Charles - Another balanced and thought provoking article - thanks! The high prices of EV's are a direct result of high battery costs, and perhaps the recent rolling-back of govt subsidies. The "hobbiests" that claim they can build a cheaper EV ignore the fact that making a practical commercial EV requires lots of cost for battery management electronics, safe packaging, etc. I agree with DROID...if anything there is a "conspiracy" from the USA Govt. to promote EV's when the current state of technology is not ready for prime time. Not only do they spend huge amounts of taxpayer money subsidizing rich people who buy EV's...but they create hugely incorrect "MPGe" ratings from the EPA, etc. A total energy analysis, for example, will show for example that a Nissan LEAF should have an MPGe of ~40, not 99! If people realize that electricity comes almost entirely from power plants, and 70% of those are powered by Coal or Natural Gas (fossil fuels), and the fact that an EV burns just as much fossil fuel as an efficient conventional car - the appeal fades quickly. I'm all for technology and even EV's when they eventually are ready - but don't spend my tax dollars throwing it down a rat hole paying people to drive EV's, when they SOLVE almost NOTHING. What we REALLY need is a replacement fuel to gasoline that is renewable. This can be biofuel or possibly solar-synthesized fuel. Then, we get all the green advantages without needing to make the huge practicality trade-offs with EV's.
@jhess169: You make a good point, but I'd like to point out that somewhere along the way, no one thought people would be willing to plug in their phones everyday to make phone calls and yet, that's what most of the general public does today with cell phones. If the cars are compelling enough, the infrastructure accessible enough, the prices low enough, the market will follow suit.
@Dave Palmer. Thank you for an interesting comment.I am not sure historically as far as "women's" cars , since you are talking about a midst of Second Liberation Movement. So be it! The point here was to ignite a discussion , hence my use of a word "conspiracy".For some reason it fires up a lot of people.There are historical facts available in archives describing Daimler's visit to Detroit. An by the way ALL consumer cars were electric at the dawn of CONSUMER era.I know that there were steam and other contraptions made. You know that before cars people used bicycles and were quite content to go out of town on them. I consider myself a bit of historian of electrical/electronic era and a lot of discussions here are like who was greater Edison , or Tesla. No doubt Tesla. Most of us know that. The main problem is a "business model" instead innovation.The main problem is a question "how much?" instead "how much better?". I also mention submarines.Well....not all submarines are nuclear and they can run on batteries for a long time. GREED is the main problem , not conspiracy , or stupidity of some people.Cannot speak for more, because I stay out of politics.Thank you for an interesting discussion!
Perhaps some of you might remember the early model VW bug. this was an inexpensive no frills car that was reasonably rugged and reliable and especially low cost.
A modern version of this in an EV configuration would use the low price point as a key factor in its marketing. This might enable significant sales and thereby drive the development of advanced technologies in batteries, wheel motors, charging systems and control systems.
Eventually the success would allow for extending the available options and improve the vehicles luxury features and gradually go from a no-frills model to a fully featured one.
I think the key is to create the perfect combination of minimum features and low cost in a useful and desirable platform.
The VW chassis is already one of the most modified designs around having been co-opted for a many kit carsa nd other designs. Something similar for EV designs that emphasized modular components and the ability for a small team to enhance and further refine the basic comonents would be interesting as it would parallel the computer industry.
@Chris PE: Yes, some of the first cars were electric. In fact, there was an article in Design News a few months ago titled Electric Vehicles: How Far Have We Come in 100 Years? The late Ray Bradbury also mentioned an electric car in Dandelion Wine, a collection of short stories based on his childhood in Waukegan, Illinois, in the 1920s.
Just like now, consumers in those early years found that electric cars were good for relatively short urban commutes. However, in the 1910s and 1920s, "touring" (i.e. going for a drive in the country) became a popular activity. Electric cars were not well suited for this, due to their limited range.
Also, electric cars in those days were marketed as "women's cars," since they were not as dirty or noisy as internal-combustion vehicles, nor did they require manual effort to start. However, the perception of electric cars as "feminine" discouraged men from buying them. Since purchasing decisions were mostly made by men, this hurt sales.
As an undergraduate, I took a class on the anthropology of technology. This was given as a classic example of the influence of culture on the development of technology. Clearly, there are both cultural and technical factors which explain the dominance of internal combustion engine cars after World War I, but cultural phenomena played a big role.
When I was in Texas I saw tons of Leafs and test drove one on a highway.It is a great fun and comfy car.They also have a bunch of charging stations by the big malls , airport and hotels. I love your comment!
You are completely neglecting non-recurring engineering and manufacturing plant changes.Companies (and professional engineers) can't just throw a bunch of parts together like some hobby shop and call it a finished product. New designs, especially as radically different as EV is to the modern auto industry, are very expensive.Implementing the design into a new product line, changing manufacturing processes, changing test processes, and maintaining conventional measures such as reliability are a daunting task.
If your cost estimates are correct (they look reasonable), then I would say that Nissan is doing a great job of keeping costs down.
So everyone has forgotten that first consumer cars were electric? Go and do a search on Detroit Electric. How did that story go about trams and fast trains in Detroit? Mr. Daimler visited Ford in 1926 and then Ford influenced City to remove all rail and later bus transportation from a city to sell newly developed Daimler combustion engine! We had electric cars 100 years ago and then a "business model" came and paralyzed moves of those that did not have cars? SHAME on us!In times when all modern cities have public transportation we have crippled American cities in the name of a "business model"? One more thing about prices.They tend to fall down in ALL industries after something becomes popular.Do you remember $15,000.00 flat screen TVs? What was it 8-10 years ago?Now they beg you to buy one for a thousand.In automotive case the same would happen if not an overwhelming and huge influence of oil moguls on that industry.I love many comments , but some people should just get a life and escape from 19th century.You may not like it, but your kids LOVE electric cars and in some parts of a coutry they sell like hotcakes. So you will ride to a retirement home in an electric car.Oh, by the way...how many of the EVs critics actually drove an electric car? A few?
In many engineering workplaces, there’s a generational conflict between recent engineering graduates and older, more experienced engineers. However, a recent study published in the psychology journal Cognition suggests that both may have something to learn from another group: 4 year olds.
Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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