March 3, 2012 – Vol.16 No.50
RETHINKING ELECTRIC CARS -- PART 2.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Here we go again. Gasoline spiking towards $4, maybe $5 a gallon here in the US. It’s the usual suspects at play again: Tensions in the Persian Gulf region and more cars and trucks on the planet than dwindling oil supplies can support.
The fragile US economy shouldn’t be so dependent on an energy source with a price so volatile: It’s ridiculous that we let oil keep a painful grip on our lives. It’s time give oil the boot and move to energy that’s not only low-priced, but is actually dropping: electricity. Electricity can be generated from a variety of sources wind, solar, wave, hydro, biomass, nuclear, coal, natural gas, even oil. If one source gets too pricey, move on to one of the other sources.
We need to make the switch over to electric drive as fast as possible. In an election year, don’t expect much help from Washington, the automobile industry is on its own to do this.
Fortunately it’s in the car makers best interest to sell as many electric cars, or electric vehicles (EVs) as they can. Selling high energy economy, high fuel economy, cars to meet government mandates is not the only reason to sell them. It’s also about survival. You see, those manufacturers have been nearly put out of business by the instability of oil and petroleum fuel prices. Once bitten twice shy. They like building cars. There’s good money in it. But, they can’t afford to be pushed around by an industry that can’t keep its prices in check. Car companies need years to design new models. They can’t plan a new model only to find out a few years later when the vehicle goes to market that drivers can’t afford the fuel to fuel it.
In the long run, car companies are better off without oil.
Electric drive is a safe bet. It will always be cheaper than oil. But, without help from Washington how can manufacturers get people to buy cars and trucks that are very expensive for the types of vehicles that they are, and can’t go very far on a tank of electrons?
The price thing won’t get resolved until batteries get dramatically cheaper, which may take years, or the manufacturers switch to inherently less expensive energy storage technologies.
The range issue could be at least partially solved at any time and without new technologies. An implemented business model could take away the fear of owning a vehicle that won’t go very far.
It’s true. Study after study shows that most people don’t drive more than about 30 miles a day. They probably realize this. But there is that occasional longer trip, planned or unplanned, that drivers fear will happen. If they happen to own an additional and conventional car, that vehicle can always be used, provided there’s some planning ahead. But a second vehicle wouldn’t always work for those emergency or unplanned trips. Recharging along the way? Even it weren’t for the time involved, a charging network to meet all the needs of electric motorists is a long, long way away. There aren’t charging stations on energy street corner in other words, and may never be.
At least for planned longer trips here’s one idea. Electric car dealers could offer free Long Distance Loaner Vehicles for electric car owners. Dealers could have conventional gas vehicles available for electric vehicle drivers who know they need to make a trip longer than their EV’s range. Drivers would just reserve a regular car as little as a few hours in advance. When they needed the car they’d just drop by the dealer, leave their electric car (for a wash and recharge to sweeten the experience), grab the loaner and make the long trip. On return they’d drop the car off. Hop in their fully charged, clean EV and go home.
A few points to mention:
--- Rental car companies could offer this service under contract with the electric vehicle manufacturers.
--- Reservations could be made through smart phone apps, or even through a communications link in the EV itself.
--- Often, I think studies might show, that people don’t live far from the dealer they bought the car from, or not far from a dealer of the same brand.
--- To make the Long Distance Loaner Vehicle (LDLV) program even more appealing and thus attract even more EV buyers, the car dealer could offer different types of vehicles available for loan. Need to take a long road trip? Take the big comfy conventional car. Need some utility, like to pick up some plywood at the lumber yard? Borrow the conventional truck in the LDLV program.
The point is that electric vehicle manufacturers need to find and use every possible way to overcome the real or perceived short comings of electric cars and trucks to attract more buyers. Tail pipe emission-free and oil-free isn’t enough. Buyers are looking for more. If gas prices do climb to $5 a gallon, the economy as a whole, including the auto industry, will be damaged. The time is now to get more electric car buyers into the showroom and sign on the dotted line.
RETHINKING ELECTRIC CARS - PART 1
If EV’s don’t catch on at a quicker pace, manufacturers might have to go back to the drawing board.
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