The Perfect Storm

This week, we received a copy of a new JD Power and Associates study on the adoption of Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicles. Note that they do make an appropriate distinction.

The Study is subtitled More Hope than Reality, and indeed it paints a bleak picture.

In my opinion, JD Power and Associates is one of the most prestigious survey firms in the world. NOT to be confused with the poseur think tanks funded by oil companies and automobile manufacturers. They live on customer satisfaction surveys and they’re very good at getting right down to what’s important.

The most important thing IN this study is some believable, and not so believable, numbers on total automobile production and operation.

Everyone is focused on peak oil and what it means. Peak oil is very real and I am very persuaded by such things as Deepwater Horizon’s record setting operation in September 2009, before it was blown up in the Gulf oil spill disaster, to drill a hole 35,000 feet in the earth. Such a hole costs in excess of $200 million to drill. Somebody has got to want oil pretty badly. Surely there must be some closer to home. Apparently, to an increasing degree, not.

That’s an indication that easy to obtain oil is not so easy to obtain, on the face of it. I don’t have to know much about peak oil beyond the fact that they think they can, and need to, drill 35,000 feet to get at it profitably. I’m not one of those who decry oil companies and automobile manufacturers as somehow being stupid. I personally think they are VERY smart and have the very best people in the business, in the business. I don’t particularly believe their interests are allied perfectly with MINE. But I do believe they will act in their OWN self interest pretty reliably and actually quite intelligently.

As to oil, what I got from this was basically that we produce 38% of the oil we use and China produces 46% of the oil they use. And the two countries make up the bulk of the automobiles in the world. They also have the lowest gasoline prices currently at $2.85 and $3.71 respectively. Everything in Europe is north of $6.00.

[jwplayer file=”news102910 – iPhone.m4v” hd.file=”” image=”” streamer=”rtmp://” provider=”rtmp” html5_file=” – iPhone.m4v” download_file=””]

Oil is not precisely my focus, and not precisely the problem, as incredible as that statement may seem. It’s cars. We have a lot of them. And we’re making a lot more.

Any moron of sufficient age to remember, can remember what traffic was like, and what it is like now. Astute observation is not required to believe we have a lot MORE cars on the road. It’s true we have a lot more people as well. But that almost doesn’t account for it. We have a LOT more cars on the streets than we did 30 years ago.

It took a hundred years, give or take, to put the first 500 million cars on the road by 1995. It will take just 20 years to put the second 500 million on the road by 2015. At the end of 2010, we are looking at 896 million cars and we’re manufacturing them at the rate of 44.7 million per year.

JD Power is looking out to 2020, ten years from now, and projecting an annual production of slightly more than 70 million cars with 1.2 billion in operation. That’s a lot of cars. That’s exponential growth in the number of cars.

It’s true that many will be in India and China, along with a few Mercedes Benz from my friend in Dhubai. But wherever they are at and from wherever they issue, they are almost all going to burn gasoline.

I’ve said for years that the problem is not that gasoline is too expensive, but rather that it was too cheap. And had it been allowed to seek a natural level over time, the true costs of gasoline could have been gradually absorbed by our economy. We could have, for example, instituted more aggressive taxation of gasoline, since energy has ostensibly been a NATIONAL PRIORITY since Jimmy Carter. But we did nothing.

Simply putting a big tax on it now and using the funds to subsidize alternate energy is no longer an option. There isn’t time. And it essentially is impractical. The cost of oil goes straight to the heart of the cost of transportation. Our global economy is founded on a historic move AWAY from local manufacture and consumption of EVERYTHING and toward global transportation of EVERYTHING and so the cost of EVERYTHING has a transport component built into it. NOt only the cost of everything, but of the cost of everything used to make everything. ANd so it is layer upon layer of transport costs. A sudden increase in those costs would be DEVASTATING to every economy on the globe.

And so there is no possibility, read NO possibility that the U.S. can lead the way on a cure. It’s politically impossible. If you tried to enact a gasoline tax in this country at this time, it is NOT that you would be voted from office. You’d likely be assassinated. It would be UNLIKELY that you would live your elected term.

If we could, it would wreck our own economy on ANNOUNCEMENT and put us into a depression that made the 1930’s look like a free lunch program.

And so we have before us the elements of THE PERFECT ENERGY STORM.

Less cars? Come on. In America we have had cars for a hundred years. They are almost everyone’s most prized possession. We do not take trains and buses. We drive where we want to drive. Would you believe that now other people in other countries want the same thing. And why not? Personal mobility is a treasure. Everyone wants it universally. And it so constitutes at this point a basic human desire – to be neither ridiculed nor denied.

More oil? Where? How? The five largest corporations in the world with larger cash flows than most nations and the brightest people on the planet on that topic are doing everything they can and they’re down to drilling seven miles into the earth looking for droplets.

We have oceans of natural gas, and yes, coal. And an enormous electrical distribution system. I already know the answer. But Americans aren’t having any. I’ve mentioned REPEATEDLY that there is currently NO market for a compact car or mommy van as a battery electric vehicle.

According to JD Power, 61% of American consumers would now consider a hybrid vehicle. When advised that the difference in price might be $5000 on the initial cost of the car, that interest drops to 30%.

Battery electric vehicles are worse. Just 17% of American drivers would consider an electric vehicle with its limited range. When advised there is a $15,000 premium, that interest drops to 5%.

This isn’t ORDERS. This is just INTEREST.

JD Power predicts an increase in Battery Electric Vehicles from just 20,100 vehicles in 2010 (including GEMs, vantage vans, etc.) to some 1.3 million by 2020. But 62% of those go to Europe. And 25% go to China. The U.S. will produce and use just 97,000 BEV vehicles for 7.5% of the world’s electric cars.

In typical American fashion, as the perfect storm comes together and gasoline rises to $22 or $44 or $66 per gallon, there will be a LOT of interest in battery electric cars. They will be an overnight sensation. It won’t matter. It will take years to produce them at that point. Too little. Too late. Another CNN emergency. But this time we don’t get to cheer as the miners emerge or the oil spill is stopped. No magic bullet. No brilliant solution. Just misery and unemployment for millions who can no longer get around.

Technology has a standard S shaped adoption curve. ALL technology. First you have the tinkerers and innovators working with a technology that doesn’t exactly work. It kind of sort of works just well enough to have an avid group of believers who keep dicking with it.

At some point, it gets good enough and you begin to see small businesses emerge to produce very expensive models that are a little awkward and clunky. Picture cell phones the size of a brick with its own suitcase that cost $3500 and feature a $1 per minute charge for calls that can only be made from six cities in the country.

At this point, the technology either fails and collapses, or gains ground. This is entirely a function of two things: human desire and early adopters. If the advantage of the new technology is sufficiently great that people DO want it even if they CAN’T afford it, it has a chance.

If for example, I told you I had a matter transporter that would safely transport a human from Los Angeles to New York city in 800 milliseconds, you would want it. If I told you it cost $26 million for a ride, you would STILL want it, but you could not afford it.

This is where early adopters come in. After the first ride, I can drop the price to $20 million. After the second ride, I can drop it to $10 million. After that it quickly drops to $1 million per ride and I’m doing a couple of rides per week. At $100,000, we’re up to a couple of rides per day. At $10,000, thirty rides per day.

When it gets to a buck and a quarter everyone in Los Angeles is transporting to New York for dinner and back. The food’s just better in New York.

Without those first early adopters, the transport machine gets disassembled and we’ll use the parts to build an ice cream truck.

My take. Lead acid cells powered the early tinkerers and innovators with a technology that really just didn’t work. RAV-4 and EV-1 included.

LiFePo4 changes the game. Electric cars can now be used as cars for most purposes. And it has attracted an early adopter set. Tesla is my poster child. At $150,000 for a roadster, it is expensive. But they have decoded what an early adopter might want and be willing to pay for in an electric car. Their Model S, which as you’ll see in today’s video is actually modeled after the Aston Martin Rapide, is frankly another very good move. Four passengers and luggage – much more practical as a car. But still very much an early adopter vehicle and probably priced in the seventy odd thousand range. I expect it to do VERY well.

But VERY well is relative. For a startup, who has sold 1500 vehicles total, what would a VERY well number look like. Five thousand would be a HUGE number by comparison. Ten thousand would be even grander. It would be a phenomenon.

What is the effect on the perfect storm? Well, ten thousand Tesla model S’s if done well and show well would establish that the well heeled can drive an elegant sedan that does not run on gasoline. This is ATTRACTIVE. It appeals to HUMAN DESIRE. I can’t afford one yet. But I WANT one. And because there are 10,000 of them, I can see one. I might even get to ride in one.

Let’s contrast this with the Nissan Leaf. A compact mommy van that DOES offer the advantage of electric drive. It will NOT appeal to early adopters AT ALL.

It is intended to jump start this into the mass market. Will the mass market go for it? It’s a one in a million shot.

Here’s a compact car for $18,000. Here’s a hybrid compact car for $23,000. Here’s a Nissan Leaf, at $32,000. Ok, we’ll subsidize it to $25,000. It’s cool. It’s electric. It also only goes 100 miles on a charge. Is this going to go?

There IS a fringe element of a few THOUSAND people who desperately want to go green and be cool and can’t afford either. They spend most of their time whining about how OTHERS should spend their money on green, as a kind of annoying horsefly in the face hobby. I would expect them to buy the Nissan Leaf to finally scratch the itch. So they’ll also sell 10,000.

The difference is that Nissan is a huge company gearing up to sell hundreds of thousands of these. Tesla is a startup without a chance who has thus far sold 1500 cars. 10,000 for Tesla is a huge win. 10,000 for Nissan is a HUGE loser. An enormous loser. The press will pick up on it and start parodying the “death of the electric car” again. They’ll interview disatisfied stranded Leaf owners on camera.

One example greatly furthers the cause. The other example damages it extremely.

NEver mind GM trying to horn in with a 37 mpg hybrid that they insist is an electric car WHILE requiring gasoline in the tank to even start the vehicle. Understand that with a fully charged pack, you don’t move without a tank of gasoline in a Volt. Not a foot. Interlocked.

The difference is the recognition of reality and where we are on the adoption curve for electric cars. Actually, there is an enormous opportunity here for any one of you with the guts to play. But it involves unique custom cars that are powerfully electric, done to the highest professional standards, and offered to interested early adopters that can afford them.

EVERY effort in that area assists the move up the S curve. Attempts to defeat or circumvent this curve actually can be harmful. And badly done hobby lead acid vehicles are a sure sign we’re not ready for prime time.

Meanwhile, the forces converge with less and less oil, more and more cars, and a very loudly clicking clock….

In this episode, we talk about first impressions with the Rinehart Motion Systems AC inverter/controller that we are using to replace the TIMS600 in the 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman.

Our mini cooper tear down is very interesting. We found a LOT of interesting problems in this tear down that we didn’t even know we had. The right side mount was torn, the clutch was burned, and most impressively the coupler shaft was actually twisted.

I’m trying to puzzle through the forces at play here. The most we could have conceivably applied in this car was about 365 amps at 335-340 volts. That cannot be over 125 kw or 167 hp. So how can we cause an engaged clutch disk to slip so badly it scorches the disk? And twist about a 5/8 inch 4045 tool steel machined shaft that is only two inches long?

The thing that has bitten me in electronics all my life is what I call the “time zone”. Trons live in a different one than I do. I picture everything in people time. That’s not where electrical devices live.

Let’s take a 400 hp internal combustion engine. The 400 horsepower is at 3600 rpm, more or less depending on the engine. How long a time frame is required to step on the gas pedal and make 400 hp actually happen to the drive train? Well, the valve in the carburator has to physically open, more gasoline and air have to enter the chanber and vaporize, and that has to pump into the engine. With each detonation and valve action, a greater “gulp” of this mixture is achieved and the rpm rises. I would guess the “delay” from flooring the pedal to 400 hp would be 700 or 800 milliseconds unloaded, and actually through the drive train it could be a couple or three seconds.

Electric motors are different. RPM is different. First, higher RPMS means more cooling air. That’s a good thing. At some point, higher RPM means increased counter electro motive force, decreasing torque – typically at 3500 rpm or so. But at instant ONE, if we put the pedal to the metal, the controller will ramp up the current into that motor very quickly. In theory, you coudl ramp this up in 6 to 10 milliseconds and have the full 167 HP applied to that shaft that quickly.

In actual practice, there are actually software mapping to RESTRICT how quickly that current output builds. I would urge yhou to take advantage of it. Because in electrical time zone terms, you can apply ALL the horsepower in a relative RIGHT NOW fashion. And the drive trains are NOT designed for that.

Yes, we’re going to beef things up with a new stage 2 racing clutch and a much larger coupler. We’re going to beef up our mountings. But with the Rinehart, we’re also going to look for ways to slow down the action.

And this lesson will be particularly valuable in our ESCALADE PROJECT.
That’s simply awaiting our Jim Husted twin 11 inch series DC motors. These are capable of instantaneous 320kw power applications – 428 hp. We think the retention of the TORQUE CONVERTER is key, not for torque multiplication, but to slow down the application of power. We’re going to use SOliton1’s very easy to use ability to map the current/second rampup quite conservatively as well. This, to prevent the Husted/Netgain motors from throwing my freakin transmission and rear end out through the tailgate and into oncoming traffic….

Don’t think horsepower. Think horsepower per second. It matters….

Jack Rickard

58 thoughts on “The Perfect Storm”

  1. I think there are plenty of early adopters in the LEAF price range to make it a success. Nissan has already stopped taking pre-orders at 20K. Everyone who’s driven one seems to be quite impressed. At $25K with the Fed rebate and even less with some local rebates I think they’ll move quite well. One of the most common questions people ask me when I show them my Fiero is “Why aren’t automakers building EVs?” Then I tell them about the LEAF. There is a pent up demand for a decent EV at an affordable price. I think the LEAF will sell quite well.


  2. its interesting to follow your train of thought on the technology S curve.
    By the way, does the white zombie and other electric dragsters exhibit tendencies to warp their driveshafts?
    Would it make sense to employ electronic torque limiters to prevent overloading of drive trains designed for combustion engines? Especially when regen braking is employed, which also loads the drivetrain and may produce even more torque even more instantaneous than the powered electric motor?
    Have you checked the direction of your shafts warp? Due to acceleration or braking? (I haven’t seen the video yet).

  3. and to add a really wild guess, the short shafts eigenfrequency may correspond to some controller frequeny with resonating success employing the poor clutch as damper? Considering the difficulty of AC motor/controller combinations to find the correct direction at startup. Massive torque buildup may occur.(ok I have to get some sleep now…)

  4. Another great show. Re the Rinehart’s “brake-to-start:” Though auto-trans cars require you to press the brake before starting, cars with clutches require that you press that pedal before starting. So if the brake input is independent of regen, etc, why not use the clutch pedal’s switch instead of the brake pedal’s? You may even find a NC instead of NO switch there. Your Mini will then start normally. [If a true brake input is required because of other controller features, you may be able to use some simple diode logic to allow either pedal switch to signal the controller.]

    Oh, just to get EVers upset, I found a run of comments on the Volt on EE Times website (–What-s-the-big-deal-) that devolved into rationalizing that pure electric is not the correct solution because it’s no more efficient than ICE and we should all switch to diesel (and of course that there is probably a conspiracy). And this from readers of an electronics publication. I remember several months ago that you put this misconception to rest amongst your followers.

    Doug G.

  5. I know of many people that own, the Ford Ranger EV’s, and EV’s they built themselves will be buying the Leaf. The Leaf is going to satisfy many early adopters.
    Europe is getting a watered down warranty on the batteries for the Leaf and must pay much more than US citizens for the Leaf. The Leaf must be in more demand in Europe.
    Thanks for the reviews of the hardware going in and going out of the Mini.

  6. Well, it seems like we have a serious debate here. Will the Leaf “make it” or will it not…… and what does make it mean in real terms….

    It will be interesting to see. I think in two years, maybe a year and a half, youl’ll be seeing stories in the press panning the Leaf and the buyers that never materialized.

    Yes, there is an unfilled need among the population. I referred to them. THey’ll sell 10,000 quickly. THey might sell 20,000 pretty quickly. Their “orders” for 20K are a joke of course.

    ANd they’ve been very strange about the order process all along. But the buyers of Leaf’s are “early adopters” in the same sense that the Mini Cooper leasers were “pioneers” basically NOT. They want to view themselves that way of course.

    So my claim is they are going to have a very difficult time selling after the first blush, and I would put the first blush at 10,000-20,000 cars. After the initial rollout enthusiasm, I don’t see a market at all for this car. It will sop up the unfulfilled latent demand out there quickly, and after that it willl shrivel up and die. You guys feel otherwise.

    Remember this thread… it should be illustrative.


  7. I will say for the LEAF to be successful much beyond the initial run they will probably have to lower the cost and/or improve the range. My guess is for every 50 mile range increase you break the range anxiety barrier for increasing numbers of buyers.


  8. My position is that we are just not at the early mass market stage in this. It’s the wrong car at the wrong time. I went and looked at some very recent photos of the car. It’s just an ordinary compact car. Nobody is going to pay that for that, except a few like us who are desperately wanting an electric car. ANd you HAVE one JRP. So why would you want a leaf?

    It’s an early adopters market. The cars are going to be expensive so you need to bury the $15-20k component premium in a more expensive, more desirable car that will appeal to the better healed early adopters.

    Little compact cars with no more range than my Speedster aren’t the gig. My MINI is much better than this in all respects – except instrumentation.

    Well, actually, my Mini is broken at the moment….oh well….


  9. I don’t put any money on JD Powers. I remember 2 months after I bought my last Chevy (85).. I started getting their surveys in the mail, Which I quickly filed.. After about two, they started including a crisp dollar bill in each mailing. After receiving about 5 dollars, I received a call from a very indignant manager, who chastised me for accepting his money and not responding. He informed me that I was really messing up control sample… I told him I get paid 18 bucks a hour, and I will be happy to response after receiving 7 more envelopes. I then questioned the accuracy of his control samples based such little experience with the product. I (foolishly) recommend he could improve this by simply banking his money for few years, before sending the next 7. Funny how wrong I was, it only took about 6 months to understand why this would be my last Chevy. To bad he could wait… he might have bought a clue…

    Actually with the Tesla Roadster, 1500 cars that cost $150,000 ea, I think shows a heck of a demand and a strong initial production run from Tesla..… I would think the model S will have a lot better demand and only hope Tesla can simply deliver to that demand.

    But I still think an EV world, is still in for a hell of a fight… from Big Oil

    Did the FAA really write this last month? Or are they acting for Halliburton……/safo10017.pdf

    So we can’t have no Stinkin’ Li-Fo’s!

    Cause now, the FAA knows absolutely for sure, Li-Fo batteries spontaneously ignite.

    Hay, Even our good friend Jack, has, on at least two occasions, had this happen him… Even more serious, is the fact that on both occasions, no-one was really watching the batteries, at the time. And that makes Li-Fo’s even less trust worthy… Clearly, exhibiting behavior, consistent with Quantum Uncertainty Principle. So under no circumstances should they ever be placed in a closed container (shipping or otherwise) and especially not with the infamous mythical Schrödinger’s cat.

    Never mined the recent T-Alert issues in the News this week… The chance of the FAA retracting this, I suspect will be the last thing that Big Oil will allow to happen…
    But I have to admit, The pictures of the CCA’s they showed on the News this weekend? Did look a lot like a battery management device to me…

    Gee I’m thinking… it’s about time to get my reserved seating to a new movie…. What was that title? “Who killed the Li-Fo Battery?” Playing at theater near you…

    So please be sure to tell Brian, to start combing his hair in morning, and wearing a tie to work… You never know when a movie producer might be dropping by… And for God-sakes, don’t ever let Brian get his hands Dirty!…

    We have to keep in mind, with the simple micro-processor, a few clever innovators killed the major computer companies… ONLY, because the management at these companies, where too Damn busy working, to look up and see the BIG Steam-roller bearing down on them…

    I don’t think this going to happen with Big Oil.. Cause these bastards don’t have anything better to do, than sit around all day, watching for anything that even the remotely looks like a business threat…

    Call me a pessimist if you want. But, My glass is still half empty… But only because the water in it smells oily. And I’m not that thirsty… yet…

    But as long has we have Jack and crew at EVTV, I still have hope… Which may now lays in Jack’s old DC-3’s.
    Hey Jack, They’re Trans-Atlantic certified… Right? I’m starting to really understand the JR backwoods, whiskey drinking mentality…. You old Sly Fox… You saw this coming, didn’t you…

    Li_Fo’s ? We don’t need no Stinkin’ UPS!!! We Got Jack’s DC-3’s and Air Li-Fo!

    May you keep juice in your Bat, and the wind in your hair… GO EVTV GO!

  10. Jack,

    I remember thinking that the aluminum plate motor hanger thingymajig was a little thin and flimsy going in. Not surprised to see it coming out with a tear in it. Even though I would be one to build a beefy steel replacement, maybe you can convince them to look into some heavier gauge aluminum for future problems. Its a balancing act of volume-strength tradeoffs that I will be facing when I get into my truck too.

    My second topic is about the manufactures EV’s. Also consider that Ford will be in picture next year with the Focus and the Transit van. Is your projection of a flop for these cars at current Petroleum prices? I think (as mentioned) that their success will be completely dependent on what gallons are being sold at next fall. $4/gal will encourage buyers. If the price looks like a nice ramp function, the manufacturers might just get lucky.

    All I know is I’m not gonna wait and I can’t afford to be an early adopter (ignore my Tesla Stock, I also think they are the only ones doing it right) As soon as my school debt is gone next year something is getting converted.

  11. Generally, I think “adding lightness” is a good engineering principle and I’m also not a rigidity freak in a car. Clearly I overdid it. My spanking is that now I get a 28 year old kid to show me how to do it in massively heavy and already corroding steel. Some you lose…..

    Specialty vehicles such as the Transit Van are simply another kettle of fish. Fleets and businesses and universities and such have experimented with many elelctric and to some modest success over the years. I think with LiFeoPo4, we’re seeing much better and so more useful vehicles of this genre.

    A Ford Focus? Again gents, I may have it all wrong. Obviously I dont’ think so. These guys seem to be taking the BOTTOM of their line and adding electric so the ultimate price is not too high – and presenting it to the price sensitive end of the market.

    To ME, this is all wrong. I would take those expensive components and bury them in the cost of the TOP of the line, which is already expensive, and present that to those less price sensitive buyers at the top.

    In other words, not an S-10, an Escalade EXT.

    And yes, Chad. If you want an economical electric car, you kind of have to convert it yourself. We pay a REAL premium for the parts. But in saving labor we get the car we want, and at much lower price.

    That is what we’ve been advocating. Build your own. It has come to my attention that a large percentage of our viewership actually wants to do this for a living. Great. I know how to do that. And some few of them will succeed very well by doing a constant upgrade on a selected car until it become irresistable.

    Aside from that, I think the Tesla model works well. And the Nissan/GM model will serve poorly.

    Of course I could be wrong. We’ll see….

    Jack Rickard

  12. The problem with adding expensive components to an already expensive vehicle seems twofold. You narrow the number of potential customers even further and you are targeting an audience that is less likely to put up with a compromise in range that even the best EV’s still impose. The Roadster gets away with it through insane performance specs and a small target market. Your vision of $60 per gallon gas and a billion automobiles won’t be solved by a handful of high end niche builders. It needs to start now with LEAF/Focus type vehicles in volume or there is no chance. Even better something like the Solectria Sunrise which can get more from a given battery pack.
    Tesla did the work making EV’s cool, now they need to be brought to the masses. The middle class has proven they will pay extra for “green”, Prius sales reflect that. An odd looking small car that didn’t perform particularly well and cost more than similar vehicles, sold like hotcakes and created a genre. From what I’ve read the LEAF has the advantage of actually performing better than comparable models, which it should being a BEV.


  13. JRP

    Well the numbers rather clearly and emphatically indicate that the MASSES aren’t ready for them. And you stamping your little foot insisting that they should won’t do a thing.

    Technology adoption curves are not really a theory at this point. If you get enough early adopters suffering the indignities of early designs, and still thriving on them, that is HOW you eventually migrate to mass adoption.

    This isn’t my THEORY. It is what it is and has been with every technological introduction of my lifetime.

    That you personally WANT cheap electric cars doesn’t make them happen. It’s done through gradually building volume to achieve economies of scale.

    The early cell phones went through this. The iPhone went through it again, but at this point the early adopters were a little wider at $600 and everyone knew the utility of the cell phone.

    I don’t think that’s going to happen with a big ticket item like an automobile. It would be the first in the history of ever if it did.


  14. Mr. Rickard,

    I totally agree with you- for completely different reasons. The Tesla is a tremendous step forward. It is the only car that is a true competitor, although it fails miserably in price and functionality. The reason it’s a winner is that it uses the only lithium technology out there that has been around for a long time and is ultimately available right now in both new and used forms, without hoping and praying you will receive product based on the whim of the distributor. My electric junk will be powered with this kind of lithium soon for a few bucks(either that or you will see a news article describing a plasma ball explosion somewhere in Oklahoma-either way it will make for a good read). And as far as the Leaf, it will be swept under the rug as fast as Nissan is able to, once their 20,000 promised vehicles are rapidly bought up by astute investors (Like the Rav4EV, they will never lose value no matter how much abuse they receive). The only future I see for a mass produced EV is the NEW RAV4EV if Toyota ever releases it. I just don’t see a future in trying to convince a few rich people that EV’s are cool and hoping that they alone can drive the market. The biggest hurdle faced by EV’s is making Americans figure out how much they have driven every day for the last decade. I don’t know though, maybe they hate EV’s because they won’t have a reason to go to the gas station to buy sodas and lottery tickets anymore. Frankly, I hate the fact that I have to bring a spray bottle out to my car to wash the windshield since I don’t go to the gas station….

  15. Vpoppy:

    The point is not a high end vehicle for the well heeled. The point is an increasing number of vehicles sold to early adopters, better manufacturing funded by those early adopters, and kind of a staged entrance into the early levels of mass adoption. Tesla is doing this reasonably well. The $157,000 Roadster 2.5 is a little beyond MY reach. And they’ve sold 1500. At the stated $55,000 for a model S, they would do much better. Actually, I expect teh 300 mile version of that to come in about $75,000, but it will likely increase the prospective universe by 10 fold.

    If they could sell 15,000 Model S’s – we’re moving in the right direction.

    They might then differenetiate it a wee bit (beyond just range) for a $60K version, all while focusing on early adopters. But you see the trend.

    I like the Rav4. But again, I don’t get it. They should be doing this on the Lexus line, not the Toyota. The premium is much less as a percentage appealing to the upscale buyers. But I think the Tesla/Toyota combination is going to result in a bangup electric that actually will sell quite a few of those. The legacy of the original Rav-4 almost builds in a ready market for this car.

    Prius’s are struggling BADLY in the U.S. right now, down to about 145,000 units this year from a peak near 190,000. It’s kind of the same thing on a larger scale. The latent demand is fulfilled, and new blood in the Prius game is hard to come by. Oddly, haven’t heard of a soul put off by the recalls.

    I don’t mind doing the windshield at all. I LOVE not going to the gas station, sometimes for months.

    Jack Rickard

  16. Interesting…

    I see the possibilities much more fluidly than most here. I don’t think the merits of any of these vehicles is going to determine which one catches on- and when.

    On the merits, the Honda Insight was a winner. It was even sold at a big loss- its rumored Honda spent $35k on each of the first batch of cars that sold for $21k- but the car never caught on, and Honda quietly killed it and slapped the nameplate on a clone of the car that did catch on- the Toyota Prius. This kind of thing happens all the time in the auto industry.

    Automobile sales are a fickle and unpredictable thing. The Falcon sells weakly; the Mustang is a smash hit- same car. “Everyone” was clamoring for a “true European” car in the 1980s. Ford brings over the excellent Scorpio coupe and sedan, badged as Merkur, and they can’t give them away. The new Beetle outsells the technically superior Golf on which its based, outstripping demand. No, gents, the car business is much more dynamic and interesting than we are armchairing it to be.

    Carlos Ghosn is taking a gamble with the Leaf, yes, but it isn’t a crazy bet- its just maybe an early one. I think he’s 5 years early, not 12. The market could easily roar right up to him, too. That’s what he’s betting. The Transit Connect EV is a no-brainer. If Ford can just get a few thousand postal or fleet sales, the price of the civilian van could come down to where that crazy dragon of mass demand might maybe be aroused a little early. That’s the way this game is played- at its best by guys like John Z. DeLorean and Lee Iacocca, and not by JD Power analysts or B-school know-it-all profs who have a perfectly clear explanation of everything before and after the fact, but predict nothing accurately. Real “Car Men” lead the market (and their competitors) a little with the product, and then nudge the market ahead to meet them somehow. That’s how a car becomes a smash hit and changes the industry. Don’t discount the power or disruptive potential of all those illogical forces…

    Personally, I think the Volt is a dud mostly because GM is a dud, and it won’t sell because nobody wants a new-new-Nova II EV. Yeah, the car sucks, but the company sucks WAY WORSE, and that’s the bigger sales preventer in my view. The other cars mentioned do indeed have a hot spark’s chance to catch in a patch of dry tinder- at the right time under ideal market conditions- which is all the chance you ever really get in the auto industry with a new product- of any kind.

    Its a mature industry, and new products are rare, and major gambles. Its just so much easier to re-make the Camaro or the Bronco. The last new product was the hybrid. Before that, the SUV. Before that, the minivan. The market will only really shift toward one new product every decade or so. When the EV will break through no one can say, but it almost certainly will be the next new product, and I wouldn’t bet against its inevitable breakthrough for more than five years.


  17. I’d love to see it happen within five years Tom. It could, but it would need a nudge from the gasoline prices. If these numbers are correct, that could happen too.

    In a perfect world gasoline prices would march up gradually in keeping with the rise in the number of cars and its cost of production. A gradual increase would allow a gradual conversion. But we seem to be in an age of sudden drama. The home mortgage thing built over time, but suddenly i tbroke and everyone was busily marking to market in a flurry of paper activiity that brought the financial industry to the brink of an unholy meltdown. It is now cool to pooh-pooh that but Wachovia actually was having a run on the bank at the time. Lehman and Bear Stehrns did fail of course.

    I guess I agree with your take on the fickleness of the automotive market. I guess I would add that there IS a new kid in town. The automotive market is going to start to take on the characteristics of the consumer technology sector, largely because that is what it is becoming.

    Just read a thing on the Volt, six million lines of code and 103 multicontrollers in this one car. It’s a miracle it can move at all…..

    Jack Rickard

  18. What a show! NBC should be calling soon! “Hey Jack you are ruining our ratings”. Seriously I don’t watch TV, and we known that tuning out is a growing trend.

    let’s compare:

    EV car

    batts premium cost $15000.00
    electrons for 200000 miles cost $4000.00
    subtotal $19000.00
    credit for having 80% pack capacity left -$7500.00
    total $11500.00

    oil powered car

    fuel tank cost $free
    10,000 gallons of gas $30,000.00

    After driving your EV for 200,000 miles you should have 80% capacity left in the batteries and maybe 50%? of their $15000 premium say about $7,500. And @ 2 cents per mile for electric the fuel will cost you $4000.00

    Now compare to the gas car at $3.00/gal and 20 MPG. Over 200,000 miles. The cost of fuel is going to be…. get this $3 times ten thousand!! What! I thought the electric car was suposed to be more expensive but the oil powered car costs about 3 times as much as an EV!

    I just wonder if JDPower had to ask people if they would like to prepay for the $30,000.00 fuel bill what their survey would say.

    Battery leasing might solve the problem.

  19. Tom,
    I’m not sure I’d call the Honda Insight a winner in any respect. An odd looking 2 seat car with dangerously poor acceleration will never be a winner, the Prius was a much better car.


  20. Most of our cars are running about $8000 to $10,000 in batteries.

    The fuel tank is not precisely free.

    The gasoline cost is very variable. 200,000 miles at our national axerage of 14500 miles per year would indicate a little under 14 years of operation.

    It is unclear these batteries will last 14 years. My hope is they’ll be long obsolete by then and by year five, I can replace them with the 600 mile range model at a cost of $2200.

    Gasoline will certainly rise in cost over that time period, probably explosively. Electricity undoubtedly will too, though at a more metered rate I would hope.

    But such long term reasoning is a luxury mostly afforded those who can already afford whatever car they want. It is the lower cost cars and drivers that will suffer.

    Jack Rickard

  21. Jack,
    You make a good point about early adopters paying a premium. However, to make a comparison, the first big selling plasma TV’s weren’t $10,000 50 inch sets, (think Roadster), they were $3,000 30 inch sets, (think LEAF). People would see the $10,000 set in Best Buy but the majority went home with the $3,000 set.
    I think there is a market for the full spectrum of EV’s, Roadster to LEAF, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t significantly more volume near the LEAF end of the curve. GE just announced it will buy something like 20,000 EV’s and I’m pretty sure they’ll all be more LEAF like than Roadster/Model S.


  22. JRP

    Again, so much opinion, never any real basis for them in fact.

    Let’s take your example. I DID by a big screen Pioneer PLasma and WAS an early adopter. IT was $20,000. So they were NOT $3000 30 inch sets. Still hangs in my hangar at CGI if you want to look at it. Terrible picture now. They didn’t last at all. The screen started dissolving from the minute I got it installed.

    Today, I can get a MUCH better screen for $1200.

    Good example actually. If people hadn’t bought them at $20,000, we wouldn’t have them.

    You will indeed be surprised left and right. Of course there will be more volume at the LeAF end of the curve. But we have to GET to that end of the curve and we are not there now. That’s the gist of the conversation.

    You don’t get to SKIP to the end by wishing really really hard…

    Jack Rickard

  23. Right, essentially you bought the Roadster, (20K big screen), but the big sellers by volume were the LEAF, (3k not so big screen), a few years later. People have been buying Roadsters for two years now, I think it’s time for the LEAF, and others. Sure I could be wrong, but we know how rarely that happens.


  24. JRP3:

    The Insight didn’t fail because it was slow- too few people ever drove or seriously considered owning one for that to be the case. Its odd look was also one of the most admired and and talked about when it first came out. Not a winner “in any respect” isn’t right. Its still the all-time most fuel efficient production car ever sold, and it will be for some time.

    The Insight is a spectacular achievement- its so efficient at using gasoline that its REALLY hard to convert it to pure electric and improve its overall energy efficiency- hell, its really hard to convert it to a BEV at all. There isn’t enough weight to take out to convert it under the GVWR. At 67mpg, with the hypermilers breaking 100 using minor tweaks and good technique, nothing else can touch it. The cars had and still have owners who don’t think the slow acceleration is dangerous, and of course “odd looking” isn’t measurable and doesn’t determine success: the 1986 Taurus was odd looking, a huge gamble for Ford, and a runaway hit.

    My point about the car was that in all the press, technical and pubic buzz around the Insight, both the actual merits of the car and the expectations for it at its initial reception suggested it would usher in a new genre of hyper-efficient light cars in the US. Its just too easy an answer to now say that the car was unworthy and weird. It was and still is better than that. Something else happened, as it usually does with most new products, to render this stunning little wondercar ineffective in the marketplace.

    If the car had gone on sale the summer gasoline topped $4/gal, it might have had more success- or maybe if a TV show like Route 66 had been made around it, or Peter Maxx had painted 10 of them for Bono to give away in Africa, or the hip LA dance club crowd had started driving them, or God knows what might have actually kicked a car off into the hit zone of desirability.

    If the car had been a hit, its lackluster acceleration would have been deemed “all you really need, anyway,” and the odd looks would be “the original Insight- a classic- lots of cars look like that now,” and B-school first years would be told about in great detail the ways in which everyone associated with the car was very clever and- dare we say it- Insightful. That’s how the business works. Its fickle, and everybody who doesn’t do it thinks they understand exactly why it turns out the way it does.

    Like any natural system, the reality of it is a little more complex than that…


  25. One minor correction, the RAV4 EV used NiMH batteries; this battery, according to various studies, would’ve been ~$225/kWh in mass production during the 1990s(UC Davis quotes the $225/kWh, and “Evaluation of Electric Vehicle Production and Operating Costs” by Cuenca and Gaines references a similar figure for 20000 car per year volume). The RAV4EV used a 26 kWh pack. They have proven their longevity; Doug Korthof has personally documented a video of one turning more than 100000 miles on the odometer with the original decade old pack. Some examples have exceeded 150000 miles on the original pack, and these examples are still demonstrating 90%+ of the original range the SUV had stock.
    Long story short, an oil company was sold control of large format NiMH battery technology and it has been off the market ever since. You can try to built a pack out of much smaller cells, but it would be a pain in the ass to build a BMS for, NiMH do not take too well to being charged in parallel(lest one string goes into thermal runaway due to voltage drop at over 95% SOC), and it would be cost prohibitive to cobble together such a monstrosity due to the costs of the electronics. Some people have tried though, such as Reverend Gadget of Left Coast Conversions.

    This battery technology is what allowed the Solectria Sunrise to set a range record of 373 miles per charge during a Tour De sol rally. In 1996. It would have been a $20,000 car in mass production, could seat 4 adults, was NHTSA approved, and the major automakers wouldn’t touch it. To be fair, that range record was set with James Worden hypermiling it, and its real world range was ‘only’ 200-250 miles.

    We could have had a mass market EV on the road 15 years ago. The technology was there. It is still there today. Large format NiMH such as the Panasonic EV95 don’t even need a BMS.

    But that NiMH battery is history; LiFePO4 seems a superior technology, and economies of scale will bring the costs down more. Group buys of Thundersky LiFePO4 batteries are yielding costs of < $350/kWh, and the raw materials costs are very cheap, especially compared to nickel. It does need a BMS to be used to its full potential, but it does not need one for a functioning daily driver. The Nissan Leaf seems a bit of a disappointment; why spend all of that effort to build an EV, and then let the final outcome have aerodynamics that are about the same as an ‘average’ car? They could have the same highway range on two-thirds the battery pack if it had a 0.16 Cd, versus its current 0.28. Or, extend the range to 150 miles highway with the same pack for the same cost. Building an aerodynamic car that gets positive reviews from surveys is not rocket science, and the auto industry has done that many times before with various concepts. Solectria had the right idea. It’s a damn shame that they lacked the money to go anywhere, and had major players in the industry actively working against them. The pent up demand for an affordable EV is huge, at least without the $15,000 price premium. That price premium really shouldn’t exist, given where the technology currently is today, provided that the cars are produced in the same VOLUME as a gasoline car. Argonne National Laboratories once quoted $250/kWh for lithium cobalt batteries, if the cars that would use them were made in volume. Could you imagine a $13000 Tesla pack? Now imagine a streamlined midsize car twice as efficient constructed similarly to the Sunrise; you could halve the battery cost, get the same range, and the cost to make the car would start to resemble ‘affordable’. I think the Leaf will sell very well, despite its shortcomings and price; it could have been a much better car. People who want an EV or hybrid are less concerned about conforming to a set of bland styling cues ubiquitous in today’s automobiles than they are about the vehicle’s range and performance, and that is where I think the Leaf and Volt make their worst errors. Form follows function, NOT the other way around.

  26. “The pent up demand for an affordable EV is huge, at least without the $15,000 price premium.”

    I have seen no evidence to support this statement, including the number of Leaf deposits taken. What leads you to this conclusion?


  27. JOhn:

    I think you too have fallen a little under the spell of the “battery no one can have.” NiMH batteries are simply NOT the panacea that they are held to be by the “Who Killed the Electric Car” fanatics. I know a couple of guys with these batteries. They have half the energy to weight of LiFePo4 and they are VERY finicky to deal with. They have very low per cell voltages, although they ARE hardy and long lived.

    The rest of your “estimates based on volume production” apply to everything. Indeed, ALL electric cars would be MUCH less expensive to produce even counting the batteries than an ICE engine car. There are simply less parts in the car. They are inherently simpler devices. And would be easier to mass produce than what we’re doing now. By rights, an electric car should be LESS expensive.

    But we don’t HAVE mass production. Hence the discussion as to how to get there.

    There is some latent pent up demand for an electric vehicle. Most people do not want to build their own car, and I constantly have to remind our viewers that there ARE NO ELECTRIC CARS you can just go buy – aside from the Tesla. Everyone bemoans how expensive it is. And my reply goes directly to the standard adoption curve for all technologies and where we’re at on it – at this point, early adopter stage and that by “just barely”.

    The latent demand is probably a few thousand people at this point. I think somewhere THIS side of the 20,000 deposits, Nissan is going to run out of steam.

    On the early adopter end of the scale, here’s a car that looks like an Aston Martin Rapide with a 300 mile range and a $75,000 price. On the other hand, I can have a ratty little compact with a 100 mile range for $32,000. Which will they pick?

    I already know the answer. If they have the resources to BE an early adopter, they don’t have a great price sensitivity in this price range. Many many cars are $60,000-$75,000 and I mean fairly ordinary production vehicles, albeit trendy ones.

    Without mass production, we are stuck with a $15,000 to $20,000 premium. It is simply easier to bury that in a $75,000 car than it is at the lower end. In other words, I would be more likely to sell a $60,000 car for $75,000 than I could sell a $15,000 car for $30,000, which is precisely what Tesla and Nissan are doing respectively.

    Jack Rickard

  28. JRP.

    I’m with Tom on this one. The Honda Insight is a marvel. I’ve probably had 20 requests from viewers to do a conversion of one – kind of problematical but I’ve looked at it. It’s actually a remarkable car chassis.

    I’ve spoken with several owners. They can’t get enough of them – literally. They buy low mileage examples where they can find them, run them into the ground, and look for another.

    It’s actually one of those rare examples of exceptional design in and of itself. Again, when gasoline is cheap, Suburbans rule. As Tom does point out, the vagaries of the market are just what they are.

    And Tom, I had a total of FOUR Falcons in the sixties. Ok, one was a parts car. But still. THey got 20 mpg then. I filled one up from empty one day for $2.40. The two speed automatic was a horror. But it got me around very inexpensively. 170 cubic inches of terror.

    I’ve never owned a Mustang. Both brothers just loved them.


  29. One liter “Benzin” (gasoline) today at the gas station in germany = €1,40 Euro.
    That meens a gallone would be $7,42 Dollar.
    Three / four times the price in the US and the reason, why german cars need less than 1 gallon to drive 100 miles.

    The declining consumption of gasoline-engines is one of the reasons why electric cars are so difficult to sell in europe.
    Choosing between a “knobbly” Mitsubishi i-Miev and a smart Audi TT or variable VW Passat at the same price is not realy difficult for most of the people.

  30. A very interesting observation Michael. Another variable in the mix could be the increased efficiency of gasoline cars.

    This is going to require smaller lighter cars. We Americans like larger cars and of course the Ford F150. That means the use of lighter materials. We do have a mandated increase in fleet mileage to 35 mpg by 2015.

    This isn’t going to avoid the perfect storm, but it will increase the cost of the cars, and make them more efficient.

    I think electric cars are the ultimate answer. But you’ve pointed out another variable in the Perfect Storm.

    Jack Rickard

  31. Regarding my Insight comments, I was speaking to the sales volumes and why it wasn’t successful, not that it wasn’t a good vehicle. For a small two seat vehicle to be successful in sales it has to be a sports car, period, which the Insight certainly was not. If there was ever a slow two seat vehicle that had good sales volume in the last 30 years I’m not aware of it. I know Insight owners who love the car, but admit the acceleration can be problematic. Luckily BEV’s can have great efficiency as well as good acceleration when needed.
    Every vehicle is a set of compromises, include too many in one vehicle and your potential customer pool shrinks dramatically. The Insight had a number of compromises and did only one thing well, which was gas mileage. That alone was not enough, and won’t be until fuel costs are much higher.


  32. Well, OK Jack, the gas tank is not free. But it might as well be.

    So at 8-10G’s for batts the EV is about -1/5- the cost of driving a “Barbados tar” powered car. I was using the $15000.00 figure because JDPower was using it.

    I said this before, if you have a 100 mile range with the ability to recharge 2000 times that will move you 200,000 miles and it is unclear that the CAR will last that long.

    A six-hundred mile battery? for $2200? maybe 6 years.

    Tell me if this is right or not:

    I don’t think anyone has to suffer. You lease the batteries from the “gas” station. You will pay about $100.00/month for your $10,000.00 pack and that is $1,200.00/year. Let’s see, you drove 14,500 miles in that years time and so that is less than 10 cents a mile.(you really lease it per mile)

    The problem is the steep price of the batts.
    So lease them and the problem is solved. People will be able to afford them and at a lower price than at the gas pump. I thought at one time the Nissan Leaf was going to go with a battery lease. But I guess not now, maybe they do not really want to make the Leaf a success. (I need to adjust my aluminum hat). The car was going to be if I remember about 20G’s.

  33. I actually have a very nice TIG welder. Matt is only familiar with MIG and so I had to buy one of those as well. We don’t know how to TIG.

    I’m kind of looking around Cape for a TIG guy to come in and teach us now.


  34. JMS, leasing does not lower the cost of anything, it actually raises it. Leasing a vehicle always costs more in the long run than just buying it, it would do the same with batteries, probably why Nissan dropped the idea.


  35. JRP3, Yes it will raise the price overall.

    My aim was to shift the payment scheme so that you pay over time. and that this payment over time would be less than the price of going to the gas pump to buy gas as usual. I spend $50.00 every 300 miles for fuel every week. $200.000 a month would amortize a $20,000.00 loan easy.

    After thinking about it, just buy the EV car on a long term plan and the net result should be a lower total out of pocket overall.

    Am I wrong about this?

  36. Well, not to start this age-old debate, but:

    TIG is the gold standard of fusion welding, but its tricky to learn and do well, and in almost every case the extra effort isn’t worth the trouble. Yes, its required by the NHRA to certify a dragster chassis, but so what. Aircraft manufacturers that started off with TIG’d components actually switched to MIG because its faster and cheaper. You’ll also hear that you can only TIG 4130 steel alloys, and that you have to then heat-treat it, and again all of that is false, as aircraft manufacturers have been doing it for years. There’s as much religion and superstition in the welding world as in any other- its like a whole bunch of guys who learned what they know from each other, with very little verifiable information in their beliefs. No matter. The big stupid mantra, though, is “TIG is best.” Again, that’s just plain false.

    No one welding technique is either absolutely necessary or a superior choice per se in any application. Anyone who makes that claim doesn’t have enough experience welding. The choice of technique ultimately comes down to what you are comfortable with, and can produce quality welds with consistently. MIG is easier than most other techniques in this regard, particularly for the part-time and/or infrequent welder. Its really about where you’ve invested your time.

    Anyone who tells you you can learn to TIG in 20 hours isn’t planning on being responsible for your results. I have more than twice that much professional training in TIG, and I don’t do it often enough and am not comfortable enough with it to prefer it for anything I do. Its a knack, and it takes real time to get and maintain proficiency with it. And, it isn’t the necessarily ultimate fusion welding process.

    Some of the very best welding I’ve ever seen is on Eastern Bloc aircraft made years ago by men with fine-tipped oxy-acetylene rigs who did it all day, every day for years. The planes made in the Ukraine today are largely the same. Fantastic welds that look almost as good as a robotic TIG seam, but in fact they were done by a man with a torch. These welds have the advantage of not overheating the base metals like TIG can do, and are actually the very finest fusion joints for the application. The best TIG guys acknowledge this, and are just as awed by that work when they see it as most of us are by theirs. You don’t find it in this country because NO ONE here has the training or experience to weld like that.

    Anyway, I predict you’ll fool around with TIG for a few hours, but unless Matt has a lot of fabricating to do in the next two years and is determined to get good at it, he’ll just MIG everything after the novelty wears off. In automotive applications, that’s just fine. Get him a proper gas-shielded rig and dump that cheap flux-core set you have, which is a poor compromise for a MIG unit, and everyone will be happy with the results.

    Just my $.02,


  37. I had a friend that had only done MIG. In his first hour with TIG he made some good welds on Aluminum. For myself it was about 10 hours and I was making useful parts that have survived the stresses of racing to this day. TIG is not some high priesthood, jump in there and give it a try. It is harder, but you have more control of the process.

    FWIW, I am surprised how many welders will have gas, MIG, and TIG welders — each has its best use.

  38. TomA, please see the following market study:

    WITH limited range(< 100 miles), the market for EVs in just California alone, back in the early 2000s, was at least 150,000 vehicles per year. This number gets bigger when you include fleets; it would be even bigger still if the sales branch outside California. The vehicle platform most in demand for an EV is a 4-passenger sedan. Jack, the low per cell voltage isn’t much of an issue. An AC drive equipped 85 mph capable EV could easily be made using even only a 144V setup, if the car is designed for it. The EV1, a subcompact, and the RAV4 EV alike, could easily fit 300V+ packs of NiMH. The Ovonic batteries did have some issues, but Panasonic corrected them. Yes, they have half the energy per unit weight as LiFePO4, but the RAV4 EV could still do 100 miles on a charge with real world driving conditions, the EV1 150 miles range, the Honda EV+ 130 miles range, and the Solectria Sunrise 200-250 miles real world range, neither of which were overweight pig. With an equivalent weight in LiFePO4, you would double those ranges, making them competitive with gasoline even there. My GT6 could hypothetically have a 700 lb pack of NiMH, and get 150 miles range, while being less than 200 lbs over stock weight. The oilies and their actions to get large format NiMH off the market is historical fact. In all likelihood, this single move has set mass market EVs back by 10-15 years. That being said, LiFePO4 has now rendered them obsolete. We didn’t have affordable or potentially affordable LiFePO4 in the mid to late 1990s, but NiMH technology was ready. Times have changed and battery technology is even better. I’m well aware of the reasons behind chasing the $70,000 price range for low volume premium vehicles. If Tesla hand-built a Toyota Corolla knockoff and had to sell it at $100,000 to make a profit, they simply wouldn’t sell. That being said, there is nothing stopping the major automakers from mass producing an EV and getting the price down other than the degree that they are willing to do so and take a risk, and/or how adverse they are to the concept of EVs altogether. At least Nissan and Mitsubishi are trying, and I am of the opinion, that despite the limitations of these vehicles, they will succeed very well. 20,000 sales may be a flop for a big car company, but 150,000 sales or more probably wouldn’t be. I personally know acquaintances and family members that are drooling over a Leaf and wish they could afford one, even in spite of its range limitation and charge time! With regard to early adopters, there is nothing stopping the major automakers from chasing the boutique and ultra-premium market either; does it make sense that they can sell a Bugatti Veyron that costs more than what a MiG 22 fighter jet goes for on the Russian black market, yet somehow couldn’t sell an EV that would perform similarly for less than half the cost, like Keio University’s Eliica? Should the automakers not leapfrog production to the mass market, the very strategy you mention is the most sound approach, especially for the likes of Tesla or Beck, and they are doing just that. With regard to the Honda Insight, people have turbocharged them. They make nice little 0-60 mph in 7 second rockets with turbocharging, without the fuel economy being compromised under normal driving. John Wayland, builder of the “White Zombie”, has ridden in just such an Insight and wrote up a review of it many years ago. I can’t help but wonder why Honda didn’t think of this, as it would have allowed these cars to compete with the likes of the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxter, and perhaps command a commensurate price to recoup the vehicle R&D and manufacturing costs. The point about 2-seaters needing to compete with this segment is absolutely true, but there is no reason the Insight couldn’t have been built to do this without compromising its gas mileage, as people have modified them to that spec.

  39. John, I read the survey. I don’t believe it:

    “Almost one-third (29.2 percent) of those
    polled indicated they would be “likely” or “very likely” to acquire an EV as their next car purchase if that vehicle were priced close the same price as a gasoline vehicle.”

    “After being provided further information on
    EVs (both their limitations and benefits), purchase intent rose to more to 33.4 percent.”

    Those numbers are sky-high, and far different from JD Power’s research. Without any access to the data (what questions were asked, what information, and to whom) there’s no way to know what happened, or to validate the study. Note that these interest levels are at NO PREMIUM in price for an EV over a conventional car.

    Yes, there’s demand. The only way to find out how much is to put the cars in the dealerships. We shall see. No one in or around the auto industry thinks EVs will be anything like 1/3 of production for several decades. I’m on their side of that bet.

    BTW, buying a Mig 21 (Mig22?) is nothing. They might as well give it to you. Putting it in the air is the colossal expense…


  40. Anonymous:

    You’re right about TIG. Not a mystery and most professional welders have most of the equipment and techniques available. None I’ve seen are fusion welding sheet with the torch, though…

    The problem is this- after a couple weeks of training, I was pretty good at TIG, and could set up work the torch with sheet, tub and plate steel. Then I didn’t do it again for about 3 months. At that point, I’ve got to remember everything, find my fill rods, set up and I’m at least a half hours’ practice away from a nice bead, and if the job isn’t on the bench (like overhead underneath the car) forget it- I can MIG it reliably in one minute, so I don’t bother with TIG.

    If I were ordering up fabrication work, I’d probably specify TIG, but for myself, its a technique and set of tools I don’t use often enough to warrant. I sold it. I don’t weld aluminum, but if I did I might buy a TIG torch. For mild and even heat-treated steels, it isn’t necessary for me.



  41. I listened to a woe is me prediction on NPR Thursday about how there is no way we can be ready for when the oil runs out, which according to them will be around 2030. I like your idea of everyone switching one vehicle to electric, and seeing how the oil industry responds. I also don’t think that people give credit to the pocket book enough. Case in point.

    In April 2008 an avalanche wiped out the main power line coming into Juneau Alaska, our capital city. Our source of cheap hydro-electric power was unavailable. We had to switch to diesel generators, and our power bills went up from 10 cents to 55 cents per kWh. The community responded by conserving power. We reduced our power by a third, and we still have not gotten back to the levels prior to the avalanche almost three years later.

    I guess my point is that as the price of oil goes up, people will conserve or find other ways. If demand goes down, the price will follow too. Electric vehicles make sense. But they will not be successful until the price for batteries continues to drop to the point where it is cheaper for the average citizen to own and operate an electric car, than it is for him to own and operate a gas vehicle. Or until the PERCEPTION is that an electric car is as affordable as a gas car.

    Lets face it, we vote with our wallets. The president just found out that we won’t go for Cap and Trade, because we don’t want to pay for it. It can be a righteous cause, but I have to put gas in the tank, and meals on the table. I can skip a few mortgage payments, or evan a couple car payments, but I have to be able to get to and from work, and I have to eat.

  42. John:

    I agree up to a point. Actually I agree mostly with what you say, that IS how it works.

    Here’s my problem with it. There are two corollary factors that can/might shape outcomes.

    1. Timing
    2. Desire

    With regards to timing, as you noted in your example, you had a sudden situation and that was the immediate response to it. The nature of these things in our society is such that we rather “suddenly” come onto these little disasters. This is in large part due to the deterioration of our news reporting to the point of being nearly useless with regards to information.

    The recent financial debacle case in point. THe “mortgage” crises wasn’t a crises at all. It was a rather slowly emerging situation with too many loans made to too many people who never could afford them, with both the bank and the borrower betting on rising home prices to bail them out of bad decisions on both parts. As the game of musical charges wound down, we wound up with more and more mortgages looking less and less productive. The hedge fund pyramiding of all this paper brought all this to a few key pressure points. As the situation slowly grew evident, we SUDDENLY had a financial CRISIS that require action right now. Bad situation.

    SImilarly, all the forces are already in play with an explosion in the number of cars coinciding with a not really dramatically diminishing ability to find oil. As I said, the oil isn’t really the problem. It’s the cars.

    With all that on the table, there will be NO emergency, until there is a REAL emergency. And it will take quite a bit of time for “people to adjust” in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, while they’re all adjusting, the higher price of oil will be infiltrating the price of EVERYTHING simultaneously. It could very will trigger some massive economic crises.

    Bad dog. Bad.

    With regards to desire, we do NOT always vote with our pocket book. What’s the payback period on your color tv? How about your couch.

    Some things we buy just because we want them. I would rate an automobile purchase as our largest discretionary expense. We might get a house that’s a “little” more than we can quite afford, but that’s actually a common act with regards to cars. Cars are a daily part of our lives and indeed, part of our identity.

    In order for people to convert to electric BEFORE the emergency, and to get the early adopter thing rolling, we have to be talking about cars they WANT because they WANT them, not because they pay for themselves.

    Ultimately, in a purely per pound and per cost per part, an electric car ultimatley has to be 20% less expensive than a gasoline car. It simply has less system,s and those are simpler systems. But that is only when produced in similar numbers.

    To GET us there, we must rely on early adopters first, and then the more adventurous consumers. To do that, we have to be talkiing about desirable autos in and of themselves. Not compact economy cars. Aston Martin Rapide’s on trons.

    Jack Rickard

  43. One Blog stated that we wouldn’t have $1,200 big Screen TVs today, if it wasn’t for the guy’s (adopters – big word) who went out and purchased the early units for >$20,000.

    The fact is, no one would have had to pay that high of a price, if our stupid government had of kept its nose out of the domestic flat screen market protection business.

    For years a federal law prevented foreign producers of Flat Screen Displays from marketing their displays (above a certain size) in the US… This was done to protect the domestic producers. A product technology, that was initially pioneered in the US.

    And therefore, since there was no, “major US market”, the foreign, commercial producers, simply continued to produce CRT displays. It was the computer revolution and it’s demand for displays that drove the cost of CRT’s (TV’s) down to ridiculously low cost.

    The stupid part was our (US) domestic flat screen production, focused only on military uses of the display (i.e. Glass Cockpit). Since the military production was so lucrative. They never had any intention of producing displays for the commercial marker. Even if they had wanted to, there was no way they could compete with foreign CRT cost. And since this law, prevented domestic producers, from simply outsourcing the production of displays to foreign producers. And, then shipping them back, to be sold as a domestic product. The law in affect destroyed our own capabilities. Smart guys, our leaders in DC…

    It wasn’t until NAFTA killed this law, that foreign production really begin. The cost we paid, >$20,000 for big $800 of 19 inch, included the cost it took to retool the foreign companies over a short period of time. They in affect, had to build massive new plants. while leveling the old CRT plants. We are just now, seeing costs spikes associated to this, getting back to norms.

    Had this been able to evolve without this Stupid Law. The computer revolution would have easily created the demand and the capital, for the companies to retool as their demand and technology capacities increased. Added to this, was the fence sitting the FCC did for years with HD TV standards which also impacting HD (large screen) production costs.

    And with out this law… Maybe, just maybe, the US inventors, would now be the owners of the companies that produce them… Your right!… that last sentence was a stupid thought! Sorry… As I type this, sitting in front of 2, 24 inch LCD displays.

    Will we see this with Li-Fo Batteries, now the REP’s are back in? <<< JACK now adds 2-BITs here >>>>

    And what is all this talk about NiMH … Doesn’t anybody ever listen to JACK?.. There Is At Present, Only One Variable Battery For EV… Say it again SAM… Only this time don’t Slur… Li-Fo!!!!
    And like the Flat Panel Displays. Commercial production of Li-Fo’s, is and will always be… FOREIGN! So Live with it! Do you think they heard me in DC? You right! Only cause they don’t listen to us “WE THE PEOPLES”!..

    On a lighter note: I just saw where the Top 7 (NEW) Clunkers being sold in the US, are all domestic cars, Chrysler and GM’s… Luckily Ford didn’t make the grade this year. But only because Chrysler and GM together, have such broad selection (cover your eyes kids) Of Shit!
    Not to worry Ford. Next year the GM VOLT hits the market, and pushes you back another spot… So you don’t really need to improve Anything YET!…

    As once a died-hard GM Man… And, as an American… I can only hang my head in disgust and shame, as drive my 2 (JD Powers Top cost/quality rated) Toyota’s. As I rip the guts out of one of them, the 18 year old MR2 with it’s original factory fresh mirror paint, none the less, in preparation for Power by ELECTRONS!…

    Am I Mid-life-ing?… Damn Rights!.. Hay, I just did the math… It means I’ll live to be 120… The good news is, I get to drive an EV a little longer. And at that age, I won’t want to get more than 100 mile away from Anywhere, cause I won’t remember how to get back!

  44. Too perfect Howard. Just too perfect…

    As I’ve said, I have two great fears concerning the Chinese. The first is that they are going to take over and we all wind up working for them.

    Of course the second and greater fear is that they’ll take a close look at us, and decide NOT to take us over. THEN who do we work for?

    Jack Rickard

  45. Yes, and no. I agree, we need early adopters. Certainly as Howard said, the early adopters helped to drive down the cost of flat screens because everybody wanted one. That is the key, to get folks to WANT an electric car, we need to get them out where they can see them. Show them how cool they are, and make laps at the gas station smiling 🙂 But it is AS the price of the flat screen started going down that everyone got them. I know chicken or the egg. Market forces, the demand drove competition and that drove the price down. But you know, some people have Sony Bravia’s and some have Sharp. There will always be folks with fancy cars living in trailers, and those trailers have flat screens. But for the masses, they want the Perception that the car they are getting is a good deal. OR, the perception that the car they are getting is better than the Jones’s because it IS electric. The drive for WANTING to get the car with bling.

    Me, I am hoping to be one of those early adopters. But I have to convince the wife that it is a good idea to spend $12-16 grand on a car to convert it to electric when I could drive it with gasoline for a lot of miles with that same money. Lets see… well I don’t have to list the reasons, you know them. I will just show her your first video.

    Keep up the good work Jack. I often wonder where we would be ten year later if the CARB group had succeeded in getting and keeping all those electric cars on the road. And they were doing it for air quality, not energy savings or reducing our fuel consumption.

  46. Y’know, the adoption curve can be greatly influenced with government policy. The $7500 tax credit to an individual is something, but it isn’t going to put big fleets of OEM-produced EVs on the road.

    GE has made a bold move here to buy an EV fleet, but they are positioned like no other company to do that, and everyone else will need a nudge.

    If fleet vehicle operators got some government support (tax breaks) for using EV fleets, and the Postal Service and various government fleet operators made the change, the market would jump to life for these vehicles.

    There are so many applications like school buses that are just a natural fit (25 mile route, twice daily) for an EV, but for the existing economics and entrenched thinking.

    Fleet purchases and operations would drive down EV unit costs, improve the products, and establish market acceptance. Its such an obvious path to go down that it probably won’t happen…


  47. Jack, I’m with your apprehension about the role of the chinese in the next chapter of the automobile story.
    You have already understood the problem of millions of future car drivers and they don’t want to get in the same dependence of oil like we are.

    The next big player i guess will be BYD. While we consider and discuss how to change the game, the chinese are already out of the field and warm up.

    Look at the BYD e6 for example:
    What do you miss on this car? 186 mi range, 87mi top speed, 5 seats, about 1 hour fast load to fill up the battery.

    This car is already running as a taxi version in Shenzen to life test it.
    If this car comes to “us” at an acceptable price (and I guess it will) … good night John Boy 😉

  48. The adoption curve can be “influenced” by government policy and it can indeed be influenced by massive expenditure. The problem is, not by much for a lot of effort.

    Here’s an example of something that COULD be done and would likely be effective. Let’s say the government announced a $5.00 tax on gasoline. But they also announced they were going to phase it in over the next 25 years at $0.25 per gallon per year.

    This prevents sudden impacts to the economy, yet everyone KNOWs where the price of gasoline is going to go. This would gtreatly increase investment in the technologies, and for individuals in the cars.

    The BYD E6 looks very nice Michael. The specs are better, but the Leaf could get better as well. It’s still a little compact car, and of course the photos always make it look much larger.

    In the formative stage of an industry, almost anything anyone does is contributory. I don’t see disaster with the Leaf. There will be some negative press, but meantime, there will be 15000 or 20000 Leaf owners out there driving and showing the car. This will increase public awarenesss and the availability of quick charge ChaDEMo style charging stations. It’s not all bad.

    BYD is kind of fascinating. They are somewhat like Arnold Swartzenneger in THE TERMINATOR. They just keep coming. This guy hires the top half of the engineering graduates from the entire country. He then sends them to HIS school and washes out 3/4 of them. The rest go to the BYD Campus where they all work 100 hours per week for about $600 per month. BUT they get free medical care, housing, utilities, and I think food.

    He’s got 10,000 of the top engineering youth in China in a building working their ass off day and night and they compete mightily for the chance to be there.

    Disclosure: I own about 100,000 shares of BYD.

    Warren Bufffet does too.

    Jack Rickard

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights