybe go out to a movie without being nervous about being UTTERLY out of power
    - where am I supposed to charge the stupid thing? The 'spin' notwithstanding, nobody has the time to dawdle while these recharge on 220v plugs, much less the 110v-overnight-option.
    - cost: contrary to popular belief, a lot of people can't afford a $30k car, particularly one that smells like it might need a new $10k battery pack after 100k miles.

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