Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has again committed the colossal sin of speaking plainly, and electric vehicle advocates aren’t happy about it.
At the Paris Motor Show, the espresso-guzzling, cigarette-smoking chief executive told reporters that he remains skeptical about electrification. “I think you need to be very, very careful if you think that electrification, given its inherent limitations on range, especially in markets like the US, will effectively displace combustion,” he was quoted as saying by several publications. “It will never provide the travel distance that you require, especially based on what we know today about the storage capabilities of batteries.”
This, along with previous comments, caused some of the cheerleaders in the EV press to hyperventilate. They cited his “stubborn disregard for EVs,” called his viewpoint “extraordinarily short-sighted,” and described him as “a CEO who disparages electrification every chance he gets.”
But as far as we could tell, most did not bother to put his comments in larger perspective. Only caradvice.com, which attended the Paris show, mentioned that Marchionne sees this as a short-term issue: “The issue isn’t that EVs will never happen, nor the FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) cannot make EVs work, said Marchionne. It is that internal combustion still has an upside and remains vastly more cost-effective, and is therefore more rational until the entire automotive framework shifts,” the publication wrote.
The publication’s website also included the following quotes (among others) from Marchionne:
”And I also have no doubt that over time, as the emission standards lower, that the whole industry will be forced to shift towards a combination of combustion and electrification and certainly in the case of city cars, perhaps full electrification.”
”Can you sell enough of them to make money and more importantly, can you make money selling them? And I keep on running into this fundamental obstacle of overcoming the cost equation of electrification. You can’t.”
“What you don’t do is you don’t throw additional costs to an industry that’s already struggling at a time when it’s trying to find the bottom of the volume side. And we’re doing this now.”
”And so I, we, can do all the electrical, electrification exhibitions here on our stands and I can impress the hell out of you about the fact that we can do a variety of things. The question is, how commercially viable are those solutions?”
It should be mentioned that Marchionne’s comments were mostly directed at pure electric cars. We have to assume that, anyway, since Chrysler announced in Paris that it will hit the market with a plug-in hybrid minivan in 2015.
In context, his comments aren’t nearly as egregious as many seem to believe. Marchionne believes in plug-in hybrids but doesn’t think that pure electrification “will effectively displace combustion” in the next five years. He says this at a time when pure electric cars make up 0.3% of the vehicles sold … and this is a problem?
Marchionne deserves credit for honesty. Plenty of other automakers agree with him, but roll out small fleets of so-called “compliance cars.” Typically, these are big, struggling auto companies that can’t afford to courageously bet the farm on pure electrics, as Tesla has. So while they talk a good game of electrification, they are understandably afraid -- afraid to go electric and afraid to speak bluntly about it.
That’s why Marchionne’s comments are so refreshing.
In the mean time, there are several ICE powered cars on the market with a comparable carbon foot print.
Only if you refuse to use anything other than coal to make fuel for the EVs. Why would you limit yourself to the dirtiest fuel, especially if you "believe the future requires the world to lower it's rate of polution" (sic)? Coal is not even the cheapest fuel anymore. The whole point of EVs is that electricity is fuel flexible and thus allows non-fossil fuels to be used instead. ICEs are a fossil fuel dead end.
BTW, the whole gist of Mr. Murray's piece is about reaction to Marchionne's comments that "...along with previous comments, caused some of the cheerleaders in the EV press to hyperventilate. They cited his "stubborn disregard for EVs," called his viewpoint "extraordinarily short-sighted," and described him as "a CEO who disparages electrification every chance he gets."
But as far as we could tell, most did not bother to put his comments in larger perspective."
Who are "most" and where are the full quotes from these EV "cheerleaders"? Mr. Murray provides several links, but no links or full quotes of what we are really supposed to be reacting to.
Toyota just passed through 7 million Prius sold and is on track for a million a year."
I probably wasn't the most precise. I'd say the correct statement is Toyota has sold
over 7 million Hybrid vehicles and is moving over a million a year. If we google
Toyota hybrid vehicle sales, we find
Toyota City, Japan, January 15, 2014—Toyota Motor Corporation announces that cumulative global sales of its hybrid vehicles topped the 6 million unit mark as of December 31, 2013, reaching 6.072 million units1. The latest million-unit milestone was achieved in the fastest time yet for Toyota, taking just nine months.
in terms of the Prius Itself, Toyota has sold globally over 4.5 million and the rest are in other hybrid vehicles.
The example of the Prius or most hybrids as an "electric car" to many isn't valid.
The Hybrids are EVs with training wheels. Back int he late 90's early 2000s people were howling "The battery is $10K and lasts only 3 years. It's got a big battery, it's got a big motor and it's a step forward.
The Prius PIP is starting to sell well, It would be good if Toyota had a Lexus PHEV to compete with the BMW i8, we will see the takeoff of the field
Pat... I believe the future requires the world to lower it's rate of polution. I don't think anyone mentioned or commenting believes otherwise. Regardless of our thoughts on it's impact on climate change.
Marchionne indicates an embracing of hybrid technology.. he is just very skeptical of 100% electric cars.
"Toyota just passed through 7 million Prius sold and is on track for a million a year."
Based on what I can find online.. this is a misleading, exageration. At best this represents Toyota's TOTAL hybrid sales for the last 15 years. Not total sales of Prius. Prius represents 3-4 million of the total... as of Sept ~170K this year)
A far cry from "on track for a milliion a year".
And Prius sales in Ca .. one of it's best markets .. was reported down this year.
The example of the Prius or most hybrids as an "electric car" to many isn't valid. Most of these hybrids are NOT "plugged in" every night. As of Sept 2014, there have been only 65,000 PHV version of the Prius sold world wide (only 37K in the US). Most are simply driven as gas cars that have good gas mileage. To assume their batteries are cycled enough to represent the current battery life expectancy of completely electric cars isn't a very accurate representation.
Yes... Batteries will improve.
In the mean time, there are several ICE powered cars on the market with a comparable carbon foot print and can more easily be re-cycled into the next generation of cars (maybe even electric?)
As to Marchionne's comments.. He is speaking to his stock holders as well the automotive industry when making observations. Not the general public - even when reported in the general press (Marchionne - WHO?) These are not groups that are concerned with hearing his thoughts on climate change or the long term value of electric cars. They are only interested in his short term views - where he sees the market NOW and the technology NOW.. or at best during the next 6 months.
You may think it is his duty as a human and public person to promote electric cars. Not everyone agrees with this. He may not agree with this.
I find it refreshing when a public person of note - declines to share his beliefs with the public. Everyone should determine the truth with their own eyes and ears, not based on the beliefs of a public figure (very few are notable scientists or engineers).
Charles, thanks for (finally) clarifying your views on climate change and actually "acknowledging" the phenomenon. That is a refreshing step which, as far as I can tell from anything you have written, is a first. My problem there, however, still is that you have given the deniers more credibility than they deserve. If you disagree with their point of view, why didn't you state so before now? Instead you presented the denial side as a credible view that did everything to imply that it was your (or UBM's) view as well.
Also, I don't see any significant difference between the proposed and actual titles to that long ago piece. What I do remember is that the DN Daily emails continued for a couple of years or more to link to your piece which, it needs to be reminded, cited 16 scientists (no so much climate scientists) getting a climate change denial letter published in the Wall Street Journal. That's all you were presenting: a letter was published. What you did not present, just like the known right-wing WSJ did not, was that 255 actual climate scientists issued a scathing rebuttal to the infamous letter.
I too know good engineers, at least, who deny climate change. But they aren't climate scientists! Also, they (for good reasons) are skeptical to the extent that they don't commit to any position without "doing the math" for themselves. Problem is, if they ever even try to do that, they aren't qualified as climate scientists and do not have adequate tools to make such a judgment. I don't either, but I recognize the 97%+ who do!
Science by definition never is settled, but climate change is settled to a greater degree than the link between smoking and cancer. Outside circles of political zealotry it has long been settled enough to start taking significant steps to curb our carbon heavy diet. Moreover, one needs to also consider the stakes. Too much hangs in the balance--our planet. Even if the doubts about climate change were much greater, the risks couldn't be higher. What would be the harm in improving our sustainability and cleaning pollutants from our air and water supplies?
Incidentally, the world just completed its warmest 12 months on record and September 2014 was the warmest month on record. Every month since 1976 has been above average temperature globally. What other effect can you expect from pumping 40 billion pounds of excess carbon into the atmosphere every year?
So, Mr. Murray, where is the fair and balanced part of your reporting w/r/t climate change?
Since when has a car outlived its economic usefullness in only 10 years. I have a 1995, and 1999 cars. The first gets about 40 miles per gallon and can go 350 miles on one single tank of gas. I have yet to see a EV which an match that. Not that I would not like them to reach that capability. I also want the battery to get to that level because it would help my field of cell phones last longer too. A charge which could be done quickly would really help as was so well documented in the season 16 show from England called TopGear. It took the cars 13 hours to charge.
Oh, by the way, how do we generate the electricity to recharge the batteries? Coal? Nuclear? Natural Gas Burning? Do not those generate carbon emissions?
For now, Marchionne has some good points. There are some exciting new technoloies in research in the battery world. I look forward to the day when a charge from the wall goes fast, and the range of the EV will also last more than 350 miles which is a typical tank of any viechle.
I hate to set up a strawman argument especially when the Author is here.
Now what I was referring to in this particular case was EVs and Marchionne.
At the core of it, Marchionne is voicing an opinion that John Smith in 1999 could have
said about the EV1. Yes, GM was losing money on the EV1 in 1999. It was a huge money pig. So was the Toyota Prius.
Toyota just passed through 7 million Prius sold and is on track for a million a year.
Had GM stuck it out in the EV1, learned the technology, made the jump, worked out a little Range extender engine, and kept rolling, they would be selling a million a year.
GM learned their lessons, is selling the Volt, and yes, they are losing money on a program basis but they have a Halo product. People love the Volt. GM learned enough to expand this into the Cadillac CT6....
I think Marchionne is looking at the cash he's losing on the Fiat 500e, not on the brand effects of a wonderful sporty peppy electric.
Sincere thanks for your good manners, patb2009. I think you are referring to a comment about my viewpoint, particularly with respect to climate science. I'll respond to that here: I take no issue with people who pick apart the logic of my arguments, but I don't like distortion. And that was a distortion. The gist of my viewpoint is that I do "acknowledge" climate science. I believe CO2 causes warming and lean toward the belief that rising levels of it in the atmosphere could have serious effects. (I emphasize use of the word "lean" here.) The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed scientific articles support that belief. Since I was educated as a mechanical engineer, not an atmospheric physicist, I don't dispute it, but I hesitate to close my mind to other possibilities, since time often has a way of changing scientific beliefs, even those that seem very solid. But the bottom line is, peer-reviewed science seems to have the best case right now.
That said, I know scientists who don't agree. Good scientists. And their minority opinion should be heard. Seems to me that open and honest discussion is fundamental to the evolution of scientific knowledge.
A couple of years ago, I responded after critics said those scientists should be "scorned." I still think that's ridiculous. The blog generated over 500 comments, and I didn't have time to respond to all the people who commented. My only regret was that the article's headline was changed during editing after an editor thought the original headline (Global Warming: Is it 'Incontrovertible?') was too vague. (It was changed to "Global Warming: Are the Skeptics Right?"). A link to that story appears below. Nowhere in it do I say that I don't "acknowledge" climate science.
Electric vehicle batteries are progressing rapidly, but there’s still no sign on the horizon that the technology is going to revolutionize the auto industry anytime soon, experts said at The Battery Show in Detroit last week.
We’ve collected photos of electric cars, designed for both the neighborhood blacktop and the commercial dragstrip. From the Crazyhorse Pinto and the Killacycle motorcycle to the Tesla Roadster and the 500-HP Renovo Coupe, we offer a peek at the blistering performance of the electric powertrain.
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