So is the plug-in electric market right now kinda the automotive version of the Republican Presidential race? That is, basically a two-candidate/horse/PEV battle, in this case the Nissan Leaf versus this new Prius? If so, who do you think will come out on top?
This strategy seems like it could really take root with consumers, especially if the price is right and given Toyota's huge success with the original Prius. I think beyond the people who are totally committed environmentists, this slow-stepping into a pure EV vehicle might be the right strategy to ease people into alternative vehicles without having to make a total transformation all at once.
Alex: yes, in terms of what's available right now, it's a two-horse race. As Beth points out, the Prius' existing customer base, combined with a big price difference between it and the Volt, probably makes it the favorite. In the end, I believe it may also draw customers away from the Leaf. The fact that it can be plugged in is important to potential Leaf customers and others who watch their carbon footprint. Those buyers could use the vehicle in all-electric mode most of the time, then use the gasoline range extension capability on those rare occasions when they need to drive farther. The Leaf doesn't offer them that option.
Actually it is not a rare occaision for me to need more than 12 miles a day but the concept of this PHV seems very good to me. Most days I commute 12 miles round trip. Some days I add a few other miles to go to lunch. Sometimes there are errands in the evening. Being able to recharge before evening errands, which tend to be short trips, might keep me in all electric mode most of the time. But every few days, and certainly every weekend I have trips of 50-200 miles where a Volt or a Leaf would not do the job and I'd a second vehicle around just for that. With the gas backup in the hybrid, I would be able to manage with just one car. EXCEPT, during the summer on weekends, I end up pulling a boat about 50% of the time. Needing a tow vehicle sometimes, you either need to bite the bullet and put up with its poor mileage all the time, or bite another bullet and maintain, store, and insure multiple vehicles. Right now the savings in fuel are not enough to justify multiple vehicles, close, but not quite. At $10/gallon, I may give up the boat and SUV.
Actually, I think most people would prefer not "to arrive at your destination with the last watt coming out of your battery," but to arrive back home...
Speaking as a non-plug-in Prius owner, I personally would be more interested in a pure-electric drive-in-town car, and the Leaf would be a better match for that. That at least as a second car; as a one-and-only car, the Leaf wouldn't work for me, and I think not for a lot of Americans.
Oh, I forgot to add that I'm a little unsure about frequently deep-cycling Li-ion batteries. At least on laptops and cell phones, my experience is that they do gradually degrade. Toyota made it work for NiMH, but I guess we'll see how/if it works on Li-ion.
Lithium-ion battery prices will drop rapidly over the next 10 years, setting the stage for plug-in vehicles to reach 5%-10% of total automotive sales by the mid- to late-2020s, according to a new study.
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