A group of large corporations, including utilities and an international delivery company, launched a global campaign today to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles and away from gas- and diesel-powered transportation—which generates almost a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and has been the fastest growing emissions source.
Since more than half of the cars on the road belong to companies, the new EV100 coalition could have a major impact. It aims to do for EVs and electric car charging infrastructure what coalitions such as the RE100 are already doing to encourage corporate purchasing of clean energy (and thus motivating development of new solar and wind power).
EV100’s goal is to send a signal to automakers that there is mass demand for electric vehicles before 2030, when current forecasts suggest global uptake will start to really ramp up.
“We want to make electric transport the normal,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO for The Climate Group, the international nonprofit spearheading the effort…
Despite the high levels of excitement surrounding electric vehicles, there is reason to worry about this nascent market’s capacity to fizzle in a big way. Most of the buzz surrounds electric vehicle introductions from major automakers, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, for which consumer demand remains to be demonstrated. Today I’ve got a piece running at MIT’s TechReview.com site raising doubts about the likelihood that corporate fleets will soak up EVs if consumers leave these pricey machines languishing on showroom floors.
The TechReview story, a ‘news-you-can-use’ piece aimed at managers, concludes that big price reductions and adjustments to fleet management practices will be needed to make a business case for replacing gasoline and diesel fleet vehicles with EVs. In short, lithium battery costs push the purchase price too high for most corporate buyers to recoup their investment through efficiencies — especially if they continue to replace vehicles every three-to-five years. AT&T predicts a return on electric Ford/Azure Dynamics service trucks they are phasing in, but only because the company bucks standard fleet practice and uses its fleet vehicles for 10-12 years. Continue reading →
Carmakers have been toying with a novel marketing strategy to take the sting off the electric vehicle’s punishing price premium: selling EVs batteries-not-included. The idea is to lease the lithium batteries separately, shaving a third or more of an EV’s $30,000-plus package cost. Nissan poured some cold water on the idea last week but EV observers think the idea is just getting started, even for Nissan.
Nissan thinks car buyers are ready for its LEAF EV (see teaser ad above) but not for battery leasing. It closed out a pre-sale national tour of the LEAF with news that the compact will be sold or leased as a complete package. As I blogged for Energywise last month, the package includes installation of a home battery charger. Now we know buyers will own the battery too. “Based on the data we have, consumers prefer to buy the full car with batteries,” Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares told the New York Times.
Greentech Media’s Michael Kanellos calls leasing a “conceptual leap” too far: “Imagine if you went to a car dealer today and they offered to sell you the car and lease the engine.” But his analogy may be missing a cog, if one considers the comparative cost of charging an EV versus fueling that internal combustion engine. Per mile, charging the EV will cost roughly a third the cost of gasing up. Imagine if you went to a car dealer and they proposed selling you five years’ worth of fuel up front! Continue reading →
Nissan doesn’t plan to leave buyers of its battery-powered LEAF sedan, which goes on sale in December, to their own devices when it comes to vehicle charging. Nissan will offer a home-charging program to LEAF buyers which will start with an electrician visiting the buyer’s home to, among other things, check the quality of their electrical service, according to an announcement this week at the Detroit Auto Show.
Electric vehicle enthusiasts may poo-poo the practical and technical challenges posed by home-vehicle charging — witness the hostile comments to my coverage of concerns voiced by California such as PG&E and Southern California Edison that clusters of EVs could burn out block-level power circuits (see “Speed Bumps Ahead for Electric Vehicle Charging”). But Nissan, like the utilities, is leaving nothing to chance.
The idea is to make sure that infrastructure-induced challenges don’t detract from the on-street excitement of driving an EV, according to a Nissan spokesperson quoted in a BNET post from the Detroit show today by New York Times clean-car blogger Jim Motavalli:
“We didn’t want to say, ‘Here’s your car, now you’re on your own.”
— Mark Perry, a Nissan spokesman handling the Leaf introduction
The solar roof that Toyota is offering as an option on its next-gen Prius hybrid sedean is even less efficaceous than expected, according to specialty publication EVWorld. The solar panels, reports EVWorld, will add not a nanowatt of charge to drive the Prius.
Technology Review looked at the potential impact of a solar roof on the Prius last summer when rumors of Toyota’s plans first emerged. The clear conclusion of the experts: Keep solar panels on rooftops, where they can be tilted towards the sun for maximum efficiency and multiplied to provide the kilowatts of power it takes to drive a car. A solar rooftop would be just a “marketing gimmick” said Andrew Frank, a plug-in hybrid pioneer at the University of California, Davis, and chief technology officer for UC-Davis hybrid-vehicle spinoff Efficient Drivetrains.
Toyota, it turns out, won’t even bother plugging its solar rooftop panel into the 2010 Prius’ nickel-metal hydride battery.
Pragmatism continued Tuesday on day two of the Geneva Motor Show, as automakers more displayed creative means of developing electric vehicles (EVs) in spite of an industry-wide cash crunch. Monday it was PSA Peugeot Citroën unveiling a nascent partnership with Mitsubishi to craft a Peugeot version of the i-MiEV, the battery-powered micro-car that Mitsubishi is preparing to launch in Japan this summer. Yesterday it was Ford Motor and India’s Tata Motors showing EVs they can push to market quick by literally swapping the engine and fuel tank out of petroleum-powered vehicles and popping in batteries and electric motors.
If batteries aren’t yet up to the task of electrifying the family beater, why not shrink the beater? French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën kicked off the Geneva Motor Show this morning announcing it was joining an accelerating embrace of this logic. The Paris-based manufacturer revealed this morning that it is pursuing a deal with Mitsubishi Motor to develop a compact Peugeot for sale in Europe next year based on Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, the 100-mile-range commuter car Mitsubishi plans to roll out in Japan this summer.