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Far from Electrifying: Electric car hopes never die but electric realities keep intervening.
The American ^ | November 26, 2012 | Vaclav Smil

Posted on 12/03/2012 1:55:45 AM PST by neverdem

Exactly two years ago, in November 2010, the Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn assured reporters that his auto alliance would sell half a million electric vehicles a year by the end of 2013. In 2011, it sold just short of 10,000 electrics, but in April 2012 Ghosn still claimed that the 2012 sales would double to 20,000. On November 15, he had to give up and admit that, after selling less than 7,000 vehicles, the 2012 target cannot be reached. That is just the latest in a less than electrifying saga of modern electric vehicles (this qualification is needed because more than a century ago, before the 1908 Model T, there was a similarly misplaced euphoria).

In contrast, General Motor’s (GM) Volt had a record month this October, with 2,961 vehicles sold, but that is only relatively good news. Chevrolet’s plan was to build 10,000 Volts in 2011, but actual sales that year were 7,671; in March 2012, poor sales forced the company to idle Volt production for five weeks. Sales then picked up and reached a record of 2,500 units in August (a strong month for all car sales), but by September 17 weak sales forced the company to shut down its Volt assembly plant in Detroit-Hamtramck for the second time in 2012 (for four weeks). After a strong October, the total for 2012 will surpass 20,000 vehicles — less than half of the targeted total of 45,000 cars set by GM and still only about 0.15 percent of the total estimated12.8 million vehicles sold in 2012.

And it is all rather expensive — energy consultants estimate that GM’s costs for designing, tooling, and production (but excluding all marketing) are about $80,000 for a vehicle that sells, after a rebate of $7,500, for about $32,000. Costs per vehicle will fall as the production volume goes up, but GM may face years of losses before it starts making any money on a car that was to be a game-changer. And, of course, Volt is not a true electric car; it is merely an extended-range electric vehicle with a standard gasoline engine.

And another extended-range electric vehicle, the high-end Fisker Karma, has fared much worse. Consumer Reports found the $107,000 car, developed with a $529 million loan from the U.S. government and built in Finland, is full of design flaws and did not recommend its purchase. The car’s battery failed during the Consumer Reports test drive and Fisker subsequently replaced all of its 2012 Karma batteries. Then, on October 16, the manufacturer of the substandard lithium-ion battery used in the Karma, A123 Systems, (recipient of a U.S. federal grant worth $249 million in 2009) filed for bankruptcy. And another American true electric car has not done any better: Tesla’s deliveries for 2012 were cut from 5,000 to 2,700–3,250, due to production problems.

I do not see how other major competitors can succeed where Toyota refuses to even tread.

Perhaps most tellingly, in September, just a few days before Toyota’s mini-electric eQ city car was to make its debut at the Paris Motor Show, the company announced that it was cancelling its plans to mass produce the vehicle. According to Takeshi Uchiyamada, the company’s vice-chairman, “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.” If a company that has been in the forefront of innovative design, high-quality production, and consumer satisfaction and that in 2012 reclaimed its title as the world’s largest carmaker (lost in the wake of  the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake) comes to such a conclusion, I do not see how other major competitors can succeed where Toyota refuses to even tread. Toyota said it will concentrate instead on hybrid models, but even that has not been going well: Toyota planned to sell 40,000 plug-in hybrids in Japan this year, but fewer than 9,000 were sold by October.

Technical success of electrics comes down, most fundamentally, to batteries. The lithium-ion battery, with its many flaws, is still the only relatively lightweight commercial option and Edison’s dream of a perfect car battery is now more than a century old. Bold plans come and go: a 1980 report on the introduction of electric vehicles in the United States predicted 1–2 million units in sales by 1985 and as many 11–13 million fully electric cars by the year 2000. But by the end of 2012, the United States had about 50,000 electrics on the road, no more than 0.03 percent of all light-duty vehicles licensed to operate in the country. Undaunted, a campaigning President Obama did not repeal his 2011 State of the Union goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015.

Clearly, electric hopes never die — but electric realities keep intervening. Motor Trend’s 2013 car of the year is the Tesla Model S, which sells (depending on performance options and after a $7,500 rebate) for between $49,900 and $97,900. Ready to forecast sales of 50,000 units for next year?

Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy.

FURTHER READING: Smil also writes “A Son of Europe Reflects on the EU’s Nobel Prize,” “Anticipating the World’s Most Expensive Natural Disaster,” and “Placing the American Gas Boom in Perspective.” Kenneth P. Green discusses “Subsidy-Powered Vehicles” and says “Put the Pedal to the Metal!” Mark J. Perry argues “Unplug Electric Car Subsidies.”

Image by Darren Wamboldt / Bergman Group


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: climatechange; electriccar; electriccars; failedgreen; globalwarming; globalwarminghoax; science; technology
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1 posted on 12/03/2012 1:55:55 AM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Thats the problem with fantasyland, reality keeps intruding upon it and screwing up the whole dream.


2 posted on 12/03/2012 2:08:37 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: neverdem

http://www.american.com/archive/2012/november/far-from-electrifying


3 posted on 12/03/2012 2:14:01 AM PST by DaveTesla (You can fool some of the people some of the time......)
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To: neverdem

The ONLY way for an all electric transportation to exist would be for either a surprised invention or a gift from an interstellar race of a power supply that is the size of a D battery but can make your car travel at least 1000 miles.

Or something from a century ago when Tesla proposed wireless transmission of energy, but then you would still have to pay for it.

Who knows, maybe a mr. Fusion is out there, but giving it to the masses would disrupt the economic chain of taxation.

we will see a re-emergence of steam vehicles even if they burn cord wood before we will se an all electric utopia.

Because madmen and zealots control the fossil fuel AND they are sabotaging electric solar and hybrid automotive companies.


4 posted on 12/03/2012 2:21:28 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: Eye of Unk

Lived in AK from 1980 to 2004. Why would Australia be better?

Unless you lived in Anchorage? Then I understand. Or you need heat? Then I REALLY understand.


5 posted on 12/03/2012 2:32:28 AM PST by liberty or death
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To: Eye of Unk

I’d like an electric vehicle to plug in at night and get to the park and ride each morning. There are a bunch of problems, even here in Virginia the car would be cold (I have no garage) and I’d have to plug in an electric heater each morning for a half hour before I left. Ideally I would heat it with wood like I heat my house, but like you said, I’d be better off with a steam vehicle.


6 posted on 12/03/2012 2:33:37 AM PST by palmer (Jim, please bill me 50 cents for this completely useless post)
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To: neverdem

I wonder what Motor Trend got in the deal.


7 posted on 12/03/2012 2:33:37 AM PST by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
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To: liberty or death

After over 20 years of living year round up here I want to find a warmer place. Even the best summers I have seen in the last three years only gave me less than 1500 miles of riding time on my motorcycles my latest passion, in summary its sucks even in the summer up here, too short and too wet.

we used to have warm summers, last time was 2004, now every winter is warmer and wetter, more snow, summers are cooler and wetter.

But there is a bright spot maybe, I just bought my first snowmachine, yes after 20 years in Alaska I finally broke down and bought a used Polaris.

Now watch and we have a snowless winter, God must be giving me hints and I am deaf and blind to his suggestions.


8 posted on 12/03/2012 2:37:36 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: palmer

I would love to build a steam turbine couple to an AC armature drive system, basically like a locomotive.

To fuel the high pressure turbine would be a fuel system from pellets, very easy to make an auger feed, and its even easy to make your own with a large commercial meat grinder. You just save anything that burns from newspaper to toilet paper, make a slurry out of it using a portable concrete mixer, add some used bacon grease for a binder and get it into a pastelike slurry, and then feed it into a meat grinder so it comes out in short pellets.

Allow to dry completely on racks much like a large dehydrator, keep in a hopper on your personal steamer vehicle, oh and yes you do need to dress for Steampunk.


9 posted on 12/03/2012 2:44:07 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: liberty or death

I lived very briefly in Anchorage in 1992, moved out to the Valley and I live up near Houston now. Just up the road about 11 miles from Wasilla.

If I stay in Alaska any longer I am getting a natural gas converted Silverado, and yes we have them now up here.


10 posted on 12/03/2012 2:48:01 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: Eye of Unk
now every winter is warmer and wetter, more snow, summers are cooler and wetter.

This winter is just like the winter of 1975. Cold and little snow. Glaciation and frozen water lines are going to be major problems. -52F at Tok last night.

11 posted on 12/03/2012 2:52:40 AM PST by Alaska Wolf (USA!)
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To: Eye of Unk
now every winter is warmer and wetter, more snow, summers are cooler and wetter.

This winter is just like the winter of 1975. Cold and little snow. Glaciation and frozen water lines are going to be major problems. -52F at Tok last night.

12 posted on 12/03/2012 2:52:57 AM PST by Alaska Wolf (USA!)
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To: Eye of Unk
Moved to SC Montana for business reasons and really enjoy a much shorter winter. My last 15 years were on the Kenai Peninsula and the last 7 years were on Kenai lake. Sometimes it would freeze sometimes not. Live near the Bighorn now and have decided this is my last stand.

As the father of 5 adults I can say without a doubt “the America we grew up in? it's gone thanks to TV, games & Internet ect... We have been overwhelmed. As parents, trying to keep it out of your own home doesn't work because it's everywhere. I call it the “Electronic Plague”.

God bless and enjoy Australia. Wish I could join you.

13 posted on 12/03/2012 3:08:05 AM PST by liberty or death
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To: Alaska Wolf

Since around last week we have had major winds coming from the NNe, over 60mph, day after day, the volcanic ash is stirred up big time, hardly any snow on the ground down her in the valley. Had a lot of snow last year and the year before, I expect the same this winter and more moderate temps.
Used to be in mid january we would see a week or two of the cold stuff, at least minus 20 to minus 40 but no its barely getting below minus 15 and for a shorter period.

Wasilla lost its Iditarod start some years ago, no snow. Its moved up to Willow.


14 posted on 12/03/2012 3:10:53 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: Alaska Wolf

Global warming AW. Should be -60.


15 posted on 12/03/2012 3:11:42 AM PST by liberty or death
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To: liberty or death

The Oz thing may be just my personal fantasy, but it gives me a goal to work for.


16 posted on 12/03/2012 3:13:02 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: neverdem

the Volt is a great car.

it just costs too much for what it is.


17 posted on 12/03/2012 3:15:10 AM PST by RockyTx
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To: Eye of Unk

Go for it! Take care and God bless your new venture.


18 posted on 12/03/2012 3:16:10 AM PST by liberty or death
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To: neverdem
The electric car fails to consider the economic cost of the battery. Batteries used in plug-ins like the Volt and pure EVs like the Leaf are lithium-ion. These lithium batteries experience a gradual drift into senescence as they age. That is, they develop an increasing internal resistance that reduces their charging capacity. No one know how long they will last before they need to be replaced. Cost estimates are between $9,000 and $18,000 to replace. Leaf spokesman say that they can replace individual cells that are under-performing. That may give the battery new life before it completely fails. All that does is add to the cost of the battery’s ultimate replacement. That is why manufacturers are giving full replacement before 100,000 miles. This, of course means the owner has to prove his car needs the new battery. This does not consider the vehicle’s resale value if one wants to sell their electric before the 100,000 miles. That loss of value is another cost added to the initial investment of the car.
19 posted on 12/03/2012 3:24:54 AM PST by jonrick46 (The opium of Communists: other people's money.)
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To: liberty or death

Thank you, I’ll be 56 tuesday, I have several decades of refined skills especially in the concrete batching business, the operation and the equipment, being on a tourist visa I may not find work but I can barter my services for room and board. And there are ways to skirt the “wall” so to speak of working there, Ox needs skilled workers.
Oz is a frontier, may are turned away because they cling to the beliefs of worshiping a mass ownership of guns and Oz does restrict gun ownership, but they have stores that sell guns and a smart person can make their own, but most would rather brag about their bling on their AR before they look at a vertical mill and broaching mills.

But then again every time I pine for another country someone says don’t let the door slap my ass on the way out of America, well they can say that as much as they want but they will never be brave enough to pass through that door themselves, no they will just add some firing slots and start shooting at the mailmen.

We may fix America and we may just walk away, but the worst thing to do is nothing. I could be a strong internet voice elsewhere as its becoming apparent anyone in America may not last very long if they stir up any rebellion.


20 posted on 12/03/2012 3:25:20 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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