The problem with a lot of the numbers in the news stories is that they leave the impression that we're about to get hit by a tsunami of battery-powered cars. That just isn't the case. Because the words "electric" and "electrified" serve as catch-alls, they can include hybrids and plug-in hybrids. And many consumers simply don't understand that.
In truth, pure electrics will be a bug on the windshield compared with the emergence of start-stop or micro-hybrid vehicles (cars that turn themselves off at stop signs and stoplights). In a study released in September, Pike predicted that 9.8 milion start-stop vehicles will be sold annually in the US by 2020. That's more than half of the vehicles sold in this country. It's also 91 times more than the number of battery electrics expected to be sold in 2020.
"We're expecting start-stop hybrids to play a huge role in meeting the coming CAFE [corporate average fuel economy] standards," Dave Hurst, author of the Pike electric car study, told us. "Start-stop is already a big market in Europe."
For some reason, though, the pure electric car is much more captivating. We write stories about it while virtually ignoring the stunning rise of the start-stop vehicle.
So, yes, last week's stories were generally accurate. But a little more context might have been in order. A seven-year climb to a 0.6 percent marketshare is hardly the major triumph that we're being led to believe.
Thanks for cutting through the hype on this issue! It's lovely if the U.S. wants to pat itself on the back for its adoption of electric cars, but it's clear that adoption isn't nearly as rapid as people are led to believe. Hybrid cars are a great alternative to purely gas-powered cars, and adoption of them is heartening, but I still think more needs to be done in the auto industry to promote development and adoption of not only hybrids but also purely electric cars. Gasoline dependence can be a thing of the past if the right people want to work on the problem! Leading people astray with lack of context about what's really going on does no one any good.
Elizabeth, you are correct in calling it hype. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) today about the Nissan Leaf. It seems that Nissan will start building Leafs in the US in February. Sales have been sluggish. Building cars here will avoid some of the exchange rate penalty Japanese companies have been experiencing. In 2012 they sold 9,819 Leafs in the US. Their target was 20,000. They can build 150,000 at the US plant.
Chuck, it is good that you have put the numbers in perspective. This is important, since even a small percentage of the global auto market can seem large to someone who does not know much about it.
I think the emphasis on start-stop hybrids is the way to go in the short term. The big problem with city mileage is the stopping. I know people who do this manually. I am not sure of how effective that is, but they have the expectation that it helps.
I don't know why you're always so eager to be pessimistic and throw cold water on the greenest of technologies. If your articles are read years down the road you may end up sounding like the head of IBM who stated, only as far back as 1958, that the world market of computers would be "about five" units.
Only 6 years ago the smart phone was born. At that point how many smart phones were predicted to have been sold by now and for 2013?
Only 3 years ago the modern tablet computer was invented and all anyone could wonder was why Apple named it as if it were a feminine hygiene product and why anyone would buy giant iPhones that cannot make phone calls. At that point how many computer tablets were predicted to have been sold by now and for 2013?
Stop-start functions and micro-hybrids are great, but these technologies will need significant help from plug-in hybrids and EVs to meet sustainable fuel consumption requirements urgently needed to correct a badly destabilized world climate. I believe automotive experts like Bob Lutz and Elon Musk would disagree with your relatively bleak future for clean cars, and they aren't exactly tree huggers. Lutz is predicting 10% electrics (including extended range) by 2020.
As for the media hyping partial truths, that's nothing new and there's plenty of that going on right here. And now carbon addicts and climate deniers to start attacking me in 4, 3, 2, 1...
I don't think the article is necessarily pessimistic, Charles...I think it's more realistic. I want there to be electric cars as much as any tree-hugging hippie, but I think it's better to be honest about what's happening rather than act like adoption is more widespread than it is. In fact, I am hoping that this might light a fire under the auto industry and consumers to get their act together and make green investments so we can get these numbers up.
I agree. More perspective and less hype is just a realization that pure EV vehicles are probably further away. And start-stop hybrids are going to carry a larger bit of market share in the shorter term. It's really good news for the response to the technology overall among consumers.
Simply put, a pure electric vehicle with limited range, and a long recharge time is of limited usefulness to a majority of people in this country.
I suppose they would be acceptable as a second car for people who commute a limited route where charging services are available at the destination, but I don't think that fits the majority of people in the USA.
We need a breakthrough electrical energy storage technology, specifically a lighter weight, high density, rapidly chargable device that doesn't cost a fortune. (And you still have the issue of charging the car off of the grid which is mostly powered by fossil fuels....) Until then, I see hybrid technologies as the only way to go if you wish to be ecologically sensitive.
I for one would rather see the development of a cost-effective, sustainable bio fuel as a replacement for gasoline. I really like internal combustion engines!
Smartphones give people something they like, want, or need. EV's don't do that, save maybe a "like" for low emissions (which is specious) or to be environmentally fashionable. They're otherwise a lesser performing and more expensive solution to what people already have. Is there any wonder why they're not flying out of showrooms like iPhones? If EV's were really what people wanted you wouldn't have to obfuscate sales figures, the demand and deployed fleets would speak for themselves.
Sounds more like a whiner that can't let go of his ICE engine. Sure who wouldn't want a motor with a thousand parts, 14 thousand regulators and a multitude of things to break down and don't forget the high cost and cost of regular maintenance that requires...oh yea... oil to lubricate it. All that instead of a simple electric motor. HMMM. Oh yea... let's not forget that we could STILL be chained to the pump and dealing with an over-priced commodity (oil or biofuel) to power our car. I prefer an electric with a solar panel array on my property to power it. Yea, electrics aren't for everybody, but that argument is mainly for people who have stock in oil companies and those who don't properly research electric technology, and it's use for Americans. Broad, misinformed drool, spoken by an oil lover, not a scientist or engineer.
Not sure if Jim was referring to powering the car "off the grid" or getting power off OF the grid. Powering "off the grid" is generally accomplished without fossil fuels.
First, great article! Neutral to the issue of "green" energy, as it should be. My only complaint (and a pet peeve of mine) is to the use of the term "start-stop hybrid". THAT"S NOT A HYBRID (it's just a gas car with an oversized starter motor). Unless it's motivated by electric energy, it's not a hybrid.
As to the pessimism, it's well due! "Green" energy (along with the anti-carbon extremists) has been the next big thing for as long as I've been alive. And I'm no spring chicken (and neither is "green" energy). Or, for that matter, how about electric cars? They have been around LONGER than gas cars, and after more than 100 years are still irrelevent to the vast majority of car owners.
At some point, unrealized hype (and its fantasy driven cultist followers) becomes stale, even to people who want to believe.
BTW - I drive a hybrid and have been searching the market for a practical electric car for more than 15 years. Still waiting...
What was UBM's entire Avnet Drive for Innovation series other than a hyped-up infomercial for UBM, Avnet, Chevrolet, and all of UBM's advertisers vying to ride the coattails of one of the biggest growth markets in electronics? http://www.driveforinnovation.com/?cid=TOLTechPaperNL
Yet the series was interesting, informative, and got people excited about EVs. Many readers probably looked into the car further and because of that, especially if they saw that Volt at one of the tour stops or subsequently drove one on their own, they might now own one or plan to within the next few years! That was serving the technology, the public, and I'll bet was consistent with the goals Avnet and UBM set out to achieve.
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the country’s longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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