The past six months have been a hot time for plug-in vehicles. Automakers large and small have unveiled pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, from Detroit Electric's racy SP:01 to Fiat's tiny 500e and Volkswagen's fuel-sipping XL1.
If there's a lesson to be learned from all this recent activity, it's that plug-in vehicles come in all shapes, sizes, and costs. Volkswagen's XL1, for example, weighs a scant 1,753 pounds, while Cadillac's ELR checks in at 4,070 pounds. And Chevy's pure electric Spark is expected to cost less than $25,000, while Detroit Electric's SP:01 will start at $135,000.
We offer a collection of photos of vehicles unveiled at recent auto shows, including Los Angeles, Detroit, and Geneva, as well as two cars expected to make their debuts at this month's Shanghai show. Click the image below to start the slideshow.
The Fiat 500e, unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, is the first retail electric car in Chrysler's 87-year history. (Source: Chrysler Group)
Impressive slideshow, Chuck. It's interesting to see both the outside and the inside of these vehicles. Clearly automakers are committed to designing and producing EVs. Now all we need are the customers.
I agree with Rob, it's great to get a closer look at these vehicles and see what the latest designs for them are. Hopefully the diversity will start to bring in those customers that Rob mentioned. I think the trend is on its way up, though, according to market research. At least customers now have a big of choice as well.
I agree, Elizabeth, that the variety of EVs is good news for the sector. Ultimately, though, I think costs will have to come down before EVs can gain significant market share. Right now they're a specialty market. Lower gas costs -- likely to come as energy supplies grow through expanded exploration and fracking -- may put a damper on EV sales. Low energy costs will make it that much harder for EVs to pay for themselves in gas savings.
Good point, Rob. The customers aren't there yet. And for the reasons you cite, I'm getting a strong feeling that the winds are changing. A lot of electric cars and plug-ins are coming out now because it takes three to four to five years to design, develop and produce a car. Four years ago, EV optimism was in the air. I'm not feeling it now, though.
Good points, Chuck. With the sliding cost of oil, the EVs have their work cut out for them. New oil deposits, new oil retrieval technologies -- these will the cost per barrell down, making it that much harder for the EV to offset its cost in fuel cost savings. Add to that, a coming wave of high efficient traditional engines. Ultimately, I believe there will be a strong market for EVs. We may have to wait until battery technology supports an EV that can go long distances. EV prices will also be a factor.
I agree, Rob. If the price of oil rose sharply, it would change the economic picture. But right now, automakers are still struggling to find buyers for pure electrics beyond the core of early adopters. Electrics make good cars for buyers who already have a reliable, longer-range vehicle. But people with limited budgets often can't afford a pure electric as a second car. In the long run, plug-in hybrids are a better bet. When the cost of Volt-type cars comes down another $10K, they'll be really popular.
Engineers from both Ford and GM have told me they expect the cost of lithium-ion battery packs to dip to $250/kWh some time after 2020. If that's so, it would probably cut about $8,000 out of the price of a Volt battery. That would be a huge boost for the Volt and for every plug-in hybrid, especially those with larger batteries.
Good point, MyDesign. I can see that hybrids will continue to improve and continue to come down in price. They will come down in price partly because of increased volume over the next decade and because of competition. I can't see this path for EVs.
It looks like there's a lot of money being spent on developing these EV's by a lot of manufacturers. It's going to be a hard sell in a market focused on value and price. We may be seeing a lot of early adopters buying now that there's a larger selection, but time will tell if the general public will ever be willing to take on the extra cost and inconvenience.
Good points, jhankwitz. It's not just the automakers investing in the EV/hybrid technology. It's the tier 1 suppliers as well. Some companies such as Lear are engineering the entire drive train for their customers.
Cost is a major factor, ChasChas. Automakers are expecting a lot out of their customers. They're expecting customers to buy a car with limited performance and high costs. And as Chuck mentioned, these cars may have low resale value if they need a new battery.
BMW's three-door i3 Concept Coupe takes three hours to charge.
It a pretty long time to charge compared to fuel refilling. Its something like keep your car for charging and forget it. What are the spec of battery, like how much is the mileage if the battery is charged upto 10% full battery charging? What is the life span of these batteries?
Think about it. It looks like your dad filling the car up with gas. Anyone who wants this wants robots to change the battery in 30 seconds. It looks like Audi has their head up their... oh, never mind.
For my part I have been waiting for this as I live where we have sun, it is the shade that is the problem. Or not. We cover our parking lots with solar panels.
A special thanks to Design News for sending me a T-Shirt. I found it not so good to wear to a Netflix event as people thought I was "media".
Overnight charging would fit the needs of most consumers, so adopting an EV would be a consumer preference similar to buying an SUV, pick-up or a sub-compact. The real issue is the cost, because nobody would want a sub-compact that cost more that a luxury SUV.
Totally agree. I want a pure electric. Car manufacturers seem intent on selling electrics as an expensive inconvenient option relative to ICE. My spin would be to relate it to cell phones. Which would you rather have - your current cell phone that you plug into a charger in the safety of your home at night when you sleep, or a cell phone that will last a week on a charge (tank), but can only be recharged by a trip to the Apple/Microshaft store where a bunch of sketchy characters hang out nearby and you are required to breath chemicals of dubious health "benefits"?
Why are we making "electrics" so complicated by adding an ICE for additional range? My car doesn't need to fulfill 100% of my driving needs (even any one ICE vehicle can't) . All I want is a basic car that has an honest 60-70 mi. range (meaning A/C and headlights on if appropriate, with modest hills and heavy accelerator foot). Since I exceed 50mi/day only once a week on average (that's almost two hours of driving around here), and 100 miles only a few times a year that would cover 90% of my mileage (I drive roughly 15,000mi/year), and almost 97% of my total trips in a year.
Right, tekochip, the issue still comes back to cost, which comes back to the battery. The costs of the entire pack (according to virtually every expert who isn't selling something) are still above $700/kWh.
An interesting display of EVs by many manufacturers. I like the iE that recharges in 20 minutes. If it could go a reasonable distance between charges I could see it in an urban environment, like taxi cabs.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.