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Electric Cars for 2010

By John Addison (6/4/08). With oil prices rocketing past $130 per barrel, a growing number of vehicle makers are planning to offer electric vehicles by 2010. Zero gasoline will be used.

Over 40,000 electric vehicles (EV) are currently used in the United States. Most are used in fleet applications, from maintenance to checking parking meters; these EVs are mostly limited to 25 mph speed and 20 mile range. A growing number of fleet EVs, however, are early trails of a new generation of freeway-speed EVs that will be available to the mass consumer market in 2010.

Mitsubishi is on target to sell its electric vehicle in the U.S. in 2010. The i-EV is a friendly looking sub-compact which easily handles freeway speeds. It’s expected 100 mile-plus range per charge will meet the needs of urban dwellers and most in suburbia. The drive system uses three permanent magnetic synchronous motors which receive power from a 16kWh lithium battery stack. Tokyo Electric Power is currently testing ten i-EV

Nissan’s and Renault’s famous CEO, Carlos Ghosn, plans to be selling electric vehicles in the U.S. market in 2010. He anticipates more cities following London’s model of expensive congestion fees, with fee exemptions and preferred parking for zero-emission vehicles. In many markets, Nissan will offer electric vehicles with permanently installed lithium batteries that will be trickle charged. Nissan owns 51% of Automotive Energy Supply Corporation, which plans to be producing lithium batteries for 10,000 vehicles annually by 2010. Plant expansion has begun to produce lithium batteries for 60,000 electric vehicles annually.

By 2012, Ghosn plans to have a Renault-Nissan alliance offering a wide range of electric vehicles in many major markets, charging ahead of all competition. Economist Article

In Israel and Denmark, Renault and Nissan will partner with Project Better Place. to sell electric vehicles without batteries. Project Better Place will lease batteries that can be quickly exchanged at many locations. The exchange will take no longer than a traditional gasoline fill-up, appealing to motorists needing extended range. The battery lease will cost a fraction of what most now spend on gasoline.

Popular in Europe, Think will bring its electric vehicle to the U.S. Think city reaches a top speed of 65 miles per hour and can drive up to 110 miles on a single charge. Think city meets all European and US federal motor vehicle safety requirements. At the Geneva Motorshow earlier this year, Think announced a strategic partnership with energy giant General Electric, also an investor in Think. By 2011 look for a larger TH!NK Ox. Think has also established partnerships in the US with battery suppliers A123 and EnerDel. Think has established a U.S. headquarters and will begin sales in the U.S. before 2010. A123 Technology Review Article

In 2009, the smart ev may be available in the U.S. The cars 70/70 specs are appealing for city drivers: 70 mile range, 70 mile per hour freeway speed. Daimler’s smart ev is in trail in the UK with the Energy Saving Trust, Islington and Coventry Councils, Lloyds Pharmacy, EDF Energy, BT, and other fleets. To achieve a range of 72 miles, it is using the Zebra sodium-nickel-chloride battery which has caused maintenance difficulties in some U.S. fleets.

The cityZENN is planned for a top speed of 80 mph and a range of 250 miles. Powered by EEStor barium-titanate ceramic ultracapacitors, the cityZENN will be rechargeable in less than 5 minutes! Venture capitalists are betting that stealth EEStor is real. On Friday, May 30, ZENN Motor Company announced that it had raised another $15 million dollars.

Most major auto makers continue to believe that most U.S. customers will insist on ranges exceeding 250 miles and a national infrastructure of fuel refilling (or recharging) in five minutes. Even as GM announces factory closings and plummeting sales, CEO Richard Wagner states that GM is committed to bring the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt to market by the end of 2010. If it can deliver at under $30,000, the vehicle will offer tough competition to some of the smaller EV players.

As Toyota solidifies its number one global market share leadership, it also remains on target to deliver a plug-in hybrid to the U.S. market by the end of 2010. It is likely to have an all-electric range of 40 miles and a gasoline range 10X that amount. Watch Toyota use an expanded line of hybrid vehicles to unset GM, making Toyota the market leader is the U.S.

May rained on every auto maker’s parade in the U.S., except Honda, which set sales records with its fuel efficient Civic. Honda is passing Chrysler to become the #4 seller in the U.S. Honda is rumored to be bringing a new hybrid to the U.S. next year priced in the mid-teens. This will give hybrids a big boost in market share from the current 3% of total vehicle sales.

While I was giving a speech at the Fuel Cell 2008 , Honda announced that it would lease 200 Clarity FCX hydrogen fuel cell cars for $600 per month, including maintenance. In June, it will start selecting from 50,000 who have expressed interest in the 270-mile range four-door sedan. The FCX Clarity is aerodynamic and beautifully styled. Honda’s new hybrid is likely to have a similar body style.

Some critics have dismissed electric vehicles as golf carts for retirees and sport car toys for millionaires. These critics have missed a fundamental market shift that started with the success of hybrid-electric cars, light electric vehicles, and with e-scooters. Customer enthusiasm for electric vehicles is the result of many factors:

  • Oil Prices
  • ZEV Cities & Congestion Tax
  • Electronic drive simplifies auto design
  • Vehicle weight reduction with electric accessories and components
  • Reduced maintenance because of few mechanical components
  • GHG Regulation
  • Battery technology advances that reduce cost and weight
  • Increased battery safety
  • Success of hybrid-electrics

At the FRA Renewable Energy Investor Conference (my presentation handouts), I led a panel discussion about electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Major private equity and project finance investors were optimistic in sessions about electric vehicles, solar power, wind power, and carbon trading. Many expressed discouragement in the biofuels sessions, but at the same time saw increased opportunities with bioenergy and bio-methane from landfills.

In a few years, millions will be driving full-featured freeway-speed four-door sedan electric vehicles. Look for a shift away from foreign oil to riding on local renewable energy.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at transportation and energy conferences.