Still, experts have unanimously told Design News that plug-in hybrids have a bright future. They employ smaller batteries than pure EVs, cost less, offer more range, and could serve as a key means of meeting the federal government's corporate average fuel economy requirements.
What's more, early evaluations have been generally positive. Engineers at Consumer Reports, for example, were impressed with the quality of the Chevy Volt, and their expectations of the new Toyota Prius PHV are equally high. "The Toyota Prius plug-in is going to be just as bullet-proof as the regular Prius," David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Division, told Design News in March. "Toyota has the resources and they'll do it right."
To be sure, analysts predict the wait for widespread acceptance will be longer for pure electric cars. Higher battery costs and limited range will take a greater toll on those vehicles, making it more likely that their early success will be limited to niche markets and early adopters.
"The most significant application for the pure electrics is probably in urban delivery vehicles, rather than passenger cars," Cole said.
Industry analysts said that predictions of $360/kWh battery packs and one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 are optimistic. A recent Lux Research study, "Material Innovation and Cost-Cutting Strategies for Lithium-Ion Batteries," set the battery figure at $397/kWh by 2020. Similarly, Pike Research has forecast a one-third reduction in battery costs over the next five years. For bigger cuts, breakthrough technologies would have to emerge.
Cole contends that GM needs to make dramatic price cuts on the Volt before widespread success occurs. He said that GM engineers have already knocked $4,000 out of the cost, but need to take off another $15,000 to make it competitive on a large scale. As a result, it could take several more years before sales rise dramatically.
"This is a good technology, but it's premature to expect big numbers," Cole noted. "We've got a lot of work to do before this can be high volume."
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller.
As with any innovation of the size and scope of EV technology, patience and time is what it's all about. There's no doubt that EV technology in some shape and form will eventually take root, but just because these first real generations aren't flying out of the show rooms doesn't mean that over time, with engineering refinements and an eye to cost reduction, they won't.
The car makers might look at rechargeable aluminum-ion batteries that, according to Oak Ridge National Labs, offer a higher energy density than rechargeable lithium-ion batteries: 1060 Wh/kg vs. 406 Wh/kg respectively. ORNL has an information sheet at: http://www.ornl.gov/adm/partnerships/factsheets/10-G01216_ID2383.pdf. I'm surprised we haven't heard more about this type of battery chemistry.
Jon, who knows. There are lots of things in the lab that don't work in application. Argonne National Labs is near me and so I talk to neighbors that work there on a number of energy technologies. One was working in fuel cells a few years back. That is another one I have heard about again recently. No EV power system will be as easy to use as petrol for transportation. They will all be hybrids of some type (the Leaf and the Tesla are the only pure EVs I know of). I prefer the Volt approach. IN the long run it will be more reliable, I would think.
Beth, you are right on there. These vehicles are following the standard new technology adoption curve. The first purchasers were the early adopters. Now that the technology is going more mainstream, at least in expectations, a whole different type of person is looking at them. They have different expectations and the manufacturers need to take those into account. In some places that is called jumping the chasm.
Yes TJ. It's likely a friend of mine you are talking about leading the Li battery charge there. He was so fed up with bad, high priced battery suppliers he built his own factory there. It took him a yr to learn and another to build a producton line/factory.
DN, Charles seems to seek out those with the highest price quotes they can find yet I buy Li batteries RETAIL for $250/kwhr for same small Panasonic cells Tesla uses and $450kwhr for bigger ones by multiple others. So much for $400 in 2020.
EV's are expensive because they make them that way. My EV 2seat sportwagon using lead batteries get 100+ mile range and do 100mph though not at the same time, and could be made profitably at $15k in 10 unit lots and for $10k in 10k lots.
It does it because it's light, aero which cuts the price by 50%. For another $5k it can be lithium and about 125 mile range. It's the same materials and labor as 3 golf carts gives a idea.
I like alum/air batteries where you get 1000+ miles and change out the battery when it gets low and the tech is already done, here. Getting Alum to play nicely in a rechargable one, like with Zinc and silver, are great but few cycles. They grow dendrites? that short out the plates is the big problem. Let's hope but plan on what we have.
I agree that patience is necessary before we put a fork in this and call it done. However, I also believe by putting something out there and learning, the industry will go faster and farther in the next 3 years than it would have had they not jumped in with both feet. Occasionally you have to start doing something so you can find out what's wrong. I know most people, and engineers especially would like to introduce the perfect product. However, sometimes you have to pick something and go with it. That's the only way to start getting an idea of what's really going to happen.
I want to go back to the volatility issue here. I am wondering what the testing criteria is for these vehicles in case of an accident. I see these little EVs (Smart Cars) out on the road and I cringe because of A. Their vulnerability and B. Their potential to have a fire because of an impact. The average consumer may be unaware of the risks because marketing will naturally focus on the benefits. The Volt incident, while unfortunate, has gone a long way in raising public awareness which is a good thing.
I like the idea of the ICE extending the range of the Volt, but I also wonder about stale gasoline. If a Volt doesn't use the ICE for 6 months because it is driven purely within the electric range, will the ICE start ? Will the gasoline have gone stale ? I wonder if propane would be a better back-up fuel. Does anyone know if there is a built-in function on the Volt that it runs the ICE occasionally, or on some regular schedule, just to be sure it will start when needed ?
We are on our second Prius since 2005. (first 2005 second 2010) We have had no problems to speak of and certainly no problems with the EV battery. I remember during congressional testimony when the automakers said it would not be possible to advance their EV offering. The resale on the Prius is great too.
Tesla Motors plans to roll out a “compelling, affordable electric car” that will sell for about half the price of its high-profile Model S by the end of 2016, company chairman Elon Musk said last week.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.