I was reading the comments and struck by the intelligence and level of discourse when I realized that this was an engineering audience. Engineers are often tasked with researching new technologies and preparing a competitive analysis for executive management. If any the responders to this article were actually in that role they would not have omitted the current Tesla Model S and the companies recently announced FREE national supercharger network. While the largest auto company in the world, Toyota goes on and on about how insoluble the EV car problem is, Tesla's engineers have gone on to SOLVE all these problems. Yes, I know that the current Model S (well equipped) is $80K but as engineers you guys know that new technology always starts out expensive and then "walks down the cost curve" as knowledge and volumes improve. This tradeoff is NOT an accident but part of a deliberate strategy by Elon Musk to introduce EV technology in a way that one can write a fundable business plan. Tesla has sold 2500 Electric Roasters and gained essential experience at building electric cars. These hand built $110K two seaters produced enough revenue for a sustainable small business but Elon, like Steve Jobs, wants to "make a dent in the Universe" so this endeavor was but a stepping stone. The Model S is a marvel of engineering fully Electric solutions to the problem of an electric car not a mere retrofit. All aluminum body, lowest drag coefficient of any production vehicle to maximize efficiency at highway speeds, the "heavy" battery pack is mounted at axle height for great handling response, seven seat capacity with the largest cargo capacity of any four seat sedan on the market, and 0-60 acceleration in 4.4 seconds to please the "little boy" in all of us who wants to go fast. This car is targeted to the luxury vehicle segment vs. BMW 5 Series, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Lexus, etc. The Model S is very price competitive within this market segment. The company has $5K deposits on all the cars they can build through mid 2013. Finally, the Tesla national charging network being built by Tesla will enable travel coast to coast, it is powered by Solar, and is FREE to their customers. Charging stations are strategically positioned at mid-points in travel between large cities. They have 10 stations in California NOW to enable long distance trips through out that state with a plan to complete 100 stations by the end of 2013 to cover the entire nation. Rather then complaining to the government about lack of action to produce national infrastructure, they have set out to demonstrate a solution to the problem of long distance travel. Is it the solution perfect, no. When was your last product perfect before it went into production? It is A solution, I think a brilliant one. For full disclosure, I am a Model S reservation holder #7299 and I am a TSLA stock holder. Our profession is generally well paid and I think many of us could afford this vehicle and its many benefits. And before anyone asks, in 2015 Tesla expects to introduce a "consumer" sedan close to the $30K price point. We should all thank Mr. Musk for his efforts in dragging our stubborn asses into the 21st Century.
Yes, in southern retirement communities (almost like small cities) many people do use golf carts for short range travel. However where I, and many millions of people live, snow and fridged temps render these car "wannabes" useless 7 months per year
I've known about Better place since it was just a rumour.
Like you say "The problem is...."
The problem with limiting your market to light delivery vans, as yiou suggest, is that vans aren't cars.
Plenty of guys have built their own EV's, I'm currently building an EV bike, after toying with an EV car idea for far too long.
If you build it yourself your savings _can_ be huge, the obvious problem is that not many people can build their own EV, but the EV ownership experience is suitable for so many more people than the number who can build it themselves, so there's room for growth of the product base right there.
The issue is, how to lever it into the market., to put them on the road and prove their viability (Like the RAV4 EV)..I think as well as car hire companies, carpark companies could be involved (many already are, homework done years ago there too)
The 'problems' we can all stumble on needn't be stumbling blocks, just stepping stones, it's all about just finding a way to get more people to take them on.
When I say "government," I mean Federal government. I believe in States Rights and an extremely limited federal government. Just like the Constitution allows. Believe me, Texas would have a COLONY on the moon with all the extra tax revenue it would have had if the feds hadn't taken if first.
I agree with you when you say that government funding of core technology is more appropriate, technowatcher. An example: ARPA-e's BEST (Battery's for Electrical Storage in Transportation) is funding next-gen battery chemistries, such as lithium-sulfur, lithium-air, zinc-air and magesium. I have no horse in the race and don't care which one is successful, but I think the idea of funding core technologies is a healthier one.
If loss of 500 million and ousting of founding CEO is your perception of "viable" then all we need is more investors willing to say good by to their billions, and we all will be driving "FREE" EV provided to every taxpayer by IRS in lieau of "refund" !
Interesting debates about govenment subsidies. While I'm generally in favor of minimal government intervention and am pro-free-markets...I have some observations that I feel are relevant:
Government support of the FINAL PRODUCT (such as for EV's) is quite contrary to "free market" approaches and is pretty much a waste of money. The problem is - the money (which, by the way is OUR money via taxes) is going to the wrong place and funding the wrong thing... It subsidizes the manufacturer and indirectly the consumer for a product that is not economically viable without support. Take away that support - and it will die (as EV's are now seemingly starting to do).
I do, however, believe that government funding of new technology has a much more productive place: fund the development of the CORE TECHNOLOGY such that the ECONOMICS of the final product (EV's in this case) actually are positive. After that - the products will sell themselves and not need any subsidies.
Now...if the government is to fund technology development on a large scale, it needs to be managed in a proper way (quite UNLIKE the funding of Solyndra which was basically dropping over half a billion dollars by helicopter with no accountability whatsoever). Several models have worked well historically: A) DARPA / ARPA-E, where there is a phased approach to the technology development, checkpoints, deliverables, etc. A given company gets only "progress payments" as they meet goals - not a lump sum to go have a "financial party" with (by the way - Solyndra spent most of their money building a $733M lavish business park, not really developing the technology). B) NASA did a great job in years past developing technology to take us to the moon (an admittedly questionable goal, but phenomenally achevied) - much of which subsequently was able to be commercialized. Unfortunately, NASA became an inefficient bureaucracy in later years...
So...my point is that if we are to use the govenment as our "venture capitalists" to fund technology development that may have a longer timeframe than traditional VC's would fund - OK...but run it LIKE A BUSINESS, and don't fund the PRODUCT, fund the TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT.
Does this resonate with anyone?
By the way - I've always found Charles Murray's articles to be balanced and practical. So... I think it is quite unfair that some of the noisey zealots are making a big stink just because they don't like to see FACTS or OPINIONS published if they don't align with their agenda.
If you take all the idealists out of the equation and just look at the buying public for a minute... there's a problem. These cars are not competitive, gas savings be darned. Even with the federal kickbacks [that is YOUR money already... they're just giving it back, minus overhead] the economic equation just does not work out. I'm not knocking the idealists one bit... God bless 'em. But, consider this... the idea of buying a $40K car with its most mission-critical component being a mystery is just too scary. Why won't a GM dealer give me the price, availability, and lead time for a VOLT's battery pack?
GM's answer... "Don't worry about it! you get a warranty!"
Not good enough. Go back to the buying public. FYI they expect to do a couple of things with their cars, regardless of propulsion method...
a. trade it in someday... or
b. buy one in good used condition.
I'm not saying that EV's are incapable of showing their value in either of these scenarios, but I AM saying that nobody in automotive marketing has allayed those concerns. maybe Apple needs to rebadge the darn things as the iCar.... problem solved.
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