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The numbers of EV options will more than double with the release of the 2013 Ford Focus Electric (pictured), the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In, and the 2013 Tesla Model S.  (Source: Treehugger)

Charging stations, like ECOtality's BLINK charger, are being deployed across America as well.  (Source: Tech Fever)

History cautions us that the EV movement may not be out of the woods yet -- the most iconic EV of the 1990s, GM's EV1 quickly ended up crushed in the scrap heap (pictured). This time around things may work out differently, though.  (Source: Treehugger)
EV movement has stalled several times, historically, industry hopes to avoid another letdown

Researchers and market advocates in a recent Detroit News interview argue that the electric vehicle movement is reaching the point where it will become an unstoppable force on the market before.  Describes, Genevieve Cullen, the vice president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, an advocacy group for electric cars, "We think that increasing electric is inevitable. The speed is variable."

I. The EV Movement has Faded Before -- Will History Repeat Itself?

The question of whether the electrification movement will stick this time around is a compelling one. 

In the early 1900s electric vehicles were extremely popular, outselling gas vehicles in some areas until the advent of mass production.  With the arrival of modern engine designs, electric vehicles quickly faded from the mind of the auto industry and the public.

In the 1960s interest in electric cars once again rose, with concepts like the 1967 Comuta from Ford Motor Company (F).  These efforts failed to gain traction, though.  In the 1990s there was yet another electric revivalist movement with General Motors Company's (GM) EV1.  And yet again EVs were met with apathy and a hasty demise.

Today EVs are once more on the market, with the 2012 Chevy Volt from GM (a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle; PHEV) and 2012 Nissan (NSANF) LEAF EV (a battery-electric vehicle; BEV).  However, the sales aren't looking great, largely due to the manufacturers' inability to put out significant volume to the public.

But many are convinced that this time EVs may hang in there.  Oil is off highs of $147 USD/barrel reached in July 2008.  But it's still relatively high, hovering at around $100 USD/barrel.

II.  Increasing Infrastructure

They key to the survival of the EV movement arguably lays in the significant uptake in EV infrastructure.  Thanks in part to a $2.4B USD government investment program in the battery industry, six major battery plants are open or are near opening.  And Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), Ford, and Toyota Motor Company (TM) will look to jump into the mass market next year with new electric vehicles.  Ford is planning to release the 2013 Focus Electric and Toyota plans to release a 2013 Prius Plug-In.  Tesla meanwhile is planning to launch its first mass-market EV, the 2013 Model S.

The real key to increasing promise for the mass market is dropping batter prices and increased battery production.  Analysts estimate that in 2011 50,000 EV batteries will be produced and in only three years -- by 2014 -- that number will rise to 500,000 batteries a year.

Meanwhile costs are dropping.  Eric Isaacs, the director of the Argonne National Laboratory -- a government research institution located outside of Chicago, Illinois -- states, "The question is: Can these guys make a battery that is five times cheaper? I think yes. I think we can do it."

One major obstacle to the fledgling movement is the availability of charging stations.  EVs, like gas vehicles need to be "fueled up".  Standard chargers can take hours to completely charge a vehicle.  A dedicated high-voltage charging station can mostly charge a vehicle within a half or so.

The need for chargers is more critical when you consider that the "tank" on EVs (battery) only holds one or two days worth of "fuel" (charge) for the average commuter.

Here, again, the government is looking to help spur the market by investing $400M USD to deploy chargers to public locations.  

Two of the leading firms include SemaConnect and ECOtality Inc. (ECTY).  SemaConnect was installing chargers in Maryland this week.  Meanwhile ECOtality in recent weeks has installed its BLINK charging stations in California, Washington state, Oregon and Arizona.

III.  The EV Outlook

There are telltale signs that the new EV trend may be a bit different.  Anecdotal examples can be found in the retail and fleet markets.  

Fleet giant Hertz is offering rentable EVs in New York City and will soon be offering them in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, Calif.

States Company spokeswoman Paula Rivera, "Currently, we have a few dozen vehicles. By the end of the year we anticipate having hundreds of them available. We do view this as the future of transportation, and see adoption coming not only from having the cars available, but the ecosystem to charge them. ... As the ecosystem builds out, our fleet will increase."

Similarly, electronics retail giant Best Buy says it is considering selling recharging stations and is training its "Geek Squad" service team members to ready them for the possibility.  Chad Bell, the senior director of Best Buy's New Business Solutions Group states, "We dedicated a significant amount of resources to help this technology come to market. We think these (home charging-stations) will be purchased and sold in the future similar to how electronics are sold today."

Some analysts are more pessimistic about the movement.  Still it's hard to argue that the industry isn't showing an awful lot of interest in it, this time around.

To borrow a chemistry analogy, it appears that EVs are currently are entering a transition state.  They aren't over the energy barrier (sales hump) yet, but they may soon get there.  If they can keep up their momentum, perhaps the EV movement can finally survive and thrive.

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By MeesterNid on 4/12/2011 11:16:18 AM , Rating: 0
Though how are we going to power all these electric vehicles now that nuclear power is all but assured to be pushed back into the stone age in terms of future deployment?, that's too dirty and ruins all the mountains and stuff.

Oil...wait, that's what the green religion says is bad and it like destroys the atmosphere and makes people rich and things, can't do that.

So solar power...except for when it's cloudy! And wind mills, but they are ugly and nobody wants them around.

Dang, what a predicament! Electric vehicles are teh awesome and sooo clean and just great all around, but how are we going to power them?

RE: Outstanding
By callmeroy on 4/12/2011 11:41:48 AM , Rating: 3
Can't we figure out a way to use the tears of the various political lobbyist and environmental groups as a fuel source.....

...surely we'd then have unlimited fuel supply until our Sun burns out and destroys our solar system in the next few billion years... :)

RE: Outstanding
By semo on 4/12/2011 11:44:55 AM , Rating: 2
Wave power has a lot of potential (no pun intended) but I think kills whales or something... Also, people are very skeptical about off shore wave/wind power stations. It's usually the same people who find off-shore oil drilling acceptable (hey, it's done already so it must have been easy right?)

RE: Outstanding
By AssBall on 4/12/2011 1:42:51 PM , Rating: 2
People are skeptical but not for the reasons you think. They are skeptical because offshore generation is not yet proven reliable or economically robust. The initial costs are high, and maintenance cost is extremely high. You also lose a lot of efficiency in delivery to the grid.

RE: Outstanding
By semo on 4/13/2011 8:09:01 AM , Rating: 2
How is that different than offshore oil drilling? I'm sure everyone had the same doubts when it was first suggested. Is it efficient to clean up FULLY (not the half-assed efforts oil companies get away with) after an oil spill?

RE: Outstanding
By Harinezumi on 4/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: Outstanding
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 1:22:47 PM , Rating: 2
We've got plenty of oil too. We just don't use it.

RE: Outstanding
By MeesterNid on 4/12/11, Rating: 0
RE: Outstanding
By AssBall on 4/12/2011 2:10:01 PM , Rating: 2
Canada is a hostile foreign government? I must have had a different geography teacher than you.

RE: Outstanding
By torpor on 4/12/2011 2:26:09 PM , Rating: 2
Ultimately, it doesn't matter where you import it from. All purchasing affects the market price.

This whole bit about, "but we gets it from Canuckistan!!!lol" just shows how truly dire the need is to get Economics 101 in public schools.

RE: Outstanding
By MeesterNid on 4/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: Outstanding
By FITCamaro on 4/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: Outstanding
By EricMartello on 4/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: Outstanding
By Pirks on 4/12/2011 3:00:58 PM , Rating: 1
I don't care if we have to live in a box
Got divorce lawyer standing by? You better do! Sooner the better

RE: Outstanding
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 3:12:53 PM , Rating: 5
My parents did just fine. And they didn't make a lot of money either. Sure they were always behind on bills. But they managed. They put our education before vacations and fancy cars.

RE: Outstanding
By Pirks on 4/12/11, Rating: 0
RE: Outstanding
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 3:28:34 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Outstanding
By JediJeb on 4/12/2011 5:16:41 PM , Rating: 1
Plenty of Russian women ready to come over and fill the gaps left by the greedy American women ;)

RE: Outstanding
By EricMartello on 4/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: Outstanding
By Pirks on 4/12/2011 6:28:00 PM , Rating: 1
HAHAHAAA ROFLMAO!!! :))) So the sad fate of Hans Reiser and his Russian wife did not teach you kids anything? HAHAHAHAHAAAA *crying here* jeez you guys just made my day! wonderful, now post some more shit like that puhleeeaassee!!! THIS IS DA BEST

RE: Outstanding
By torpor on 4/12/2011 3:41:32 PM , Rating: 3
Wife had private (lutheran) school from about 3rd grade on, and her siblings from earlier.

I went to public school.

In the end, I've had to teach her most of what she knows about economics. You see, private schools are no guarantee.

School boards are local entities, and even if you don't want to get involved there, you can (and must, if you want them to be successful) still take an active role in your child's education.

But it would be nice if all the kids on forums had, at least, the ability to sketch out a supply vs. demand graph and label what supply and demand shifts do to price.

Our national debate would be very different, and we could use the Econ to replace the "labor history" materials as supplied by the AFL-CIO. (true story from my high school)

RE: Outstanding
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: Outstanding
By Lerianis on 4/12/2011 10:02:08 PM , Rating: 2
If you call Canada 'hostile' since that is where almost 2/3rds of our imported oil comes from

RE: Outstanding
By sorry dog on 4/13/2011 9:47:13 AM , Rating: 2
Actually in my area (southeast US.) we have a lots of coal, however it is mostly not used in power generation around here. It is a lower grade coal that produces too much NOx in plant emissions. So most of the coal used in plants here is actually imported from places like Bolivia and the local coal is exported for use to places like Bolovia where they don't have to worry about trading NOx emissions, etc.

That's the thing about our enviro regs...we don't actually make things cleaner...we just move it somewhere else where they are too poor to care about clean.

RE: Outstanding
By sviola on 4/12/2011 1:22:03 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the first Fusion Power plant is under construction in Italy, if it works as expected, it will produce much more power than any Nuclear Power Plant and doesn't have the issues the latter has.

Also, there are other alternative power sources under study (like Microwave).

RE: Outstanding
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 1:25:33 PM , Rating: 2
Microwave power will never happen. If hippies aren't happy with a controlled nuclear reaction and waste that only they themselves cause through their protesting of reprocessing, how do you think they'll feel about electromagnetic waves powerful enough to incinerate homes if aimed improperly.

RE: Outstanding
By sviola on 4/12/2011 1:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I think that is a concern as well, but I was just giving an example of other alternative energy being studied/developed. But I think in the near future, Fusion will be the way to go, as long as they find out a way to start the process without using so much energy (after it is started, it is auto-sufficient).

RE: Outstanding
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/11, Rating: 0
RE: Outstanding
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 5:07:40 PM , Rating: 2
We do have some of our own. But I agree that its still not nearly enough for every home in America, much less the world, to have an electric car.

RE: Outstanding
By Azethoth on 4/12/2011 6:43:45 PM , Rating: 1
"China holds 95% of the rare earth elements in the world"

This is total bunk. If you instead say that China currently mines 95% then you are correct. The reason is they do it cheaply and without caring about environmental consequences so nobody else is bothering to mine them right now.

If they embargo exports like against Japan last year then the picture changes rapidly.

RE: Outstanding
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/2011 7:00:53 PM , Rating: 2
This is total bunk. If you instead say that China currently mines 95% then you are correct. The reason is they do it cheaply and without caring about environmental consequences so nobody else is bothering to mine them right now.

You're implying a distinction where there is none. If China is the only ones willing to mine something, then THEY control the supply. Who cares how much might be in the ground if it's going to stay there forever?

If anyone was planning on being pro-active about rare Earth mining, 10 years ago would have been the time to do it.

RE: Outstanding
By topkill on 4/13/11, Rating: 0
RE: Outstanding
By Reclaimer77 on 4/13/2011 5:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Outstanding
By Reclaimer77 on 4/13/2011 5:49:18 PM , Rating: 2

More recent. OOPS looks like I was wrong. China produces 97% of rare Earths, not the 95% I previously stated. Please forgive me.

RE: Outstanding
By topkill on 4/14/2011 5:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
Produces! PRODUCES!!! Not has, but PRODUCES!!!!

They don't own anywhere near a majority of the world's supplies, they are simply the only ones PRODUCING them right now because they were not worth producing while the price and demand was low.

There is a huge difference between not having any and not producing any. We have all we need in the US, it just wasn't economically viable when prices were low so we didn't produce them.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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