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Cost, charging infrastructure and battery concerns are all reasons for the slowed adoption

Electric vehicles (EVs) are not taking off quite as expected, and if sales numbers don't start turning around, this could spell long-term trouble for the industry, according to a new report from The Detroit News.

Back in 2009, the Obama administration awarded $2.4 billion in stimulus grants for EVs and advanced batteries. The investment seemed promising, since gas costs continued climbing. Who wouldn't want an EV in the days of paying $5 per gallon?

The answer is, apparently, most people. Pushing EV adoption has been difficult for a few reasons, including cost (despite huge federal tax credits and incentives, EVs are more expensive than gas vehicles), slow deployment of charging infrastructure and battery worries.

Right now, the federal tax credit is $7,500 per EV in the U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed upping this figure to $10,000 in order to make EVs more affordable. He also proposed a $1 billion budget for speeding up EV deployment and charging infrastructure in 15 communities.

Despite these efforts, and the fact that EVs can lessen the U.S.' dependence on foreign oil and reduce global warming, there was one issue that likely scared many customers off: lithium ion battery problems.

One such instance was the Chevrolet Volt's battery fire in May 2011, where a Chevrolet Volt underwent a series of tests at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) facility in Wisconsin. Three weeks after a side-impact crash test on May 12, the Volt caught fire while parked in the testing center.

Fisker Automotive has recalled its EV batteries for the Karma due to recent troubles, and the Nissan Leaf recently experienced some issues with the Arizona heat.

2012 Chevrolet Volt plug-in and 2012 Nissan Leaf sales have been all over the map over the past year. In 2011, 7,671 Volts were sold while 9,674 Leafs were sold. From January to September 2012, Leaf sales dropped to 5,212 while Volt sales jumped to 16,348.

According to The Detroit News, this is because the Volt has an auxiliary gas engine that kicks in when the battery is drained. To some degree, it still relies on gas, and the U.S. just isn't ready to take gas completely out of the equation yet.

Nissan hoped to sell 20,000 Leafs this year, but clearly, that is unlikely to happen.

A recent hit to the EV industry was A123 Systems' bankruptcy filing earlier this week. A123 made EV batteries and developed advanced battery technology.

There are some bright sides to the EV industry, though. Ford just added 60 new EV engineers and doubled in-house battery testing, and Toyota is talking plans for new EVs and hybrids.

The adoption of EVs may just take some time, and could likely get a boost in the coming years as the CAFE standards for gas-powered vehicles continues to increase. The Obama administration just recently finalized the 54.5 MPG CAFE standards for 2017-2025 model years.

Source: The Detroit News

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By CaedenV on 10/23/2012 12:32:23 PM , Rating: 2
The 2 largest hurtles to electric cars are chargability, and price.

Yes, 60-75mi is good enough range for a single day for most people's commute, but sometimes you need to go further in a day and being able to have a 150mi range would make people feel more comfortable. Aside from the commute, it is a hassle to recharge every single night, and if something prevents the nightly charge (power outage, breaker flips, bad connector, chord becomes unplugged), then you are really up a creek. I think people would rest easier knowing that a charge is going to last them at least 3 days of normal use so that if something does happen, then they will not be stranded.
The other issue is how to charge it. Apartment yuppies who want EVs just to have one will not be able to simply throw an extension chord out the window down to the car (fire marshals frown on that). People like me have a home, but the garage may not be easily accessible (especially during winter), so we would need to bring a power line out to the street and hope that the neighbors do not help themselves to it during the day. There is simply no easy delivery system for most people.

The other obvious issue is the price of the car itself. I am in the market for a car right now as mine died last year, and things may be changing where my wife and I cannot share a car anymore (which has worked oddly better than expected so far). But here are my choices in the new market:
$15,000 for a base model commuter car that should average at ~36-38mpg for my commute, which would add up to a yearly gas price of ~$2,311 at $4/gal (though gas is currently $3.25, and expected to get below $3 next year... oh the joy on NOT living in California anymore!). This would also be saving me ~$750/year in gas costs over my wife's car that I am currently driving which would be nice to see.
The other option is $40,000 for a volt or leaf ($42K for the volt, $38K for the LEAF). I could drive the gas car for 11 years before I hit the purchase price for the EV. Considering there is a fuel price to use the EV (and a quickly rising price at that!), and that it would be hard to imagine a car lasting much more than 15 years, there would simply never be a break even point, much less a savings. I do not mind paying more up front for something if it is going to save me money in the end (like solar panels for the house that I plan on doing in a few years), but as of now it just doesn't make sense for people like me to even consider an EV.

What needs to happen is for the price to drop dramatically to have an entry level EV car near $20000, and fully loaded at ~$30,000. It will get there in time, but will take a long time to do it. The other thing is to develop some sort of 'light weight' removable battery or fuel cell which can charge via a solar panel during the day while you use another set on the road. Not a perfect solution, but that would be good enough to catch my interest.

In the end EVs are like most things that run on batteries, they may be a nice accessory... but not really a replacement for what came before it.

Meanwhile... natural gas cars seem like a pretty good idea. Cheaper build than solar, plus cheaper fuel that is easy to replace, while being cleaner than gasoline makes for a compelling argument.

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