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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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RE: EV != Electric
By Hulk on 4/12/2011 11:50:53 AM , Rating: 2
Fuel Cells still need electricity to produce the hydrogen. Reformers are too expensive. And Fuel cells are actually too expensive too. It seems like the market has decided it's time for batteries to have another go round.

As for electricity, if there is a greater demand we'll produce it. It will be some combination of hydro, wind, solar, coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear. Again, the market will deem the percentages of each based on cost per kWHr.

The real determinate for electric vehicles, besides battery capacity will be gas cost.

Let's take the Volt. Travels about 35 miles on 10 kWHr, which actually requires 12kWHr for recharge due to efficiency losses. At 0.18 cents per kWHr including delivery, which is what I pay in NJ, that means about $2.16 for 35 miles.

If you consider the competing car will travel that far on a gallon then I'd estimate things start to get very interesting when gas hits 2.16x2=4.32/gallon.

At that rate, 12,000 miles a year for gas would cost $1481, while electric would be half that or $741 per year. Over 5 years that's a savings of $3700. Assuming equal vehicle cost that's a pretty decent savings.

Of course gas ISN'T $4.32 a gallon. And vehicle cost ISN'T equal. And range IS still a problem.

You know what? I've just convinced myself that electric vehicles still have some huge obstacles in front of them.


RE: EV != Electric
By Ushio01 on 4/12/2011 12:53:58 PM , Rating: 2
At 37.5 cents per kWHr including delivery and $7.20 a US gallon approximately here in the UK you make me want to cry.


RE: EV != Electric
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 12:58:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
As for electricity, if there is a greater demand we'll produce it.


Yeah because power plants worth a damn are just popping up left and right. About the only new plants being built anymore are solar and wind and they aren't reliable.

"Sorry boss I can't come to work today because it wasn't windy enough yesterday so there wasn't enough power to charge my car and run my AC".


RE: EV != Electric
By Jedi2155 on 4/12/2011 1:01:48 PM , Rating: 2
Once prices start reaching around $5/gallon which may happen this summer (Diesel is already $4.60/gallon here), they will start to make a lot more economical sense. Add in any extra utilities savings by going with an EV rate plan from your utility your savings might actually be closer to $5-10,000 depending on your exact location and other various factors.


RE: EV != Electric
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 2:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe where you live. Diesel here is $3.85.


RE: EV != Electric
By Spuke on 4/12/2011 5:14:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Add in any extra utilities savings by going with an EV rate plan from your utility your savings might actually be closer to $5-10,000 depending on your exact location and other various factors.
I think talked in the other thread about this. Appreciated your links but where are you getting $5k-$10k savings from? Especially when you must factor in setup costs like meter and service upgrade/install or the possibility of second meter install denial by your city.


RE: EV != Electric
By Hulk on 4/12/2011 5:18:56 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think gas will reach $5/gallon in the US. $4 has proven to be a huge point of resistance. At that price people begin to change their driving habits, trade in for more fuel efficient cars, car pool, and use alternate transportation. The reduction in demand causes a supply surplus and a drop in prices. We yo-yo back and forth on this cycle and I don't see any reason things will change.

The Saudi's know how to play the market like drug dealers. If we start getting off the drug they lower prices to get us hooked again.


RE: EV != Electric
By Skywalker123 on 4/14/2011 3:41:00 PM , Rating: 2
The Saudi's can't "lower" prices, they can only increase production hoping that will drive prices down. Part of the reason for the increase is that the U.S. dollar value is going down.


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