The Myth of the Forbes Article: The Myth of the Electric CarThursday, March 19th 2009 @ 8:46 AM
Once again, Forbes.com's columnist Jerry Flint publishes an article that causes readers to raise doubts on the practicality of the electric car. Like his other articles, this article is well written and entertaining. Unfortunately, the assumptions made by Mr. Flint are way off base and his lack of understanding for both the electric vehicle industry and the associated technology are more than apparent by those in the industry.
He begins by telling a story about his time with the Wall Street Journal back in the 60's. The bottom line was the Ford VP at the time told him that their 10 year plan for the electric car was a running target, and was always 10 years away. Very funny, and most likely very true.
Now that the author has your attention and your trust by telling you a personal story that makes you smile, he goes for the kill.
It takes three minutes to refuel a car today, and refueling stations are everywhere. It takes all night to recharge an e-car, and there really aren't any recharging stations around. Building them would be an enormously costly program.
The "recharging station" he is referring to is your HOME. Well actually there are a few of these around, about 120 million compared to the 120,000 or so gas stations in the US. As for building public recharging stations, according to recharging infrastructure leaders, the cost for a charging station can vary between $1000-$5000 per station depending on location, current electrical infrastucture and features of the charging station. At an average of $2500 per station (let's say two units per station), it would cost about $600 million to build a nationwide charging infrastructure. That is how much the US spends on oil imports in 46 HOURS. Mr. Flint, do you still think building such an infrastucture would be "enormously costly"?
The chief of advanced engineering at Daimler says talk of recharging in minutes are fantasies and would ruin the lifetime of the batteries. He thinks two hours, an hour and a half at minimum. Of course, what does he know, right?
It is not what he knows it's what he doesn't know. No disrespect to one automaker's one engineer, but there are literally dozens of very respectable firms working on this technology (that we know of). While Daimler is convinced it can't be done, other firms are working on how it can be done.
"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility." -- Lee DeForest, inventor.
As for cost, none want to say what they are paying for batteries.
Exact costs aren't given because they change so rapidly and many are estimated based on production estimates. GM says VOLT's first generation batteries will cost them "hundreds less than 1k per kwh", and Tesla recently estimated their 56kwh system (240miles range) at $35k. There is no conspricy here, just variable costs.
But replacing them [batteries] is always going to cost more than an oil change, believe me.
Ya think? This is like saying replacing the septic system in your house will always cost more than vacuuming your rug. Another bad analogy. Replacing the batteries in your EV (GM VOLT for example guarantees these batteries for 10 years) is more analogous to the cost of gasoline over the life of the batteries.
And the range is tied to the number of batteries. E-car believers think a 40-mile range is enough, but who would pay $30,000 for a car with a 40-mile range?
Honesty, I have no idea where he is getting these numbers. A 40 mile range will take care of more than 70% of the average American's daily driving. I am guessing he is referring to the Chevy VOLT here since it has a 40 mile all electric range, and after tax credits will be about $30k for first generation, second gen significantly cheaper. But, man, did he leave out a very important fact... the VOLT is a extended range electric vehicle (EREV) meaning it has a small gas tank to extend the range similar to most cars today. So he should pose the question "Who would pay $30,000 for a car with a several hundred mile range -- the first 40-miles all electric?". The answer, "I'll take one!"
As for his closing statement:
But most of the cars built in the world--the overwhelming majority--will be run on internal combustion engines, gasoline or diesel, for many decades.
I will let some very bright people respond to that...
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
"With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." -- Business Week, August 2, 1968.
If you doubt me, just remember the Arjay straight eight.
Sorry Mr. Flint, I don't doubt you, just your beleifs, opinions, and conclusions.
Bo Bennett, Host of the EVcast
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