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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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  • 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 Beeftopia (1846720) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:49PM (#45498177)

    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?

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

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Friday November 22, 2013 @11:54PM (#45498203)
    Sure. They can take the money from oil subsidies.
  • Re:money? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @12:00AM (#45498247)

    You obviously haven't priced a rental car lately. The figures simply don't add up. Electric costs SERIOUS money over gas, no matter how you cut it. Most people just can't afford it.

  • 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.

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

    by Teancum (67324) <> 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: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.

  • 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.

  • 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 (, 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.
  • Re:2 Words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @04:37AM (#45499453)
    I have nothing against minivans, I used to own a Honda Odyssey, very nice vehicle.

    They are now behind the times when it comes to technology. Seriously, no touch screen display in the Odyssey, what are they thinking?

    Power sliding doors? Very nice. Third row seat, comfortable for adults, better than the third row in the Yukon.

    Storage behind the third row? Worse than in the Yukon, which is one of the biggest problems.

    Towing ability? Terrible... the Yukon can be fully loaded with people and stuff, plus a trailer can be put on the back and it doesn't care, it will pull it all. The Odyssey? Not so much.

    Off road? The Yukon has good ground clearance and good 4wd performance. The Odyssey? None at all. Yes, I've had my truck off road. Nothing serious, but more than you'd take an Odyssey to, and that includes mud.

    Yes, many people who own Yukon/Suburbans would be better served with a minivan. Or for that matter, the Traverse/Acadia which are great vehicles for families, better than the short version of the Yukon/Tahoe for most people.

    I fall into the "actually need it" category. Many people don't, but in my case, it works for me.

  • Re:2 Words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo AT world3 DOT 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.

  • Re:2 Words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tftp (111690) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @07:57AM (#45500039) Homepage

    In essence, SUVs and trucks are very power-hungry vehicles. They can be loaded with a ton of stuff, and they can tow huge trailers. Batteries that can deliver so much power would cost a million dollars, and they would occupy too much space - and they would take a significant part of the weight of the vehicle.

    There is yet another catch. Large batteries cannot be charged in a reasonable time using a reasonable charger. A truck can have a tank that holds 25-30 gallons of gasoline. That is equivalent to 26 MJ/L * (30*4) = 3 GJ, or 833 kWh of energy. A Tesla Supercharger delivers 120 kW. This means that to charge a truck with a Supercharger you need 7 hours. Charging at home, at 10% of that, would be a very sad story. Obviously, any vehicle that cannot be recharged in 8 hours at home is DOA in the market - and nobody is going to park their truck overnight at a supercharger :-)

    Another unwelcome fact is that trucks are workhorses of the industry. They do not have an easy life of commuter cars that mostly are parked. Trucks are moving, and they are towing, and they are carrying stuff. They burn through all this energy very quickly. An EV truck owner would need a personal nuclear power station in the basement if he wants to keep his truck charged; then he can hope to cover about 12mpg * 30 = 360 miles per day. This may be, actually, not enough - if you haul a trailer with cattle your effective mileage will be much lower. I have friends who own a ranch and transport cattle all the time. They wouldn't even consider an EV truck - unless it comes with at least a 10 GJ battery from a flying saucer and a personal 1 MW charger.

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.