Posts Tagged ‘EV’

So on my last blog post, I might have been a little harsh in criticizing Tesla. I’m always the first one to admit when I’m wrong, and I have to give the automaker props for achieving success in an extremely competitive market. In my defense though, I did say that 2013 would be a ‘make or break’ year for them, and I’m leaning toward this year being a ‘make’ year for Tesla. 

There are three really good reasons why Tesla deserves kudos for a job well done, aside from the obvious, which is to say that not many car ‘start-ups’ historically have even survived as long as Tesla has. First off, they have managed to make a really good car, even if you ignore the fact that the model S represents a total deviation from the norm since it does not run on an internal combustion engine. Consumer Reports gave the model S a 99 out of  a 100 score, which is incredibly difficult. It also won Motor Trend magazine’s 2013 car of the year award. And if you have ever seen one up close, you can tell right away that the body lines are sleek and streamlined, and that it’s obviously a luxury sedan, and looks very well made. 

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The second thing that Tesla has done right is living up to it’s corporate guidance, in other words, when the company says it will produce 2,000 cars a month, pay back the Department of Energy loan early and achieve profitability, and then actually does those things, it’s no wonder the company stock has more than doubled this year. Investors like companies that do what they say they are going to do, because it makes them feel more secure about their investment, and it’s not easy to accurately predict the future, but not impossible if the company is managed well. But the third thing that Tesla has going for it is the smart entrepreneur that’s leading the charge. CEO Elon Musk is obviously no dummy, and I find it interesting that in all the recent accolades given to Tesla and what the company has been doing right, I don’t always hear that the guy in charge is largely in part the reason for the company’s success. 

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It’s sad that other companies like Coda Automotive have failed, and Nissan hasn’t quite lived up to its expectations in Leaf sales, but love it or hate it, the electric car is not going away. It still comes down to the cost of batteries in my opinion, which is partly why I think Tesla has done well. They didn’t bother trying to produce a low-end car that ultimately would have been too expensive anyway (because batteries just aren’t cheap), which is what Coda did. Instead, they made a really nice car to compete with the luxury sedan market, and have actually outsold the Mercedes S class and BMW 7 series models. Yes, they’re still a small fish in a big pond, but you know what, I think they’re doing pretty good with all things considered. 

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There’s no doubt that electric cars are making a comeback, and while new technology has made them more efficient with longer range capabilities, nothing has changed about the fact that once batteries are dead, it takes time to recharge them.

Electric cars can typically take about ten hours to recharge with a standard outlet, or if you have the $2K to upgrade to a 240 volt charger-what is typically used to power electric clothes dryers-then the charge time is reduced to about 3 hours. The latest and greatest technology for recharging EVs is called ‘Level 3’ and uses a 480 volt system. It boasts a recharge time of 80% capacity in only 30 minutes, only problem is, the special wiring upgrade is in the neighborhood of $50K.

So the big question is, what do you do if you’re driving home and your EV dies?  Not surprising, AAA has recently come out with new trucks equipped to rescue your battery drained EV.  Their new tow trucks are equipped with a 4.5 kWh lithium-ion battery on board that can give a standard electric car anywhere between 15 and 3 miles of power, depending on the type of charger your car has.

AAA will deploy the trucks with mobile electric vehicle charging capacity in six metropolitan areas across the US as a pilot program including San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Knoxville and the Tampa Bay area. AAA estimates that there will be 1.2 million EVs on US roads by 2015. On a personal note, if oil companies were smart, they would start adding recharge stations to their existing gas station infrastructure across the country. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt that an electric car, or very efficient hybrid car, is automakers big revenue race, that is to say, they will be competing to one up each other with a better, cheaper fuel efficient car. If oil companies ignore this fact, they could be like the next saddle makers before everyone starting owning a car instead of a horse. You watch, it WILL happen.

So the car industry is finally starting to go ‘green’ –well, it’s about time!

It should come as no surprise that gas prices once again are sky rocketing, and the sting that drivers are feeling at the pumps couldn’t have come at a worse time given the state of our struggling economy. With technological improvements making batteries more powerful and longer lasting, along with more efficient hybrid drive systems, the market has finally hit the prime time.

Ok, so hybrids and the brand new, pure-electric Nissan Leaf and lets not forget the all-electric Tesla roadster are still fairly expensive(a dealer in Santa Cruz listed a new Leaf at $40K) prices will eventually fall as the market matures, and depending on the specific vehicle and region where you live there are tax incentives-although many expired in December 2010. When the Toyota Prius was first introduced worldwide in 2001, the list price was $20K, adjusted for inflation, that would be about $25K today. Right now, you can buy a brand new Prius for anywhere between $23K and $28K, but with much improved fuel efficiency compared to the first generation cars.

Of course now, the Toyota Prius is not the only Hybrid you can buy. Here is a very short list of some of the models that are currently available:

Chevy Volt

Nissan Altima

Toyota Camry

Toyota Highlander

Honda Civic

Hyundai Sonnata

Ford Escape

Lexus 450H

Lexus CT

Mercury Milan

Porsche Cayenne

Chevy Silverado

GMC Sierra

Dodge Durango Hemi-Hybrid

With all of these hybrid cars available, you have to wonder how do you determine which are truly ‘green’. In my opinion, a green car is one that leaves the smallest carbon footprint, or the one that gets the best gas mileage-because that would mean it’s burning less fuel. Of course it also has to make financial sense, otherwise no one would buy them. I say this because you can buy a new Hyundai Accent for less than $15K, and it gets about 30 mpg-not bad for something that cheap and it’s fuel economy is only slightly less than the new Toyota Camry hybrid, which costs at least $10K more. I remember when the Prius was new there was a lot of criticism about how in the long run, a cheap, fuel efficient car would save you more money, so why buy the hybrid? Well, it now depends on which hybrid you buy-and of course with rising fuel prices, pricey hybrids are no longer, well, pricey. For less than $28K and a fuel economy rating of about 50mpg, the new Toyota Prius is an excellent choice. The new Chevy Volt is estimated to get around 60mpg-depending on who you ask, not bad, but it’s not cheap at $41K. Of course, the increasing price of fuel is making even the more expensive hybrids look like a good deal.

At the forefront of this effort is the Nissan Leaf: an all-electric car with a list price of around $30K, but like I said earlier, they are selling at a premium because it’s new and in demand-try close to $40K. Now I realize that the electric car is far from new, in fact they have been around for more than 100 years, and about 12 years ago, it seemed as though drivers would finally get the chance to own an electric car.

Just a quick history lesson in electric cars, in the more recent past, General Motors came out with the EV-1 in 1999, Toyota had the electric Rav4 SUV in 1998, Ford had an electric Ranger pickup, and Honda had an electric car as well. What happened to them you ask? Without going into too much detail, check out the documentary called ‘Who killed the Electric Car’-it explains it very well. Lets also not forget that electric cars were being produced here in the US as early as 1907-yeah, that’s correct, more than 100 years ago. The Detroit Electric Car Co. was making electric cars in the early 1900’s-there’s one on display at the History San Jose museum. The company’s peak production was between 1911 and 1920-mostly because of a fuel shortage during WWI.

With the current market for electric cars being in high demand and limited supply, any smart entrepreneur would want to take advantage of that, so in a sense, the electric car will rise again not because of a crusade to save the planet, but to make money, pure and simple. Of course, the all-electric car is not the only way auto manufactures are looking to cash in on the current market for more fuel-efficient cars, but more on that with my next blog post.