Despite President Obama’s boast that HE was going to bring about the era of the electric car, it isn’t happening. Yes, he did what he could. He hoped that by not allowing the use of the most of our Federal lands, he could short the supply of crude oil and thus drive the price of gasoline up to a point where people would have to buy electric cars. It did not work because he could not stop the States and Private owners from developing their lands. It is now routine to see new supplies of natural gas and crude oil being brought on-line. He tried to do it by massive infusion of tax payer’s money into electric vehicle and battery production. But the cars being produced just aren‘t cutting it with the buying public. The prices are too high. Limited vehicle range coupled with long recharge times are not helping win them over either. A lot of the EV problems can be attributed to their batteries which are too big and heavy, cost too much and have questionable reliability.
Toyota sees the writing on the wall and has announced that it is getting out of the EV business for now. They will continue to produce and sell their popular Pris hybrid.
EV sales versus Obama’s goal
The President’s said that he wanted 1 million EVs and hybrids on the road by 2015. The Department of Energy released their analysis in 2011 that said 1 million was achievable. However, sales of the hybrid Volt are a little over 20,000 since introduction in late 2010. Sales of the EV Nissan Leaf are even smaller. See here ( https://cbdakota.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/president-obamas-pants-on-fire-acceptance-speech/)for additional discussion of 1 million cars goal from President Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democrat Convention. Analysts from all over are saying it is time to back off this goal.
Hysteria from the Environmentalists
The documentary “Who killed the Electric Car?” was winning awards for its”brilliant detective work” demonstrating how the”evil” corporations did the 1990ty’s EVs in. The awards were meted out by the same folks that still think the widely discredited “An Inconvenient Truth” is gospel. It is going to be much tougher to invent a story for this round of EVs and hybrids, when the truth is that the consumers really don’t want these vehicles. Sure, a small group wants them and they are the ones that go to the Sundance Film Festival. They can buy a $110,000 Tesla and can afford to not make practical choices for their transportation.
Let’s see now, GM has put up $1.2 billion developing the Volt. The Feds give a tax rebate of $7,500 to the buyer of a Volt—and they are talking about upping that figure. The dealers have been discounting the Volt to get them off their lots. This year the factory producing the Volt has twice stopped production when the unsold inventory reached 85 days. And depending on how one does the calculation, GM loses about $50,000 on each Volt sold according to Reuters.
A new factory is being built in Tennessee to manufacture Nissan Leafs. Nissan got a $1.5 billion low interest rate loan from the Feds for the construction. Nissan says the factory can produce 150,000 Leafs each year. Sales of the Leaf through August this year are 4,228. One has to wonder if Nissan Management isn’t concerned that they overbuilt this factory or perhaps even built it at all.
And the battery maker story is even worse, in my opinion. A123 got loans of $250 million from the Feds. A123 was facing bankruptcy when the Wanxiang Group, one of China’s biggest auto suppliers purchased 80% ownership in the company. Ener1 got $118 million in pledges from the Feds and another $80 million in State and local pledges. It was declaring bankruptcy when Boris Zingarevich, a Russian businessman with ties to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, bought them out. A123 and Ener1 are suppliers to our military as well as to the EV and hybrid manufacturers. The battery technology developed (paid for by us taxpayers) is now in the hands of the Russians and the Chinese.
So, large amounts of money have been spent developing EVs and hybrids. GM and probably Nissan are losing substantial amounts of money every day as they continue to produce the Volt and the Leaf. The gasoline price is much higher than it was in the 90tys when that generation of EVs failed. It will be very hard to generate a believable story line for a new documentary on what” killed the electric car” this time unless they say the customers did not want them. Obviously that was the reason back in the 90tys, too.
Will there ever be a time for EVs? Probably. But it is not now.