Alex: I agree that the Volt probably has th best chance to become accepted for its high mileage, as opposed to being accepted as a novelty by early adopters. The key to the Volt's success might be the battery. The Volt probably has a better chance if it switches to a smaller battery -- in other words, a less costly battery that would cut the overall price of the vehicle.
I do not know what the future will bring WRT EVs. A major difficulty with EVs is the paradigma shift, auto maker's product lead times, and consumer demands. Folks comment "consumers don't want..." when the real question is "what will consumers want in 1-2 years?". If we think about simple 'no-brainer changes' like the amount of time that lapsed between portable iPod style music players becoming common and support for them becoming commonly available in autos, we get a glimpse of the 'lead time problem'.
After the first few years of the industry, auto makers have mostly dealt with evolutionary changes. EVs will require a different and 'as of now undermined/unrefined' usage model that manufacturers are trying to target. The strategy of offering EVs to the high end consumers is likely the best path to showcase EVs and allow folks to see them in action and manufacturers can see if 'folks covet them'.
Demand will change as gas hits $4/gal shortly as oil was $98/bbl yesterday close. But are they selling all the EV's they produce? That's a far cry from not many are being sold because people don't like EV's.
Plus EV's will be far more cost effective if designed simply, lightweight vehicles that sell for under $10k for errands, commuting.
While great they, BMW, are building EV's as EV's, they then go to build unjustifibly expensive, heavier that nessasary units.
Take the seperate drive chassis and passenger safety shell. By intergrating them one would lose 20% body/chassis weight while increasing safety, thus need 20% less battery, etc.
Another is the much hyped carbon fiber which rarely pays it's 10x's higher costs for a 5% or so weight savings vs medium tech composites. Now in real critical weight like aircraft, it's worthwhile but rarely in cars.
Another thing about woven CF cloth is CF gets it's strength in tension and compression by being in a straight line. But since it is woven in cloth weave form, it forms springs thus losing compression, tension stiffness, CF's main advantage, it's then no better than far cheaper FG because . So any time you see CF woven cloth/roving, it's for show only.
Nor does anyone mention how hard CF is to wet out, thus increasing cost, more quality control problems as Boeing is finding out.
The key point in this whole discussion is, "Consumer willingness to buy EVs is still low..." I do not think the American lifestyle, at least not here in the midwest, will ever allow such a limited range vehicle at exhorbitant prices, regardless of flashy design or the prestige of the name plate.
You are dealing with aesthetics and consumers: high heels are not practical or comfortable, but they are bought because they look good/ present a certain image/style. The Honda Insight was one hybrid introduced with the fender skirts, but the American consumers shied away - too unconventional looking. Fender shirts have come and gone... if people reaallllly want the higher MPG (or extended EV range) maybe, eventually, practicality will prevail over looks.
I believe the price of Li-Ion battery EVs will come down, and eventually the price of the vehicles. I am not sure if folks recall that when Chevy was getting ready to introduce the Volt, they did not have the battery system developed until 2 months before the car show. There were two avenues to go with batteries Li-ion being the choice Chevy committed to (we almost had a Beta vs. VHS platform issue starting). Chevy has proven the Li-ion technology works, and as more producers spring up to provide Li-ion batteries, as in any captialist market, price should come down.
Possibly the key to successful EV and hybrid sales is for car makers to not position the vehicles as such. A case in point is the Toyota Prius, which I think has been a hit precisely because it's not perceived so much as a hybrid as it is an efficient, high-mileage car. At the same time, this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. That is, the Prius couldn't be thought of as just another car, albeit a high-mileage one, until enough of them were sold so that it became, in fact, just another car on the road. So the question becomes, will the Volt or Leaf build up enough of a head of steam to similarly come into the mainstream, as far as consumer perceptions are concerned. I think the Volt has a good shot at it, especially if the costs come down a bit in the second-gen version.
I didn't realize the numbers for pure EVs were so low. Has Prius done any better with its new pure EV offering? That would be somewhat telling since they don't have the same brand problem and they've done so well with the hybrid model.
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