Although intrigued by all the technology going into automobiles these days, I can't help but wonder how much all of these automobiles actually cost to build and how much they sell for. Are they/will they be in mass production when only, I anticipate, a small portion of the population will be able to buy them?
Also, on the infotainment side: is this feasible when more and more states are cracking down on unsafe drivers ie: the ban on texting while driving in Massachusetts? I wouldn't be surprised if more and more legislation was handed down based on the features being added to autos.
Jenn: No, you're not off base. Let's look at the distraction issue first. More legislation will undoubtedly have to be handed down. The problem is, as much as the public complains about driver distraction, many people want to bring their iPods and phones into their vehicles. Automakers know this, and they reasonably conclude that they need to market these features in order to compete. Standards will help simplify the technology and reduce the distraction, but they won't eliminate it. To eliminate it, we all have to be ready to surrender our phones and iPods.
Regarding cost: Yes, the proliferation of electronics is affecting cost. But most of the infotainment features start out at the high end, in the luxury cars, where the extra cost can be more easily absorbed. They usually don't trickle down to the mid-level and low-end vehicles until the economies of scale allow for it to result in a modest cost difference. Even then, many of these features will reach low-end vehicles as an option, when they do arrive. Mandated safety features (airbags, electronic stability control, etc) are another matter -- they are more likely to add cost to low-end vehicles, because the buyer can't opt out.
I agree with the eventual trickle down. Air conditioning, power steering, power windows, cruise control, tilt steering column... these were items found on top end "luxery" models. As "economy of scale" and more and more units were produced, and these features became perceived by the customer as not an"extra" but as "standard equipment" so too will many of the latest technologies' costs drop, availability increase, and acceptance as standard equiipment be built in to even low end models....
One trend I can't get my brain around -- if indeed it's a real trend -- is what seems to be the bifurcation between the traditional automakers and the thousand blooming flowers of tiny car startups. (For the latter, this is both in terms of company size as well as the size of the cars they make.) So on the one hand, we have GM getting deeper into both telematics and customer-driven design, as Chuck has expertly written about. Yet we also have a grass-roots sector springing up in the EV space, as if it were 1910 all over again. So will these two arenas remain separate, cross-pollinate; will one take over the other or will the little guys one day disappear as quietly as they arrived?
The answer to your question, Alex, is that these companies will cross-pollinate. Some old line auto companies were initially dismissive of Tesla, for example, but when the Roadster did 244 miles on a charge, even Bob Lutz of GM acknowledged that all automakers could learn from them. Now, Tesla is teaming with Toyota on an electric vehicle.
I'd guess that the answer to Alex' question will idepend on how well big auto makers do in the EV space and whether they then decide to throw dollars at the little startups, i.e., buy them out and take them over to acquire their technology, or alternatively, R&D it themselves.
CAFE has been forced so high that any automaker who wants to compete in the US will have to offer an EV just to bring the fleet average up. Car manufacturers will have to invest in creating EVs and hybrids that appeal to an unfriendly market (mainly because of the performance vs. cost issue).But, will any technology be developed that can also benefit their core vehicle lines?
I would love for my vehicles to get 50mpg and give me the same performance, convenience, and function that I currently enjoy, at the same price point.Unfortunately, the technology being developed to comply with the mandate appears to have limited use in the conventional market.Worse yet, with the push to electrify taking up the R&D funds, is there enough being done to improve current ICE designs?
Automaker "agreement" to the new CAFE standards is an interesting spin.It would be more accurate to say that Congress agreed for them.
To Watashi: It would be nice if those R&D dollars could be invested in long-term battery technologies that could actually make EVs competitive. Right now, the energy density is too low and the cost is still too high. The problem is, we're in a big hurry when it comes to EVs. The unfortunate part of this is that in seven years, many of the lithium-ion start-ups -- some based on government money -- will be going out of business when the lithium-ion battery glut hits.
I've not yet seen a decent analysis of the cost of the electricity when charging your vehicle at home. There's lots and lots of handwaving around the MPG of the things, but much less about the actual day-to-day operating cost. 10 hour charging is necessary when using a 120vac house outlet. What does that translate to? Quick research says the answer is complicated, depending on when you decide to charge. Still, how about an average number from the manufacturers?
The electrical grid isn't smart now, taking too long to get smart, and yet more and more cars are expected to plug in. Does the electrical grid have enough capacity to deal with this increasing load?
Car companies rolled out their electric cars, and said "not my problem" to the source of that electricity. The companies that attack both problems at once will become wildly successful.
In 2012, I'm guessing we're going to have to add "battery cooling systems and technologies" to our list, in light of the recent to-do over the Chevy Volt Lithium-ion battery fires following crashes. And TJ makes a good point, so there's also work to be done on the economics of charging, or, more correctly, the infrastructure of charging. Those government-funded tests to set up charging stations in several cities throughout the U.S. need a boost if consumer demand for electrics is ever going to take off. New York, where I live, is waayyy behind the curve here. What are you supposed to do, throw an extension cord out your window? (That would be a very Seinfeldian solution...)
The big problem with charging in urban areas is the very point you've made here, Alex. A lot of urban dwellers don't have garages where they can recharge their cars. So, as you point out, what can they do? Run an extension cord out the window? The problem with this is that urban dwellers are the likely candidates to buy and use battery EVs. Many of them have short commutes. Nonetheless, they do need to charge their cars, so where do they do that? The likely solution is charging stations (almost like parking meters) lining the streets.
I actually think the solution for a city like New York is for a Zipcar-like operation to introduce short-term rentable electrics for the urban (i.e., Manhattan) market. That company would then handle the recharging at a bunch of centralized locations. (And also supply the tow trucks to pick up out of juice cars.) Not a bad idea, right?
The Zipcar model is a logical one because many people in heavily populated urban areas don't want to own cars. They may need to travel only a couple of miles. Then they want to unburden themselves of the car.
I think you are absolutely correct the population is growing faster and maximum population are having there own private vehicle to travel on top of this , this new concept is really going to work well.
Alex, funny you should mention this directive. It seems everyone I'm talking to lately, whether composite makers, adhesive makers, coatings suppliers or even machine vision hardware vendors, are mentioning it as the driving force behind the trends impacting their products. I think Chuck is right to put it at the top, and my impression is that the automakers really mean it. Would they rather make classic Mustangs with a great big V-8 engine weighed down with lots of steel? Maybe. And heck, I'd rather drive one. But that's not where we live anymore. So I think they've woken up and smelled the coffee.
Wow, I should remember to be grateful for where I live. EV charging stations have been a fact of life here in Silicon Valley (actually I'm outside the fringe) for some time now, although there still aren't enough of them. According to this map
The EVChargerMaps.com map looks great for your area, but doesn't seem to work for the greater Seattle area. Either that, or there's not a single charging station anywhere along the I-5 Corridor in the Evergreen State.
I hate making excuses why I don't do something. But darn it, an EV would not be feasible for my work commute and work requirements. I can be sent to a customer at any time during the work day, up to two hours away. Drive to work is 19 miles. Even if I charged at work, I would have to charge at a customer site in order to get home. That's a pretty tacky image, asking a customer where I can plug my car in.
The charge time for 120vac is 10 hours. I don't really want to wait for the car to "fill up" at that charge rate in order to go home.
EVs will be a gimmick until this problem is solved. They will have to have better range, faster charging, or the ability to swap batteries on the road in a matter of 90 seconds in order for them to be fully acceptable.
TJ, I did the same zoom on that map and noticed the same thing. That's why I'm grateful to live in this greater Silicon Valley area.
But you're right, the practicality issue for actual usage scenarios has not been solved. Either that, or there need to be different types of models. OTOH, I think the vision is that there will be public charging stations everywhere. If every business' parking lot had one, your customer visit problem would disappear. Locally, many of the charging stations in the San Jose urban area have been built with federal funding. I wonder how available that is elsewhere.
I'm wondering how much discussion we'll see in 2012 of the top issue Chuck mentions, which is the government mandate for 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2025. At this point, to me this seems like it's a can that's being kicked down the road by the automakers. One can infer that their strategy is to use their EVs to raise the fleet CAFE, and then if they don't make it, they'll go for an easement from Congress under the banner of "we tried really hard." Not sure that that was the intent, though, of the program. It's to get ICE cars to raise their MPG, too.
The automakers will undoubtedly look for a way to back down on CAFE. Surprisingly, though, 2025 isn't that far off. Since they work about five years ahead, and since they have a very, very long way to go to get to 54.5 mpg, they've got to keep coming up with new technologies. If they wait too long, they'll never be able to make it.
Charles, What really happens if they "don't make it"? The government might try legislating technology, but if the industry as a whole doesn't have a cost effective solution, what can they do? Ban all new autos?
Jack: Since automakers work years in advance of introduction, they will know ahead of time if a CAFE of 54.5 mpg is impossible. Automakers are now trying to work with government agencies to review the situation in 2018.
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