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A Bad Week for Electric Vehicles

It’s not quite clear whether makers of all-electric passenger vehicles need upgraded batteries or upgraded customers. Maybe both.

Cute but rare? Toyota’s eQ, all electric vehicle. Credit:Toyota

Improved technology might bring cheaper batteries with extended range and a longer useful lifespan. But firms like Nissan might also benefit from customers that don’t mind paying a lot and aren’t suffering from “range anxiety.”

Certainly, it is easier for automakers to change their strategy than to invent the perfect customer. This week, Toyota said it would roll out 21 new or redesigned gas-electric hybrids. It will expand sales of a version of the Prius that plugs in. But it is tempering expectations about its all-electric eQ, saying it plans to sell just 100 of the tiny vehicles, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told the WSJ that it will upgrade the battery in the Nissan Leaf EV to help the firm lower its price. The Leaf has suffered slowing sales, and recent critisms that the battery’s capacity has dropped too quickly for drivers in hot climates.

Interestingly, Hundai says it would like to leapfrog the battery issues and instead offer a fuel cell-powered electric vehicle, says Reuters. The FCEVs will have their own problems – high sticker price and a lack of refueling stations.

Chrysler, a brand not known for cute subcompact city cars, has been a laggared in electrified vehicles. Nonetheless, it has a test fleet of plug-in hybrid vehicles. But the company has already determined that the initial batteries will need to be upgraded as the test showed problems with overheating. The company is testing how fleet operated electric vehicles might be able to transfer power from their batteries to the electric grid – a process called “reverse power flow.”

Lux Research, which has been sounding the alarm about likely weak sales of EVs commented on the Toyota announcement. “The reality is that HEVs and light PHEVs are simply far more economical now, given high battery costs, and will remain so for years to come. As a result, in 2020 sales of HEVs and light PHEVs will be 16 times greater than those of heavy PHEVs and EVs.”


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  • Sep 26th 201211:09
    by Hap

    Since electric cars in one form or another are likely to be expensive, people are probably looking for one-to-one replacements for their current cars. If it doesn’t have range, then the purchaser’s family is effectively an n-1 car family for certain things (which is problematic if n = 2, or 1), and it’s an expensive replacement which also costs extra in terms of either the use of a rental or other car or in rearrangement of life. When people don’t have as much money, these exchanges become more difficult to contemplate. The people with enough money to afford a car for local use and another car for distance use are probably looking for different or more features in a car.

    People are unlikely to relinquish capabilities unless they have no choice. Cars as currently constituted give them lots of capabilities, and unless their replacements have similar ones or unless a lot of people change their minds about what they want, they won’t be bought.

  • Sep 26th 201211:09
    by Melody Bomgardner

    Hi Hap. I think your customer insights are spot-on. City life is great for the car-free. An electric car might take you across town but not as easily to the next-over city. Having two cars is a pain and very expensive. Most consumers probably think of a hybrid as a replacement for a regular car, but don’t feel the same way about all-electric.

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