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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 FITCamaro on 4/12/2011 2:38:03 PM , Rating: 5
Why do I bother arguing with a child? But here goes.

Wait for some time until the gas prices raise to their normal levels again and you will see people run in droves to buy cars that are like $300 cheaper EVERY MONTH just because of the price of gas.

The only people who will do this are those already with a car payment. The millions of people who don't have them will stay with their current car because even paying more for gas will be cheaper than gas and a car payment.

Fairy tale.

Hmmm...who to believe....the former exec that worked there and had nothing to gain by stating it? Or the company that looks bad if the report was indeed true?

That's still much less fuel wasted and pollution released compared to your typical gas car.

In the long term(10 years) yes. Short term no. And what kind of pollution is also important. Todays cars are extremely clean compared to those of 30 years ago. Most rare metals are mined in areas of the world with no environmental regulations. So the mining destroys the landscape. We can also produce fuels from algae and potentially plants other than food crops. Oil in the distant future will run out. Well so will rare metals needed to build batteries. I'd wager completely switching to EVs would result in those being depleted long before oil would be. Because again we have ways not to use it. Not so with batteries.

A few guys with such ridiculously long everyday commutes can use older gas cars or hybrids until battery tech catches up. Majority is still fine with EVs since their commute is not that crazy long.

So I guess you never take day trips anywhere longer than 100-120 miles away. I have a friend who lives farther away than that. So now I'm supposed to own two cars to make you happy? Sorry three since I already have two. Maybe in your 1 bedroom apartment you don't care about certain things, but others have different needs.

Replace Bugatti with any other Mustang like "performance" gas guzzler that idiots buy, the make/model doesn't matter in this case.

30 mpg out of a 6.2L V8 is hardly a gas guzzler in my opinion.

Truth hurts

No it really doesn't.

Don't you have a Mac you should be trying to dry hump? I need to get back to raping mother earth. She's got DDs.

RE: EV != Electric
By Pirks on 4/12/2011 3:16:44 PM , Rating: 1
The only people who will do this are those already with a car payment
Or those with old cars worth replacing, as well as the new car owners buying their first one - and that's quite a few globally.
the former exec that worked there and had nothing to gain by stating it
Former exec? What former exec? Where did you get this BS from?
Well so will rare metals needed to build batteries
Recycle old batteries and the problem is solved.
I already have two
For those people like you who own two cars: one is EV commuter and the other is a rarely used gas one that can go very long distance. Problem solved. I'd get myself a hybrid for the long distance ones, will save a ton of gas this way, just one 200 mph trip will save quite a lot in terms of gas consumed. Besides with hybrid you have to refuel very very rarely, you can go like 500 miles on one tank, sweet!
30 mpg out of a 6.2L V8
Switch to city drive and your gas guzzler will consume double of what my Echo consumes, with no benefit whatsoever (your V8 roaring loudly at the red traffic light is extra moronic and childish :). Your ideal highway mileage under ideal conditions never happens, are you really so naive to believe this? Why do I bother arguing with a naive child indeed? :)
Don't you have a Mac
No I don't, not into toys these days

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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