I think the poll reflects the likely concerns about battery life. Without proper, widely available recharging stations, pure electric vehicles equipped with today's battery technology will no doubt have a hard time infiltrating the mainstream. Also, as an on-the-go mom carting kids around all the time, while I want to be environmentally correct, I do need the room my gas-guzzling SUV provides. So longer battery life, but roomier vehicles are likely what's going to get me to consider going electric.
In addition to battery life and charging/exchange stations, there will need to be some kind of standard established for the kind of battery offered. Right now (like VHS/Beta, or Hi Def vs BLue Ray), there are many ways to skin the fueling cat. The last thing we need as consumers is to have multiple choices for "fuel" and/or multiple makes of batteries that all hook up just a little differently. Then consider your long trip and you're running low on battery life; You stop at your handy recharging station to find they carry only the "other" brand of battery with different hook-ups than yours, BUT for a small fee, they can provide for you a conversion plug...
There has to be a standard from the beginning.
I also think it will be a little while in comming.
Maybe a car that generates more energy than it consumes??
Agreed on the need for standardization of battery charging station hookups. This is one item that seems to be overlooked in multiple areas of electrical connections. Each house that we have owned have required that we purchase a new electrical cord for our dryer electrical hookup. This would not be a feasible alternative for an electric car charging station.
Having read all the comments I am surprized no one complained about the obvious:
Having had a Toyota Tercel in 1984 that got 34MPG HW (having chose it over a Honda that go 38), why should we be putting up with the auto makers bragging about charging us $10K more than an equivalent vehicle just to get up to 30MPG???
The problem with electric car is, beside poor range specially in cold weather, is the charging time which is way too long. It prevents long trip as you will have to stop, find a charging station (not easy these days) and ... wait...
I have heard once that in California, someone was proposing battery replacement stations. So as today with gas station, you drive in, remove your empty battery and replace it with a charged one. You now pay for the charge and the battery location.
For this to be accepted by customer, the car owner does not own the battery but rent it. This way he will accept to change the battery when empty. For sure, the car manufacturers must provide the same battery format and same connector. Batteries must be interchangeable.
This is the only way you can do long drive with an electric car, and the "filling" time will be similar to what is done now, stopping at a gas station, filling, pay and drive away. No time lost.
Gas station where not available when the first cars started rolling, so the same with this approach, the gas station must migrate to become battery charging/exchange station.
I think range anxiety will be associated with electric cars for as long as there are electric cars, at least for current drivers (i.e., those old enough to remember gas engines). However, as plug-in electrics like the Nissan Leaf move out in the market, increased familiarity with these vehicles on the part of the public will breed increased acceptance. Clearly, though, we're going to be in the early adopter phase for quite a while.
I think the key to adoption here is consumer behavior. The electric cars are not going to have the same range and convenience of refueling as the gasoline and diesel powered cars for quite some time. However many US households have two cars. Perhaps having one electric car and one conventionally fueled one would work out for many people. The statistics seem to show that most daily commutes are less than 100 miles. For thos other situations the conventionally fueled vehicle is better.
Consider this, if the electric cars had similar range and could be refueled overnight (inexpensively), at home and the purchase price was maybe 20% more would the adoption rate improve? I am guessing it would. So the problem is really one of battery life and refueling time. These two caharacteristics are being steadily improved. There is a point in the near future when the technology will reach the point when it can fulfill the role required better than now. Until that time the adoption rate is going to be lower although perhaps steadily improving.
The bottom line is that consumers might be somewhat flexible in many transportation respects. But since a car is a long term investment, and a significant one for most households, the adoption rate is not going to be very high without some give on the part of the consumers regarding usage characteristics.
Right now, many people (probably most people) view the electric car as a very expensive vehicle that underperforms its gas-fueled counterpart. Apple needs to come out with an iCar that is incredibly user friendly and offers surprising benefits that we didn't even know we wanted until Apple presented them.
Apple doesn't offer much in new technology. The company takes existing technology, makes it friendly, makes it cool. Electric cars will probably not take off until some brand owner does to the electric car what Apple did to the smartphone.
If it's cool, cost isn't an issue. Just look at the pricing on the MacBook Pro. You can get three Dells for the same price. The electric car is waiting for its iCar moment.
I like your thinking on this Rob - you should get Steve Jobs on the phone and see if you can get a cut of the profits! Of course, the iCar would be way overpriced in the beginning, but give it a year or two and it would get slashed by a third when the latest and greatest iteration of the car came out.
I think that the electric car should pass through the natural pathway of acceptance. There should be a clear demand for it. At this time it is being pushed as a green solution agains a proven product. One issue is a battery, then the range, then the charging time, then the price, then.......
The product shouldn't be pushed by the environmentalists. We should be given ample time to properly research and design the product so it is userfriendly and reliable.
We may change our approach to battery design, and make new power sources modular, where one item is rechargeble and another is disposable. then it may be purchased anywhere on the way and added to exhisting internal battery as a boost. who knows what can be developed, but we need time.
Our government should stop wasting money and redirect it to R&D, NASA, private grants, etc... Look what is happening now in the industry. We need to get back to production and manufacturing, not service and clerical jobs.
R&D---R&D----R&D: without that we should forget about electric car.
My fear is that if Apple came out with an icar, its batteries would be non-standard, last half as long as do the Nissan Leaf's batteries, and the car would be twice as expensive. Would Apple folks buy it? Absolutely, but if sales of the iphone vs open source phones like those running Android and Windows 7 are any indication of overall market share, the Leaf + other super-high mileage cars like the Volt will far outsell it.
We need low cost, long battery life (at this point, no one knows what the life of lithium ion batteries is), the ability to buy those batteries from anyone, not just the manufacturer, reliability, and of course, standardization of connectors and plugs (Think USB, not IEEE).
I think many would agree that Apple would most likely fail at most of these requirements.
To Sensor Pro: I wholeheartedly agree with you. The common assumption is that the current battery materials will follow Moore's Law -- costs will drop by a factor of two every few years, performance will double every few years. The truth, though, is this is a long, hard road. Since I started writing about electric cars in '88, we've seen the material of choice change from lead acid to nickel iron to sodium sulfur to advanced lead acid to nickel metal hydride to lithium polymer to lithium ion, to name just a few. And during this march of progress, there's been one constant: expectations always exceeded reality. The only way we're going to get the EV's promised land -- as you point out -- is with a big commitment to R&D, R&D, R&D.
Something is mixed up with these numbers, I think.
If 57% of Americans won't consider buying an electric car, that must mean that 43% of Americans would consider buying an electric car, right?
So what to make of the claim that, if the price of gasoline is under $6 a gallon, only 12% of Americans would be willing to buy an electric car? And the bizarre result that, if the price goes above $10 a gallon, the percentage actually decreases to 3%?
For what it's worth, when I looked at the USA Today article, I couldn't find the data broken down by gas price. The article from greenchipstocks.com seemed to give a different set of numbers for this than the Design News article. Both of them claimed to be citing numbers from the USA Today poll, but, as I said, there was nothing in the actual article.
Am I just not understanding something, or is something seriously screwed up with these numbers?
The numbers indeed came directly from Gallup, but they weren't contained in the USA Today story. The poll was based on interviews of 1,024 adults living in the U.S. The particular survey question said, "Suppose gasoline prices continued to rise. How high do you think gas prices would have to rise before you would buy an electric car that you could only drive for a limited number of miles at one time?" As our story reported, the answers were:
Less than $6.00, 12%.
$6.00 - $7.99, 10%
$8.00 - $10.00, 9%
More than $10.00, 3%
What not do, no matter the price, 57%
No opinion, 9%
For whatever reason, these numbers did not appear in USA Today. They were sent directly to us, for our use, by Gallup.
And, yes, it's strange that the potential number of electric car buyers goes DOWN as the price of gas rises above $10. In a completely logical world, the number of potential EV buyers would rise as the price of gas goes higher. It's odd to have the highest numbers at the two extreme ends of the spectrum.
Ok, the numbers make sense if they are intended to be non-cumulative, i.e. 12 percent would be willing to buy an electric vehicle with gas prices below $6, and an ADDITIONAL 10 percent would be willing if gas prices were between 6 and 8 dollars. The way the numbers were presented in the article could be understood to mean that there are people who would consider buying an electric vehicle when gas prices are below $6, but wouldn't if gas prices are above $10. Obviously that doesn't make much sense.
Mr. Palmer has it exactly right. And given that 34% would buy an electric car, I can't see what all the wailing is on the enviro side. That is a huge market - fulfill that need first, then worry about converting the other 66% (57+9) to your dream.
Until electric cars have at least a 300 mile range and can be recharged in 10 minutes or less, I personally will NEVER consider one as anything other than a toy, and I believe that is what the poll is really revealing - most people consider them a toy for either a geek or wealthy 'greenie' trying to show their green creds, not as a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine.
If you want to drive an electric car, it's really not that difficult. I have 3 vehicles:
1993 Honda del Sol converted to electric with LiFePO4 cells. 50 mile range. Used for commuting to work on most days. Recharge at work. Has at least 15-20 mile extra range for errands to/from work. Also used for errands on weekends.
2000 Mazda 626. Used on days with more errands than Honda can handle, or when I have more than one passenger. 35 MPG.
1999 3/4 ton Suburban. Driven when hauling cargo, lots of people, or the horse trailer. 10-12 MPG. Stays parked as much as possible!
Total cost to purchase all of these vehicles used was LESS than the cost of a Leaf or Volt. Use the correct vehicle for the job.
I choose the vehicle I need in priority order above. My wife chooses what's left, using the same priority order.
I agree. It's a systemic problem in which people buy every vehicle to do everything rather than using need-based criteria for selecting a wise vehicle for the vast majority of their usage. If you use a vehicle for commuting alone 80-90% of the time, buy a vehicle aimed at that use. You'll save a huge amount of money on fuel (as well as initial purchase price most likely) and may well consider an electric or hybrid vehicle as an alternative. Buying a commuter vehicle based on that one hauling job I might do every few months is foolish. Alternatively, rent or borrow a truck, SUV, or van for the special trips (i.e., hauling, vacations, etc.). You'll save even more than the prioritized use model described here for those atypical trips. If we as a nation would adopt such a model, the number of lone drivers in huge vehicles that we each see during our daily commutes would take a dive. The savings in emissions, foreign fuel, and disposable income would be immense. Do the math...
The concerns of the majority in this poll seem well-founded to me. The range is one of those concerns but especially what is the range over the life of the battery? Will it go 100 miles 3years after I buy it or is that just a Beginning-of-Life number? Temperature is another concern. Also, I have read that a typical battery replacement at the end of five years or so will be $8000! Ridiculous! And what about the colossal hazardous waste these used-up batteries will create. Why would anyone even consider such a purchase?
Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. Our electric grid is not ready for the massive increase in power demand that mass produced electric cars will generate. And our electric generation capacity isn't ready by a few orders of magnatude to supply enough electricity for large numbers of them. After Fukushima, do you really want twice the number of nuclear power plants in our country to supply the new demand (and yes, some of them WILL be in your neighborhood)? And, with the increase in demand, be prepared for super expensive electricity.
Back when cars were a brand new invention, there was a gas vs. electric brawl, and gas won. Why? Not because of battery technology or motor technology. Because of power distribution. Gas is/was cheap, plentiful, fast to recharge, and eventually there was a gas station on every corner. Electric could not and still cannot compete.
Until there are solar cells or wind turbines on every roof to address the generation/distribution problem, electric cars are just another pipe dream of the elite (and nightmare for the rest of us). And yes, I want one (I just don't want the other 6 billion of us to have them).
Electric cars don't need that extensive an infrastructure change. They don't use that much power. If I drive my Honda del Sol conversion to work every day for a month, I will travel 1000 miles and use 250 kWh of electricity.
That 250 kWh of electricity is the same as someone:
Running 4 100W (400W) light bulbs for the month. Leaving the lights on in the garage all month could do that.
Running an electric clothes dryer (4000W) for 2 hours per day.
Running a big-screen plasma TV (500W) for 16 hours per day.
The power usage is definitely noticeable and it will require some changes, but the power companies have already seen changes of this order of magnitude as people went out and bought big-screen TVs.
I agree battery life has been the limiting factor for EVs. But, I think performance, high sticker prices, surcharge, and unavailability of electric/battery charge stations along our popular freeways corridors are some of the other reasons. I believe, if these things(our EV's buyers' conerns) get improved, people will be able to embrace EVs more readily. How long that would take? I don’t know. If the gas prices stays high -- the way it is today, I think it could happen sooner.
The numbers from the poll also do not reflect the expected results because the poll was a bad poll. It made an assumption that there is a direct connection between gas prices and replacing a vehicle and there isn't. For starters, to have any validity, the poll would have to have restricted the question to people that were already planning to buy a brand new vehicle. For those not in the market for a new car, having gas prices spiralling upward would more than likely prevent them from being able to afford to purchase a used vehicle, much less a $30,000-$40,000 new vehicle. Further, the poll would have needed to distinguish amongst types of vehicles or phrase the question with "assuming that an electric version of the vehicle you need were available..." I drive a pickup truck, furthermore, since it goes into muddy fields, I drive a pickup truck with 4-wheel drive capability. I can't replace that vehicle with an electric because they don't yet make them, having decided to concentrate on building wimpmobiles instead.
Finally, electric cars suffer from lack of infrastructure. Many people live in apartments, condos, or even homes that do not have a way of plugging in an electric car (ignoring the increased demand on the grid). Instead of trying to find ways to instantlly (over)charge batteries (15 minutes or less), a better idea would be be standardize on a removable battery pod dimensions (not the battery type contained inside), and it's connectors and computer interface and simply allow people to swap 'em at at a 'filling' station much the way we do with the BBQ propane tanks now - pay the difference between both charge state and battery cell state. In that case one could also have spare battery pod(s) being charged at home as well.
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