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Electric Cars at a dealership in Los Angeles  (Source: LA Times)
A bright star just months ago, electric car industry goes into dramatic reverse.

In what many will find a surprising turn of events, electric car sales have plummeted this year, plunging the fledgling industry into financial turmoil. Many manufacturers and dealers are cutting back operations; some have shut down entirely. Others are calling for government action to prevent the industry from wholesale collapse.

Many dealers understandably don't want to discuss declining sales. When asked how well their cars were selling, a spokesman for Electric Vehicles, Inc, in Tampa, tersely replied "no comment", and hung up. A dealer in Texas didn't answer the phone at all. Another in California had its number disconnected.

EPower, a retailer selling electric cars in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, has only sold two cars in the past three months. President Bruce Wood tells DailyTech that, "while there are a lot of tire kickers", few will actually commit to a purchase.

MCEV, the largest electric car dealer in the Pacific Northwest, has seen sales decline to 1-2 vehicles a month, down 80% from earlier this year. Buzz Duell, General Manager of MCEV, blames not only gas prices, but the economy as a whole. "No one wants to spend money right now", he says. Not only are individual buyers cutting back, but corporate and government sales -- which make up a large percentage of MCEV's revenue -- are also being impacted.

Duell expects a recovery in sales to take at least two years.

Tim Sankey, owner of an electric car distributor in Kansas concurs. "It will take time to build a customer base", he says, "but people haven't forgotten about high gas prices". Sankey hopes for a rebound next year.

Sales declines aren't limited to the U.S. In Britain, sales of electric cars have dropped a shocking 58 percent this year. For the first ten months of 2008, a total of only 156 vehicles were sold in the country -- nearly all of those confined to London itself. The announcement came just two days after the nation's Committee on Climate Change predicted electric car sales would increase substantially this year.

Tesla Motors, maker of the all-electric Tesla Roadster, announced a round job cuts last October, and said that plans for a mass-produced high-volume electric car would be "impacted" by the grim sales outlook.  Rumors suggested job cuts could be up to half the company's work force, a figure Tesla officially denied.

Larry Shriner, Chief Financial Officer of Zenn Motors, an electric car manufacturer based in Canada, says government "needs to get engaged to give the industry some momentum". Shriner doesn't necessarily favor gas price supports, but he says government needs to ensure "people stay focused" on the benefits of electric car technology.

Sales of traditional cars have also declined, but not as sharply. According to tracking company Autodata, sales are down 37 period from the same period last year.



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I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By Motoman on 12/4/2008 3:00:58 PM , Rating: -1
...they can be shown not to destroy the environment.

Where do you reckon the electricity comes from to charge an electric car? In America, primarily coal power plants. That makes an electric car a very dirty little vehicle. All you're doing is displacing the pollution from the vehicle to the power plant. And while I'm not an expert, I believe that the pollution from the power plant is worse than the exhaust from my internal combustion engine.

...then think about the load on the grid of all that extra power transmission (if suddenly lots of people bought electic cars).

Lots of fun things to think about. Nothing truly insurmountable...but I think the vast majority of people who are currently giddy about electric cars are seriously naive.




RE: I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By Entropy42 on 12/4/2008 3:06:44 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
And while I'm not an expert, I believe that the pollution from the power plant is worse than the exhaust from my internal combustion engine.


You are not an expert. That is wrong. Electric cars aren't truly "carbon free", but they emit much less CO2 than a standard car, even if charged with power produced by a coal plant.


RE: I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By Some1ne on 12/4/2008 4:52:07 PM , Rating: 2
Pure electrics were never the answer. There's just too many issues that are inadequately dealt with at the current time, and that still are not even close to being solved. These include the limited range, the time it takes to fully recharge, the cost and hassle of installing specialized outlets if you want a more rapid charging time, the hassle of having to remember to plug the thing in every time you park it for the night, and the lack of high-speed charging stations to enable longer roadtrips. Hawaii is going to try to solve the charging issue by just swapping out entire battery packs at "refueling" stations, which is just crazy. Fully electric vehicles are just not even remotely viable at the present time.

The way to move forward is to continue optimizing the gas/electric hybrid designs that have proven to be successful in the near term, and to move to a viable non-fossil-fuel source (hydrogen, biofuels, etc.) in the longer term. Pure electrics do not factor in at all.


By cmdrdredd on 12/4/2008 11:00:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Pure electrics were never the answer. There's just too many issues that are inadequately dealt with at the current time, and that still are not even close to being solved. These include the limited range, the time it takes to fully recharge, the cost and hassle of installing specialized outlets if you want a more rapid charging time, the hassle of having to remember to plug the thing in every time you park it for the night, and the lack of high-speed charging stations to enable longer roadtrips. Hawaii is going to try to solve the charging issue by just swapping out entire battery packs at "refueling" stations, which is just crazy. Fully electric vehicles are just not even remotely viable at the present time. The way to move forward is to continue optimizing the gas/electric hybrid designs that have proven to be successful in the near term, and to move to a viable non-fossil-fuel source (hydrogen, biofuels, etc.) in the longer term. Pure electrics do not factor in at all.


I agree, and when is my free car coming? You want me to drive a "clean" car? Then give me one. otherwise I'm happy with what I got which actually looks decent. I will not drive something that looks like a power wheels.


By phazers on 12/5/2008 12:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
It's primarily an energy-density issue. Current battery technology just isn't capable of storing enough KWH per kilo per $$ to be worthwhile, except perhaps for a very limited range urban-only vehicle. Ditto with hydrogen - I recall reading in Scientific American that it would take a 30,000 psi storage cylinder to compress hydrogen to the same energy density per pound as gasoline. Imagine what that would do in a wreck. And of course this 30KPSI cylinder would weigh several hundred pounds, as opposed to maybe 30 pounds for a 15 gallon steel gas tank.


By piroroadkill on 12/4/2008 3:23:05 PM , Rating: 1
Power plants are more efficient than many small engines. Most of the energy from burning some shit is output into heat, right? Cars are what, 30% efficient and turning the explosions into movement? They give off the rest in heat. A power plant however deliberately uses that heat. The heat IS the energy as opposed to the movement of a momentary blast


By masher2 (blog) on 12/4/2008 3:32:05 PM , Rating: 5
Most IC engines average less than 25% over their entire RPM range. A serial hybrid (rather than a parallel hybrid like the Prius) can approach 35%, by optimizing the engine for a narrow RPM range.

Coal-fire plants are nearer 40%, with the new ultra-high temperature varieties breaking 50%. You have transmission line losses, a small amount of loss from coulometric charging efficiency and battery leakage, but electric vehicles still win by a substantial margin on overall efficiency.

On the pollution aspect, coal is a much dirtier fuel than gasoline in general. However, coal plants have a much greater amount of pollution-control equipment than you can hang off a vehicle. So while electric vehicle emissions certainly aren't "zero", they're far below what a gas engine will produce...especially when one considers that much of the electricity is produced with zero-emission sources such as nuclear or hydro.


RE: I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By Dreifort on 12/4/08, Rating: -1
RE: I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By FITCamaro on 12/4/2008 4:19:05 PM , Rating: 5
Where the hell do you see him saying nuclear powered cars?

He says ELECTRICITY is produced by nuclear energy.


RE: I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By Dreifort on 12/5/2008 10:22:52 AM , Rating: 1
he hinted at zero emmission cars...such as nuclear power produces almost no emmissions.


By futrtrubl on 12/5/2008 1:58:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
especially when one considers that much of the electricity is produced with zero-emission sources such as nuclear or hydro


Re-read that. If you take it the way you did (really though, he said the some elictricity IS (ie currently) coming from those sources) he's proposing hydro powered cars too.


By morose on 12/4/2008 4:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
Nobody said they were going to try and put nuclear power plants IN the cars. Just that some energy they are being charged with is generated via nuclear or hydro powered plants.

Oh, and if you can manage a technology advanced enough to weaponize the nuclear fuel used in power plants to a level required to make a bomb outside of a military facility? I think the least of anyone's worries will be if you have the right paperwork. So unless your "concealed" "mini-nuke" is just intended to get some people sick, that's just FUD you're spreading there.


By KingstonU on 12/4/2008 3:31:06 PM , Rating: 5
Yes but a mistake people often overlook is this: Try looking at your transportation infrastructure as centralized, where the power plant produces emissions, but the millions of cars that use the power produce 0 emissions.

Now look at the current decentralized infrastructure, where the oil recovery and refinery produces emissions, and the millions of cars that use the gas all produce emissions.

With technology enhancements over time, what is easier to improve: the emissions of one centralized power plant over time, or improve the emissions of the power plant and millions of cars over time?


RE: I'll get excited about electric cars when...
By superkdogg on 12/4/2008 4:37:16 PM , Rating: 3
They're not zero emissions, as you point out because the point of emissions in moved from the car to the plant as you accurately point out.

On the other hand, if gasoline engines were more efficient than mass electricity distribution we would have individually powered homes from gasoline genorators (regardless of emissions because America for the most part has roundly regected pollution as a reason for changing energy sources).

Electric cars don't NOT hurt the environment, they just hurt it less.


By FPP on 12/8/2008 5:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
You'd better check the emissions of an electric motor. They are Nitrous Oxides and they are twice as bad as C02 as a greenhouse gas. Just another myth about electric cars.


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