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.
The more I read about batteries, the better the lake on the hill sounds. Until alternative energy sources such as wind and solar can produce energy to meet real-time demand, the lake on the hill may be our best bet. There's nothing wrong with a bunch of lakes dotting our landscape.
Unfortunately, the government has gotten involved instead of letting the market determine what the public wants. The $7,500 tax credit skews the market, and we might never find out what will really work. It is time to let nature take its course.
EV batteries are expensive, dangerous, poisonous on a large scale, and not very efficient. Why would you go this route, unless someone was paying you to go in that direction. What does the government know about consumer affairs, other than taxing and spending? What about fuel cells? How about more efficient hybrids where the market determines how far the battery should take you before the gasoline kicks in? Is there something else we aren't considering because Government Motors has taken us down a rabbit hole? How about 75 miles per gallon gasoline-fueled cars?
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.