Martin Klein Not so fast.....

I don't think the electric car is at all dead. In reality I think all we are seeing is a shift in how this technology will be marketed & sold. Until now its been the cost and problems associated with charging the batteries that has been holding this technology back. But already new players are coming to market where the customer buys the car but NOT the battery. Carlos Ghosn (of Renault / Nissan fame) is a very smart operator and is now in partnership with "Better Place" who are already rolling out this type of "solution". One can read about it here:
Posted: 27 September 2012 at 08:06

Anton Musgrave Not so fast.....

See ... for another new business model idea...
Posted: 27 September 2012 at 08:12

Doug Vining Not so fast.....

Thanks for your comment, Martin. I agree that there will be new business models, and perhaps even new car models that change the game and become successful. But I think the current line-up of plug-in cars in the United States market will struggle to be anything but a niche filler. At least in the short term, which this scenario is!
Posted: 27 September 2012 at 08:12

C.Bernt Sannwald consumers know, politics don't.

I was missing the obvious answer: Not consumers killed the e-car. It was politics and utilities who couldn't make up serious minds. No charging grids, no systematic approaches on conceptual requirements and of course complete neglect that the classic combustion engine has proved unrivalled efficiency improvements and still has substantially more to come. And this system has a worldwide presence. No wonder though, the death of the e-car was in its genes.
Posted: 27 September 2012 at 10:02

Wolfgang Grulke Cool electric?

Posted: 28 September 2012 at 09:37

Doug Vining Electric flair in France

European auto makers are showing off new electric models at the Paris auto show. Is this a flash in the pan, or a genuine trend towards more electric cars in Europe?

Of course, France is probably the best market for electric cars to succeed, as they have excellent grid infrastructure powered mainly by nuclear plants, and no oil of their own. But will the current Euro debt crisis afford France the luxury of heavily subsidising electric cars to make them attractive to consumers? It could become an expensive exercise for taxpayers!
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Posted: 1 October 2012 at 10:25

John Menasce Not so fast

When I read "Automotive Engineering" [ the monthly journal of Society of Automotive Engineers, USA] a very large part of this journal has been devoted to electric car technology in the last year or two. All the big names are there with various technologies from new generation battery systems to high efficiency electric motor drives in wheel hubs. All product development costs serious money so I can't for a moment believe that it is technology development that the car OEMs are not serious about nor expect poor returns on their investments. .

What I do challenge is the published "time to market" for mass produced electric cars from prototype development as it's about a paradigm shift in consumer thinking. It also provides no environmental gains in a country like mine where the electrical grid is powered by carbon fueled power stations as the overall energy conversion efficiency from coal to car battery charging is lower than the energy conversion efficiency for a conventional ICE powered car. There has to be another incentive to buy this transport technology either in tax relief or just plain lower purchase and lifetime ownership cost. Seeing the cost of L-Ion batteries as one example, this cost reduction has a long way to go.
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 11:08

Wolfgang Grulke Not so fast

From a consumer point of view, the electric car has to become 'desirable', 'sexy' etc. Every electric car I have driven has been a huge disappointment - but that may be just because I love the act of 'driving' (like a true Baby Boomer). Fix that, couple it with great technology, and electric cars could get on that upward trajectory.
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 11:18

John Menasce Not so fast

To a “petrolhead” like me nothing beats the sense and pleasure of driving a powerful car. I love the sound and feel of a big six cylinder engine and the burbling beat of a V8. It is something I grew up with as a baby boomer.
It’s the same adrenaline rush for me as riding a horse or standing on the foot plate of a steam locomotive as it pulls out of a station. The noise, vibration, smells and their sheer titillation of senses makes it a pleasurable experience.

However if you are not a “petrolhead” the need is for basic reliable transport and all this sensory titillation is wasted.
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 19:38

John Menasce Not so fast

I have just returned from being an observer of the 2012 SASOL Solar Challenge in South Africa for solar powered and alternative energy powered cars from the various universities both in RSA and globally.

To my immense surprise these very sophisticated prototype cars are far from silent nor are they slow.

They have amazing acceleration and when that synchronous motor and the PWM converter is working hard the system actually growls as it starts off at zero frequency and then as the frequency climbs the growl turns into a low howl. It’s the same kind of noise when the regenerative braking system energizes and they slow down.

So may be the next generation of motoring enthusiasts won’t be “petrol heads” like us but “electric heads” who get a thrill out of these computer controlled devices and the different noises they produce.

Did you know that the reason that electric cars failed in the USA prior to WW1 was not the simple technology of the time, but was due to a catastrophic marketing error by Buick and others where the electric cars were promoted as being suitable for women drivers to handle. This ‘soft image’ put off the macho male drivers of the time and the electric car was denigrated as being ‘too feminine’ dying a quiet death to be replaced by the noisy, smelly, and at the time, less reliable internal combustion engine that we love so much.
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 19:39

Doug Vining Not so fast

I recently attended an air and defence show (also in South Africa) where one of the most interesting demos was of a light tank with eight wheels and an electric hybrid drive. Made by BAE it was quite surreal to see this huge armoured vehicle suddenly move off with a low electric whine instead of a roar. Shades of Blade Runner!
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 20:44

Doug Vining Not so fast

The Tesla Model S is sexy, fast and fun to drive - but it's also very expensive, and in short supply. But then, I guess Ferraris are not really a mass market product either!
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 11:54

Wolfgang Grulke Not so fast

I was thinking more of a VW Beetle equivalent or something similar that the majority of people can access!!!
Posted: 10 October 2012 at 11:59

Neil Jacobsohn The real environmental cost of electric cars

Posted: 17 October 2012 at 14:53

Doug Vining Not much of a better place

It seems that Better Place is a bit the worse for wear, cutting back on operations and staff. I think the short term scenario of this MindBullet is spot on. But perhaps Tesla will surprise us all?
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Posted: 8 February 2013 at 09:43

Doug Vining Lend me a gas guzzler

Here's another way to deal with the biggest obvious drawback of electric cars. If someone needs to take a road trip, just give them a fuel burning loaner. BMW is probably betting on the fact that long trips are in the serious minority.

But what's really going on here is a recognition that you don't need to own a car in the first place. You should be able to subscribe to a transport service, that provides you with an electric city car, an off-road SUV, a limo with a driver, or whatever you need on the day. Maybe one of those flying cars from Avis, in the future?

Who's ready to own a virtual car?
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Posted: 12 March 2013 at 10:06

Doug Vining A Tesla in every home

Elon Musk reckons that, with a new payment plan and some creative accounting, about 30 million Americans can afford a Tesla. That's a lot of electric cars, and would test Tesla's production capacity severely, seeing as they've been having trouble producing 5,000 per quarter.

But I think the point is, many more people could afford electric cars, as they become mainstream and costs decline, as they will, and the infrastructure to support them, like mobile phones in the past, becomes pervasive. It will take a while, though.

We certainly won't see that sort of uptake in Africa, or any real motivation to produce electric cars even in South Africa, as so eloquently argued by Ivo Vegter in this column:
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Posted: 7 May 2013 at 12:37

Doug Vining Fighting for Tesla

I'm not sure if that should be "Touting for Tesla" but either way, Tesla is looking good and gathering a brand army that will end up being its greatest asset! Viva Tesla, Viva!
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Posted: 25 May 2013 at 19:13

Doug Vining Born again diesels

That decades-old technology, the diesel engine, is seeing a resurgence from incremental innovations, which in combination, are quite radical in their impact.

Living in Africa, I have long been a fan of diesel engines for all 4X4 applications, but now they are the preferred engine in my country for luxury sedans and SUVs as well. They are simply more efficient, with better pulling power and consumption, and now the latest diesel engines are also the cleanest.

Once the new generation of compact diesel cars takes off in America, there is no doubt that many drivers will prefer them to electric cars, for the simple reason that they are cheaper, equally efficient and clean, and can travel for many miles on a normal tank of fuel. The current success of electric vehicles is possibly a short-lived spike - until new innovations with fuel cells and batteries change the game, once again!
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Posted: 9 July 2013 at 10:42

Doug Vining Charging into the future

I am somewhat cynical when it comes to electric cars. I still think that, as this MindBullet suggests, electric vehicles are doomed to be a niche product in the medium term. They are just too costly and unsupported by charging infrastructure to be mainstream, other than in densely populated cities with reliable surplus electric power.
But I am a great fan of BMW. I've owned a succession of older, even aging BMWs over the years, and they are certainly more fun to drive than the competition. Now BMW is putting its money on a revolution in motoring - they call it "mobility" these days - with the 'birth' of a new type of car. With a carbon-fibre body and electric motor, it's a big departure for BMW, and seems to take its styling cues from Smart and the Range Rover Evoque.
Will the i3 succeed in thrusting mainstream motoring into the electric era? At $40,000 for a compact car with limited range, I think it's going to take a while before it sells like the Volkswagen Beetle did decades ago, but perhaps BMW have got deep enough pockets, and astute enough marketing, to succeed where lesser designs have failed. The significance of the global launch, simultaneously in London, New York and Beijing, was not lost on me. It means that BMW knows ...
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Posted: 29 July 2013 at 20:51

Doug Vining Real value of electric cars

The real value of a car often only emerges when the car is sold on as a used vehicle. That's when you see the true value, what the market is actually prepared to pay, without subsidies and auto company deals.

Perhaps it's telling then, that most electrics don't command much of a premium once they are second-hand. As battery technology is likely to advance rapidly, early adopters suffer the same problems as early smartphone buyers - their hot new products become obsolete pretty quickly!
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Posted: 28 November 2013 at 17:08
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