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By Robert Rapier on Mar 28, 2011 with 89 responses

Will Range Anxiety Impact Electric Car Sales?

I have always liked the concept of electric cars. I could imagine a future in which fleets of electric cars are being charged by electricity from clean sources, and where the impact of peak oil won’t be especially burdensome. In a story I did last year covering a newly-released report on electric cars, the advantages of electric cars were given as:

1. Electric cars improve the security of vehicle energy supply by avoiding liquid fuels that are often imported from hostile or politically volatile countries and are being discovered at a slower rate than they are being depleted.

2. Electric cars offer much improved air quality in cities.

3. Electric cars offer drastically reduced traffic noise.

4. Electric cars offer less CO2 emissions if the electricity comes from nuclear, hydro, solar, wind or perhaps biomass.

5. Electric cars are sometimes more efficient than petrol or diesel cars.

But imagining and achieving are two very different things.

Sluggish Sales

I have watched with great interest the evolution of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf from the original announcements to present day, where the vehicles have started to become available for consumer purchase. In fact, the first deliveries of both were made by the end of 2010, and I thought this development was significant enough to warrant a spot in my Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2010.

A recent story provided sales figures for both cars, and another hinted at trouble with the Leaf:

GM sells just 281 Chevy Volts in February, Nissan only moves 67 Leafs

Peruse Chevrolet‘s February sales release, and you’ll notice one number that’s blatantly missing: how many Chevy Volts were sold. The number – a very modest 281 – is available in the company’s detailed data (PDF), but it apparently isn’t something that GM wants to highlight. Keeping the number quiet is understandable, since it’s lower than the 321 that Chevy sold in January.

Nissan doesn’t have anything to brag about here, either (and it avoided any mention of the Leaf sales in its press release). Why? Well, back in January, the company sold 87 Leafs. In February? Just 67. Where does that leave us? Well, here’s the big scorecard for all U.S. sales of these vehicles thus far:

  • Volt: 928
  • Leaf: 173

In response to that story, GM replied and said that deliveries of the Volt were on target, and they projected sales of 10,000 vehicles this year:

The Volt production launch is on schedule to build and sell every one of our 10,000 units this year. Through February, we produced over 1,800 vehicles – 925 of which have been sold at retail. Production volume will gradually increase each month throughout the year. However, over the next few months we will be shipping Volt dealer demo vehicles and vehicles to our coastal launch markets which takes longer than delivering them to nearby states. This situation should be resolved by May, after which the number of Volt’s sold will rise.

There is no demand issue; ask any dealer in a launch market. This is a temporary situation. The Volt launch is on time and on target.

So GM’s expectation is that there will be a respectable number of Volts on the road by year end. We shall soon see whether the slow initial sales are a sign that consumers remain nervous about electric cars. (Update: One reader wrote and said that he had tried to buy a Volt, but that dealers are all charging $8k-$12k over MSRP due to high demand. So at least in the case of the Volt it appears that production limitations are the issue).

The Leaf may be a different story. Early reports won’t inspire confidence.

Reports of Stranded Leafs

How has performance been for the vehicles that have been sold? I haven’t seen any reports on the Volt, but apparently some Leaf owners are complaining that Nissan’s claimed 100 mile range for the Leaf isn’t holding up in practice:

Leaf of faith: Is Nissan’s new car stranding owners?

Now that electric-powered Nissan Leafs have been driven by the first owners for several weeks, Nissan’s claimed 100-mile range is being tested in reality. The result? Reports of Leafs running out of juice and stranding drivers with little warning.

The Leaf’s software is supposed to give drivers gradual warnings as they discharge the 24 kWh battery pack, with several visual and verbal notices including a “–” on the miles-to-empty indicator before the turtle icon switches on. But that wasn’t the experience of a Leaf owner from San Diego last month, who was the first to report a shut-down:

“Went from 17 to — to turtle to dead in about 5 miles. 2.3 miles from dealer. 4.2 miles from home. Part of me is amused that I may go down in history as the first dumbass to drive the car into submission. But I am slightly shaky and upset as I thought there should have been no problem getting home.”

Another owner suffered a similar experience, leaving the Seattle airport last month for a 15-mile drive home with the Leaf reporting enough power for 26 miles:

“Around downtown the range is down to 8 miles (still plenty to get home, which was by then 5 miles away). At the ship-canal bridge it went into turtle, I barely got off the freeway. 2 Mile from home and after about half the distance it told I would have from the airport, i.e. 13 actual miles driven, it went dead. I actually managed to drive 400 yards in turtle mode. 10:30 pm, wife and screaming kids in the car (which was blocking the right lane of a busy road), just came back from the east coast, cars zooming by and honking, several near misses.

One thing consumers aren’t going to tolerate is being randomly stranded by their new car. It is far better and will be more acceptable to consumers to have a conservative range reported, than a best case scenario that is atypical and leaves motorists stranded. Having a car go dead in heavy traffic is a very stressful experience for a driver, and one they will go to lengths to avoid.

The ‘Green’ Question

One reason many people are buying electric cars is because they are viewed as ‘greener.’ Is that true? Not necessarily, according to a report released last year that investigated the issue. The author’s conclusions were:

1. Globally, most electricity is produced using highly environmentally damaging sources, and much of it is produced from fossil fuels. There is unlikely to be a significant change in the way this majority of electricity is produced in the foreseeable future.

2. Although there are alternative forms of electricity production that cause less harm to the environment than conventional forms, these forms are invariably far more expensive, and are therefore unlikely to be adopted en masse in the near future. Thus, the central premise behind the electric car movement – that electric cars will be powered primarily from ‘green’ sources – is essentially wishful thinking. The car driver generally has no control over how and where the electricity that powers his car is generated. Electric cars do not stop environmental damage: rather, they tend to merely move it out of sight, from the highways to the power plants.

However, he does concede that electric cars can be greener, depending on how the electricity is produced:

In four of the five countries we surveyed, the Tesla electric car was less efficient and more polluting than its petrol sibling. Only in New Zealand – where the majority of electricity is produced by hydroelectric generation – was the Tesla ‘greener’ than the Elise. However, a New Zealand scientist recently predicted that if the New Zealand car fleet was replaced with electric cars, the country would probably need to build coal power stations to meet the increased demand.

Conclusions

Over the next year we will learn whether consumers are ready to embrace the electric car. The high cost remains an issue. While the cost of the average new car in 2010 was $28,400, the Chevy Volt’s MSRP is $41,000. The Volt qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, bringing the cost down to around $33,500. This is still quite high for a mid-sized car, but as long as gasoline prices remain at present levels, the fuel savings will add up quickly. Speaking of fuel, one reason for the Volt’s high starting price is that it isn’t a pure electric car; it does have a gasoline engine that kicks in after the Volt’s 40-mile-range has been exceeded.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is a smaller, pure-electric car and has a more affordable starting price of $32,780. This is high for a hatchback, but the Leaf also qualifies for the tax credit, bringing the cost below that of the average new car. The flip side, of course, is if the batteries are drained you will be stranded as some Leaf owners have already reported.

After the initial purchase, customers should begin to see fuel savings, but looming over their heads will be the need to replace the batteries at some stage. The Leaf warranties their batteries for 100,000 miles, after which customers will spend a reported $18,000 to replace them. There really isn’t a comparable expense for cars with internal combustion engines.

But the first threshold will be to see if consumer demand is high enough for electric cars to finally become anything other than the next best thing.

  1. By paul-n on March 28, 2011 at 5:49 am

    I think range, and re-sale value anxiety, are both contributing to slow sales of these vehicles.  If 925 of 1800 are sold retail, that suggests the remainder have been sold to institutions and publicity seeking corporations, who are likely not concerned with the re-sale return on taxpayers/shareholders money.  

     

    I think the “greener” part is a bit of a sideshow.  The real issue is, does it save oil?  And it does, but just over a $10k premium over a similar gasoline powered vehicle (the nissan Versa).

     

    The examples quoted did not say what the actual range on a charge was, but rather the mismatch between what the car said they had left, and what it actually did.  This is unacceptable, of course, but we do not know about the driving habits of the drivers, and the Seattle guy was driving in 32F weather – that will reduce the battery capacity significantly, and even more so if he had the electric heater on.  That said, we have to assume these buyers went into it with their eyes open, knowing the limitations of electrics, and that in buying the first generation of any new vehicle, you may have some teething problems.

     

    As for the range itself, the official estimate is 100 for the Leaf, under ideal conditions, while actual may vary, and I have read it was in the order or 60-70 miles.

     

    It is interesting to compare the  Leaf to the original GM EV-1 of 1999-2001 (when fitted with the Ni-MH batteries), from the wikipedia site for the EV-1;

    Curb Weight – Leaf  3366 lbs, EV-1, 2908

    Passengers Leaf – 4 EV-1 – 2

    Drag coefficient – Leaf 0.28, EV-1 0.19 (production car world record)

    Battery capacity Leaf 24kWh, EV-1 26.4kWh

    Range Leaf 100mi EV-1 140 miles

    Batteries Leaf – Li-ion, EV-1 Ni-MH

     

    So, ten years later,  have the EV’s really advanced?  The new car is heavier, has less battery capacity, less range, less aerodynamic.   More weight, likely more creature comforts, and more creatures (people) for a shorter run.

    Clearly, there is a heavy weight/range penalty being paid for having a four seater car, even when it is only carrying one.  Given that range was always going to be the number one issue, a lighter, more aerodynamic, longer range two seater (which would be the EV-1) would have made more sense.

    GM had looked at making the EV-1 a four seater, from the wikipedia website;

    The new platform was a four-passenger variant of the EV1, lengthened by 19″. This design was based on an internal (GM) program for a more “marketable” EV begun during the proof of concept phase of the EV1′s development. During the original EV1 R&D period, focus groups indicated one of the major market limiting factors of the original EV1 was its two seater configuration. GM investigated the possibility of making the EV1 a four seater, but ultimately determined that the increased length and weight of the four seater would reduce vehicle’s already limited range to 40–50 miles – placing the first ground up electric car’s performance squarely in the pack of aftermarket gas vehicle conversions. General Motors chose to produce the lighter, two-seat design.

    It should be noted the range was with lead-acids, when the two seater was getting 90 on the same.

    So a decade later, with all the experience, better batteries, motors, and controllers, the newer car performs worse than the orginal.  

     

    I think RR is spot on in this conclusion;

     

    But the first threshold will be to see if consumer demand is high enough for electric cars to finally become anything other than the next best thing.

    Looks like the consumer demands will be first – make the range meter accurate, and second, give it more range.  Then they might sell a few of these.  The EV-1 sold/leased 1171 (over four years), if the Leaf can’t beat that in it’s first year it can only be regarded as a monumental failure.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  2. By Walt on March 28, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    I have always liked the concept of electric cars. I could imagine a future in which fleets of electric cars are being charged by electricity from clean sources, and where the impact of peak oil won’t be especially burdensome. In a story I did last year covering a newly-released report on electric cars, the advantages of electric cars were given as:

    1. Electric cars improve the security of vehicle energy supply by avoiding liquid fuels that are often imported from hostile or politically volatile countries and are being discovered at a slower rate than they are being depleted.

    2. Electric cars offer much improved air quality in cities.

    3. Electric cars offer drastically reduced traffic noise.

    4. Electric cars offer less CO2 emissions if the electricity comes from nuclear, hydro, solar, wind or perhaps biomass.

    5. Electric cars are sometimes more efficient than petrol or diesel cars.

    But imagining and achieving are two very different things.


    I read this list and of course thought about methanol.  If you replaced the word “Electric” with the word “Methanol” it would be interesting to see if the potential market would exceed that of electric cars.  At $7,500 tax credit to buyers, we could apply the same tax credit to retail gasoline stations to upgrade their pumps to M85.

    However, while 85% of methanol is imported into America, and the Methanol Institute refuses to support any domestic suppliers in my opinion, I still have hope that methanol could be an excellent transition fuel to either hydrogen or electric car economy.  I know Tri-Flex Fuel cars are expenisve as well, and certainly not being sold quickly, but Methanex and their lobby in DC are pushing hard for methanol as a fuel.

    We really need another lobby to support other methanol technologies in America.  We need someone to promote American producers too, and like the ethanol lobbyiest, fix the pump problem at the stations, and promote more flex-fuel or tri-flex fuel cars.

    As anyone can see, the Methanol Institute used to be called the American Methanol Institute.  Now, “Dolan, the lead lobbyist for methanol producers in North America and
    Europe, is attempting to convince legislators in the United States to
    listen to what some of the brightest minds in America have to say about
    the petrochemical product he represents — and open up new markets for
    methanol as a transportation fuel.”

    Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/ne…..z1HthNyTHY
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  3. By Herm on March 28, 2011 at 10:51 am

    “The 2011 Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is a smaller, pure-electric car and has a more affordable starting price of $32,780. This is high for a hatchback, but the Leaf also qualifies for the tax credit, bringing the cost below that of the average new car. ”

    This a common error, the Leaf is bigger than the Volt and is firmly in the midsized EPA category.. not expensive once you compare it to other midsized cars with similar options… unfortunately you cant buy a stripped Leaf (or a loaded one either) and they load them up with fancy options.

    No one knows what the replacement battery costs but it wont be $18k.. the battery will suffer a slow degradation in range of about 20-30% anywhere from 8-10 years.. mostly dependent on the internal temperature of the pack, but I would not be surprised if gentle drivers in Seattle still have good performance at 15 years. The battery is made of 24 modules, each one is replaceable individually. Even at the end-of-life the pack has substantial value for utility level grid stabilization purposes, for perhaps an additional 10-15 years.

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  4. By Herm on March 28, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Forgot to mention the Volt is classified as a compact by the EPA. Here is a good source of the specs without too much flash:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf

    note the range ranges from 47 to 138 miles.. its the perfect car for many families. Should be very popular in Hawaii. Expect to see more “journalists” stunts with stranded Leafs, apparently bad news sells.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C…..rolet_Volt

    Both cars are selling very well, almost impossible to find one unless you are willing to do a $20k + MSRP Ebay stunt. A 1400 Leaf shipment is ongoing right now, and each one has been presold for many months.

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  5. By jballnc on March 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I, too, like the concept of electric cars, but only as long as they do not add to peak electrical grid load.      I don’t have data on this, but when meeting peak demands, don’t utilities fire up their dirtiest, most costly generators?  If this is so, then the “green question” not only depends on the base load generation sources, but the peak load generators as well.  An electric car charge may be “green” (or”greener”) 10pm – 5am, and dirtier from 10am - 7pm.

    Also, if utilities need to add peak generating capacity, then rates go up for everyone.

    All car charging stations which are connected to the grid should be billed according to grid demand.   If an electric car owner wants plug in at 5pm in August, when it’s 95 degrees out this adds to the strains on the grid, and the user (or the business that wants to provide free charging) should pay accordingly.  Demand-based metering of electric car charging would help to shift charging demand to the overnight hours, when electricity is plentiful, less expensive, and possibly cleaner.  There will be times, of course, when someone absolutely needs a charge to get home, but variable rates would encourage better charge planning.

    Actually, I’m in favor of demand-based metering across the board.  Most people would be shocked to see how much power costs vary during a 24 hour cycle.  This would also create opportunities for the various storage technologies which can help to even out demand. 

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  6. By Herm on March 28, 2011 at 11:34 am

    “I think the “greener” part is a bit of a sideshow. The real issue is, does it save oil? And it does, but just over a $10k premium over a similar gasoline powered vehicle (the nissan Versa).”

    I like the idea of refueling at home overnight.. a methanol (made from coal or NG) powered car would also save oil..in any case this is the #1 misconception about the Leaf, that it is based or derived from a much smaller and cheaper Nissan Versa. Nissan went all out and built a new electric-only platform for the Leaf (and other BEVs yet to come), the doors and hood are made from aluminum, I believe the only components from the Versa are parts of the rear torsion beam suspension.

    In pictures it looks similar to a Versa, mostly from the back.. but in person its a much bigger car.

    Its much greener than a gasoline powered car (not sure about diesel), even if your local utility makes electricity by burning oil, dont forget it takes quite a bit of energy to refine gasoline..

    Both The Volt and Leaf have timers so that you can start the charge at midnight if you want to.

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  7. By paul-n on March 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    @jBall,

     

    In the jargon of electric utilities, demand charging means the customer pays a charge for the peak kW recorded in the billing interval, regardless of when it occurs.  This is common for large commercial and industrial customers.

    What you are talking about is Time of Use (TOU) charging, charging different rates per kWh at different times of the day, (or days of the week – weekends are typically off peak all day).  All electric utilties in the US are required to offer all customers a TOU option, though not ma y homeowners choose to adopt it.  TOU rates have been widely used in Europe and other places for decades, and, if the price differential is large enough, results in significant load shifting.

    The peak demand is really an issue only for the proposed public rapid charging stations.  These will be used mostly during the day, and can be up to 50kW per vehicle – equal to about 10 houses.  If we assume that a utility, somewhere, has added gas turbine capacity (at $600/kW)to cover this additional peak demand, then there has been $30,000 of capital spent to cover the peak demand needs of one charging station.  If transmission or local distribution upgrades are needed (a 20 car charging station will have a 1MW demand!) then there are more costs still.

    For EV’s I think most owners will be well aware of the low nighttime rates, and use the timer option that Herm mentioned, and many utilties offer special rate tariffs for EV owners.

    The fact that many city governments are rushing to build rapid charging stations (at public expense) suggests they may not be so well aware of the external costs incurred.

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  8. By paul-n on March 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    unless you are willing to do a $20k + MSRP Ebay stunt.

    If you are silly enough to buy one of these in the UK, then you are virtually required to spend this much extra.

     

    From the Leaf wikipedia page, the cost of  Leaf, in USD equivalent, in the UK is $49,800, a $17k premium.  It is almost as expensive in the other European countries where it is offered.  I can’t imagine why there is such a price difference – except, perhaps that Nissan has done this to wring out greater subsidies from the governments of those countries.  Were I the government of those countries, I would simply say that I would match the US $7500 subsidy, but only when Nissan matches the US sales price.  It can;t cost that much to ship it Europe.

    In any case, this is not a car that has been engineered to be an affordable alternative – we will have to wait for the likes of Hyundai for that, or the Chinese…

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  9. By Benny BND Cole on March 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Yet another excellent post by RR. I share many, if not all, of these sentiments.

    The good news is that lithium batteries appear to increasing in quality at an 8 percent annual rate, compounded. In 10 years, we may see some really wonderful batteries on the market. Prices are falling too.

    A car with a 60 mile range, and a small onboard fuel range extender might be popular. The Volt is a good idea, but it is a rushed, first-gen effort (and in many ways amazing).

    What I like is a methanol or ethanol PHEV. That is to say, a 100 percent reduction in oil demand for daily driving. CNG cars do the same thing.

    We can make a better world, and in large part, we are. I see a cleaner and more-prosperous future ahead. There are troubles–recessions, wars, man’s inhumanity to man—but almost nothing but blue skies ahead from the technology stand-point.

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  10. By rrapier on March 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Paul N said:

    I think the “greener” part is a bit of a sideshow.  The real issue is, does it save oil?  And it does, but just over a $10k premium over a similar gasoline powered vehicle (the nissan Versa).

     


     

    Funny story there actually. I worked on this article on a couple of different occasions. When I first sit down I usually do a brain dump and walk away. Then I come back, re-read, and edit. After editing a couple of times, I read through it one last time before bed. I thought “that section on the green issue doesn’t really fit; it is a separate topic.” But I was tired by then and wanted something new up on Monday morning, so I left it rather than try to rework it so it did fit, or just delete it entirely.

    But I think the question is especially pertinent for a place like Hawaii. Here, we do get our electricity from oil, and it is oil that has been refined. It isn’t just crude oil that is being burned. Further, the efficiency of burning that oil and turning it into electricity is around 40%. That is better than the efficiency of an internal combustion engine, but total well-to-wheel is much closer due to efficiency losses in getting the electricity from the power plant into your car.

    The article I linked to in the essay concluded that if the electricity is coming from fossil fuel sources, the carbon emissions would actually be higher for the electric car. In areas where renewable (and currently that is primarily hydropower) has a major share, then electric cars had lower carbon emissions.

    RR

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  11. By rrapier on March 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Herm said:

    “The 2011 Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is a smaller, pure-electric car and has a more affordable starting price of $32,780. This is high for a hatchback, but the Leaf also qualifies for the tax credit, bringing the cost below that of the average new car. ”

    This a common error, the Leaf is bigger than the Volt and is firmly in the midsized EPA category.. not expensive once you compare it to other midsized cars with similar options… unfortunately you cant buy a stripped Leaf (or a loaded one either) and they load them up with fancy options.

     


     

    If that is true, then it is a very common error because I found one site after another that called the Leaf a compact and the Volt a mid-sized car. And in the pictures, that certainly looks to be the case. But I didn’t compare the specs.

    RR

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  12. By Herm on March 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Here it is from the horse’s mouth:

     

    Nissan Leaf:

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg…..0979.shtml

     

    Chevy Volt:

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg…..0980.shtml

     

    Actually both have the same passenger space, 90 cubic feet. Both cars are fairly roomy, there are some complaints about getting in and out of the back seats in a Volt, the C pillar is pretty wide.

     

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  13. By Herm on March 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

     

    If that is true, then it is a very common error because I found one site after another that called the Leaf a compact and the Volt a mid-sized car.

    This happens all over the internet, the original report regarding the stranded owner started at  http://www.mynissanleaf.com and has spread all over, some of the articles on their 4rth iteration. The gist of it is that the LEAF’s range estimating software is flaky, the “out of fuel” can be unpredictable.. but the “gas gauge” display is accurate..  I’m sure it will be improved.
     

    Same thing with the sales report, the original article is flawed but has been regurgitated several times, every time by a more reputable source but based on the previous one.. the Volt plant is going full speed and GM is busy filling dealer orders for display models. Volt dealers are required to keep a Volt in stock for the public to see. Apparently both GM and Nissan want you to lease their cars, they offer good deals.. probably so they can keep an eye on the battery. Nissan’s plant at Oppama is even more at full tilt, I beleive they are making 4000 Leafs a month now.

     

    Renault just built the 100th Fluence, they started in December, are sales slow?

    http://www.renault-ze.com/blog…..luence.jpg

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/vi…..it=renault

     

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  14. By robert on March 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Well, here’s the big scorecard for all U.S. sales of these vehicles thus far:

    Volt: 928
    Leaf: 173

    Worldwide sales of these cars: Volt 928 Leaf 3657.

    The entire 2011 leaf model year is presold. You can’t get one unless somebody backs out. And since they’re selling all the volts and leafs they can make why lower the price? Or sell below list?

    We probably have to wait two years to find out if they’re selling 5,000 volts a year or 50,000 volts a year. They are going to start making leafs in Tennesee next year. The original factory in Oppama, Japan is now on rolling blackouts so that’s not good for production quanities.

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  15. By rrapier on March 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Herm said:

    Same thing with the sales report, the original article is flawed but has been regurgitated several times, every time by a more reputable source but based on the previous one.. the Volt plant is going full speed and GM is busy filling dealer orders for display models.


     

    I actually got an e-mail from a reader who relayed his experience in trying to buy a Volt, and he confirmed what you write above. I put a note in the article to reflect this.

    RR

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  16. By Herm on March 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm

     

    “If you are silly enough to buy one of these in the UK, then you are virtually required to spend this much extra.”

    Look at that Renault Fluenze link I posted previously:
     

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/vi…..it=renault

     

    £ 19k for the car plus a monthly battery lease of £ 85, supposedly that is similar to the cost and fuel expense of a gasoline car in the EU.. I think it would be wonderful if I could do that in the US, and buy the mileage plan that suits my lifestyle… and perhaps buy a 3 year old used battery when they come off lease.

    The car itself I would never lease.

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  17. By rate-crimes on March 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Too few question the scheme of ‘car ownership’.  I, for one, would like to have the service of a car on occasion, but for only a few hours.  Except in a few locations (e.g. Portland, Boston), there are very few available car sharing programs.  I would prefer the option of an electric vehicle that was powered by solar, wind, or off-peak nuclear.

    For now, I would settle for a registration/insurance/tax scheme that would allow me to drive my 10-year-old hybrid without incurring the same burdens as those who drive 15,000 more miles each year than I do, and in a vehicle that weighs several times more than mine.  It makes so little sense to pay those costs for driving so few miles that I’ve chosen to instead, walk, ride my bike, and use public transportation.

    From my perspective, the problem is not how a car is powered, but the power the car has over our society.

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  18. By Dima on March 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Rate Crimes, I don’t know that I would call over 50 cities and 100 universities “a few locations.”

    http://www.zipcar.com/cities?&…..D3AB0083BA

    http://www.zipcar.com/agencies…..0C74230991

    And Zipcar is not the only (although it claims to be the largest car sharing service provider. I know there is also WeCar (http://www.wecar.com/joinWeCar.html), and I’m sure there are others.

    It’s a nice option, although in the long run, it’s probably not the most rational option for most people. Not surprising that these programs are more common on university campuses (where many people do not need or are not allowed a car on a daily basis but may want to use one on occasion) than they are in cities more generally.

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  19. By Benny BND Cole on March 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Rate Crimes-

    Can’t you just rent a Prius and drive slowly. Or rent a Volt?

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  20. By paul-n on March 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    RR wrote;

    When I first sit down I usually do a brain dump and walk away

    There are number of ways you could interpret that statement, not all of them pretty…

    Though I suspect there are a few politicians who operate in that way.

     

    The question of the carbon emissions is, in my opinion, an academic one, but since it has been part oft he discussion on EV’s from day one, I expect it to continue.  I doubt that many/any private buyers will make their choice on this basis.  If they want to reduce their carbon footprint, they can buy green energy first – and then if they must buy an EV they can use that to recharge it.  Someone who buys an EV, but does not buy green electricity, where it is available, is clearly not concerned about their carbon footprint.

    From a government point of view, unless they have some broad scale policy of and for reducing carbon, like a credit trading system or a carbon tax(which I have here in BC), I can’t see the point in promoting these, or anything else, on the basis of reducing carbon.  If they are committed to the concept, apply it everywhere, and if not, then admit that and move on.  Presently, most governments are trying to have it both ways, being seen to be concerned, and taking action, but without actually doing anything that might have an economic impact – which carbon pricing/reduction must have.

    Will be interesting to see if any gov’t agencies in Hawaii buy leaf’s as they will be reducing neither carbon or oil use – (except perhaps on Maui where there is a decent wind farm, and decent wind).  A Volt would fare no better – best option would be  hybrids or diesels (if they were allowed).  But really, Hawaii is one of the most oil dependent places on earth – hopefully nobody there has been led to believe otherwise.

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  21. By Darrell on March 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    On how “green” an EV is, Argonne National Laboratories published a study in 2010 that concluded at EV on the dirtiest electricity (Illinois coal mix) had comparable emissions to a conventional internal combustion engine car, and a cleaner natural gas mix was similar to a conventional hybrid.

    See http://greet.es.anl.gov/public…..n-xkdaqgyk . The key chart is on page 3 (PDF page 21).

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  22. By Wendell Mercantile on March 28, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Argonne National Laboratories published a study in 2010 that concluded at EV on the dirtiest electricity (Illinois coal mix) had comparable emissions to a conventional internal combustion engine car, and a cleaner natural gas mix was similar to a conventional hybrid.

    Did the Argonne study also take into account the embodied energy in an EV? With their large batteries and electric motors with rare earth magnets, EVs have significantly more embodied energy than regular ICE cars.

    If this Argonne study is like the ones they did for corn ethanol, it could be highly selective in choosing which data to analyze.

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  23. By Colorado Leo on March 29, 2011 at 2:47 am

    A quick correction regarding “advantages to electric vehicles” #4 above seems warranted: electric vehicles are cleaner (in terms of CO2 and other emissions) than their combustion engine counterparts with any fuel sorce other than coal. For example, Natural Gas, which is the largest growing source of electricity in the United States is also cleaner than gasoline or diesel, and has the added advantage that emissions controls (such as baghouse and selective catalytic reduction) can be added at a centralized source (i.e. the power plant) which further reduces emissions.

    Ultimately, advantage #4 misses the point in that the REAL advantage of electric vehicles is they can be powered by a multitude of sources (hydro, nukes, NG, renewables, or even coal *w/ CCS) without sole reliance on a single source (i.e. oil) subject to severe price swings.

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  24. By moiety on March 29, 2011 at 5:16 am

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    Argonne National Laboratories published a study in 2010 that concluded at EV on the dirtiest electricity (Illinois coal mix) had comparable emissions to a conventional internal combustion engine car, and a cleaner natural gas mix was similar to a conventional hybrid.

    Did the Argonne study also take into account the embodied energy in an EV? With their large batteries and electric motors with rare earth magnets, EVs have significantly more embodied energy than regular ICE cars.

    If this Argonne study is like the ones they did for corn ethanol, it could be highly selective in choosing which data to analyze.


     

    A couple of items from the early stages

    The gasoline, diesel, and E85 flex-fuel engines used for current conventional vehicles were provided by automobile manufacturers. The engines used for HEV and PHEV testing are based on Atkinson cycles that were generated from test data collected at Argonne’s dynamometer testing facility (Bohn and Duoba 2005).

    So it is a test in current of the shelf conventional engines versus lab tested engines. You could argue that this is not a fiar test. On the other hand they do have a very accurate engine map for the test at these conditions. This shows the efficiency at the power poetput of the fuel cell system*. However ‘additional losses caused by transient operating conditions’ are omitted (what are these?). In addition they also consider how the engines will evolve over time given a diesel a 1% efficiency increase over the increment 2010 to 2015.

    *I consider system a bad word to use as it could denote the engine, the wheel to wheel system or some other arbitary boundary. I did not see a definition though that does not mean it is not defined.

     

    For the fuel cell they consider hydrogen (and thus efficiency of such an engine) and for the other engines they consider a range of fuels (incl E85, PEV). Storage for hydrogen is considered. I cannot comment on the validity of these figures (the same is done for electr. On interesting thing said though was

    One of the requirements for vehicles in the study is that they be able to travel 320 miles on the UDDS Driving Cycle on a full tank of fuel. However, to simulate 2015 vehicles with a hydrogen storage system allowing a range of 320 miles, the amount of hydrogen needed, and thus the corresponding fuel tank mass, would be excessive. As a result, a range of 250 miles was selected.

    In my book three quaters of excessive is still excessive. This was not expanded upon.

    There are some interesting number si appendix 1. It appears that the power ratios for the cars are not equal. This affects Chapter threee where they estimate real world mpg.

     

     

     

     

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  25. By Herm on March 29, 2011 at 10:37 am

    The rare Leaf, doing taxi duties in Japan, note the white gloves:

     

    http://www.autonet.ca/autos/se…..69056.html

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  26. By Kit P on March 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

    “I’ve chosen to instead, walk, ride my bike, and use public transportation.”

     

    The fallacy here is that it is not a very good way to save energy. The reason being is that not much energy is being used. My last two home purchases provided a choice of living close to work and school. When I could I walked or biked because I enjoyed it. The energy savings was in the initial choice.

     

    The concept here is that efficiencies only matter when you drive a large number of miles.

     

    The same fallacy applies to the concept of clean. First the air has to be dirty. Only a few places in the US still have dirty air. Since it has been a long time I have been to the LA basin, I will let Benny confirm that there are still lots of freeways choked with cars. You do not need a freeway to commute to 5 miles to work. I once interview for a job in LA. It took longer to get out the airport parking garage than to fly to LA. All the folks that worked where I interview commuted 4 hours a day to find a safe and affordable place to live. After the interview it took them an hour to get me the airport because of grid lock.

     

    The solution is not BEV but getting people to change their lifestyles which they apparently do not want to do.

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  27. By Benny BND Cole on March 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Kit-
    You know what they say about Los Angeles: No one wants to live there anymore; it’s too crowded.

    The city has changed a lot. There are plenty of safe, close-in neighborhoods in which to live. The air is much cleaner than 30 years ago. It is probably the most enjoyable region in the nation in which to live.

    I hope that PHEVs become the norm, and the air becomes crystal clear in Los Angeles. I have never understood the “right” to pollute air that other people breath, or to pollute other people’s property. I feel remiss every time I drive a car.

    We can make the world a cleaner and more prosperous place.

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  28. By moiety on March 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Kit P said:

    “I’ve chosen to instead, walk, ride my bike, and use public transportation.”

     

    The fallacy here is that it is not a very good way to save energy.


     

    That is not true for all cases. However I too do not see efficiency as its primary function. It is for health, fitness and enjoyment.

     

    If I take 10L petrol to get to point A with a wheel to wheel efficiency of 20%, then there is 2L of useful petrol. The remainder is losses.

    However considering that the objective for many private vehicles is get the person to the point and not the vehicle, then we have a further efficiency constraint. How much of that useful energy was used to get the person to the point.

    If I weigh 100kg and my car weighs 1000kg I can legitimately say that only 9.1% of the fuel went towards getting me to point A.

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  29. By paul-n on March 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    The rare Leaf, doing taxi duties in Japan

    Well, hopefully we’ll get some real data from that application.  Be interesting to see what % of downtime there is from charging.  A vehicle that is meant to drive all day everyday will be a great test of the battery system, and the economics of the whole car.

    Leaving aside the purchase costs, there is obviously some point at which the loss of revenue from charging time will equal the cost savings from electricity and no ICE maintenance – it is a question as to whether the actual charging time is above or below that point – I suspect well above.

    Wonder how it goes with three passengers and luggage – along with the driver, you could have another 800lbs on top of the 3300 kerb weight.  Hauling 4100lbs around town will drain those batteries fast.

    In order to maximise the range, the driver will have to drive “slowly”, instead of “aggressively” – that is not something taxi drivers are known for, though Japanese ones may be different.

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  30. By Herm on March 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Battery range will be fine since average speeds are very low in Japanese cities. They probably are using 30 minutes L3 chargers.

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  31. By thomas398 on March 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Batteries will aways be inadequate.  What I mean is that as battery technology improves we find more interesting things to do with them.  Take the cell phone. If we put a modern battery on a ten year old phone with a 1″ x 3″ Nixie tube display, a user could have ten hour conversations.  It might even make sense to put a solar cell on this retro phone.  Today on my iphone, I listened to music for about two hours (I listen pretty loudly) did some GPS tracking, looked up directions,surfed the web, and talked for about ten minutes.  The phone promptly gave me the 20% warning.  Then I started conserving my remaining battery power. Using my mobile phone like a mobile phone–for brief conversations and emergencies.

    If BEV battery capacity were to suddenly double, car companies would add power draining features to the cars.  Once BEV’s can reliably drive 100 miles on a full charge, I don’t expect much more improvement.  Its a nice round number that car companies can sell and a 200 mile range isnt going to sell twice as many cars.  However, bright touch screen displays that interact with your mobile devices etc. are showroom eye candy.

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  32. By paul-n on March 30, 2011 at 1:54 am

    They probably are using 30 minutes L3 chargers.

    Yes, at 50kW per stn/car this is just the sort of additional peak hour load downtown city grids really need, power supplied by simple cycle gas turbines, of course – can’t wait for the wind to blow.

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  33. By mac on March 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    If you are interested in electric cars, hybrids, etc, Hybrid Cars web site is hard to beat for stats. Every month they run the U.S. sales statistics for the gas-electric hybrids, clean diesels and plug-in vehicles like the Leaf and Volt. Previous months are also archived for reference.

    http://www.hybridcars.com/mark…..board.html

    A sister site is Plug-in Cars which deals strictly with plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. You can get information here about why .Nissan is rolling out the Leaf slowly, what’s causing delivery delays and so on..

    http://www.plugincars.com/

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  34. By Herm on March 30, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Note that thisPaul N said:

    They probably are using 30 minutes L3 chargers.

    Yes, at 50kW per stn/car this is just the sort of additional peak hour load downtown city grids really need, power supplied by simple cycle gas turbines, of course – can’t wait for the wind to blow.


     

    Note that this is not your garage but an industrial setting.. this power level is nothing.

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  35. By Herm on March 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Project Better Place releases pricing details in Denmark:

     

    http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums…..hp?t=38557

     

    “Better Place will offer consumers a choice of five, fixed-price, packages based on miles driven. For drivers who drive more than 25,000 miles per year, Better Place offers a fixed-price package of ‘all you can drive’ for $562 USD/month, effectively giving drivers of the switchable-battery Fluence Z.E. unlimited driving range and unlimited miles in Denmark in an era when fuel costs are at an all-time high and still rising.

    For drivers who drive less than 12,500 miles per year, the fixed monthly price offer ranges from $280 USD/month to $350 USD per month. Each subscription includes a one-time fee of $1,890 USD for the installation of a charging station or dock at home. ”

     

     

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  36. By Wendell Mercantile on March 30, 2011 at 11:44 am

    If BEV battery capacity were to suddenly double, car companies would add power draining features to the cars.

    Very astute Thomas 398. I think you’ve hit on an important truth.
    Actually battery power has been sufficient for years — at least enough for cars such as the GEM. The GEM is a perfectly fine, short-range, city car, but has gotten almost no acceptance by the general public. GEM Passenger Models

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  37. By Herm on March 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

     

     The GEM is a perfectly fine, short-range, city car, but has gotten almost no acceptance by the general public. GEM Passenger Models

    If you live in a retirement community, otherwise it is just another gadget with limited utility that you have to store and maintain.
     

    Good lithium batteries have been around for about 7 years now (A123 iron phospate cells) but at a high cost.. but things have changed now that Nissan/Renault have commited themselves on 500k electric cars per year. Now economies of scale can take place.

    I dont know if 100 miles of range in city driving and hwy speeds capabilities will hit the sweet spot, time will tell.

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  38. By paul-n on March 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Note that this is not your garage but an industrial setting.. this power level is nothing.

    Herm, 50 kW is actually the same power level regardless of where it is being used.  If charging in daytime – which these taxis obviously will, it is an addition to the peak power demand for that city, and on the grid itself.  So, somewhere, a peaking unit is supplying an extra 50kW.  Marginal peak power is most commonly supplied by open cycle gas turbines, and Japan is no exception.

    So you are adding 50kW to the grid when the loads are the greatest (daytime), the line losses are the greatest(max current through wires, and loss is proportional to square of current), and the marginal power producer (OCGT) is the least efficient (2/3 efficiency of CCGT). And, the driver is probably paying 3x for the electricity compared to night time.   In short, it is the least efficient, most capital intensive, most expensive time to use electricity.  You are commanding a lot of resources for the 50kW peak time charge.

    Night time charging reverses this situation completely. – you are using idle resources, spare capacity, have greater efficiency and lower cost.   Which is a better way forward in an energy/resource  constrained country?

    This is why the charging stations are almost all subsidised – the true costs/revenues are such that there is no business case for them, it only works when subsidised by everyone else.

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  39. By paul-n on March 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    if BEV battery capacity were to suddenly double, car companies would add power draining features to the cars.

    Yes, battery capacity has already doubled (from lead to LI) and they already have added these features – weight, power and poor aerodynamics (see my comments up thread on the EV-1) all contribute to the Leaf having a lower efficiency than the car that came 10 years before it.

    Actually battery power has been sufficient for years

    Yes, 103 years to be exact – from 1908… 

    Only took ten days to make too – not bad for 1908

    A comprehensive write up on the lack of improvement of electric cars is here:

    The status quo of electric cars: better batteries, same range

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  40. By Kit P on March 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    “Marginal peak power is most commonly supplied by open cycle gas turbines, and Japan is no exception.”

    I have mention before Paul that is not necessarily true except on really hot or cold days. In that case, you may not want to drive a BEV. Batteries and extreme weather do not get along.

    We are so far away from having enough BEV on the road. First car makers have to make them, then people have to buy them. It is just my opinion but being a tree hugger should disqualify one from getting a drivers license.

    It is like the fat cat who lives in a 5000 square foot house who thinks they are being environmental friendly by putting solar panels on the roof.

    If you want to save oil, drive less. No body will notice and there are not tax breaks but just who are you trying to impress.

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  41. By Herm on March 31, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Paul N said:

    Note that this is not your garage but an industrial setting.. this power level is nothing.

    Herm, 50 kW is actually the same power level regardless of where it is being used.  If charging in daytime – which these taxis obviously will, it is an addition to the peak power demand for that city, and on the grid itself.  So, somewhere, a peaking unit is supplying an extra 50kW.  Marginal peak power is most commonly supplied by open cycle gas turbines, and Japan is no exception.

     


    The utililites can plan for this industrial power usage, its not the same as trying to do the same thing at home randomly, your local transformer would blow. Most likely it will be a fairly constant load and the utility can budget baseload plant power for it. The charging facility can even help the grid by allowing some modulation of the charging process by the utility, and perhaps even temporaily discharge the batteries abut 1-2% as needed. These 50kw charging facilities may actually reduce the need for instant peaking power or spinning reserve. It would not affect the charge time much if you varied the charge rate 1-2% as needed.

    I think fears for the grid are overblown, and please dont use the Japan disaster as an example.

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  42. By paul-n on March 31, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Herm, 

     

    “the grid”, as opposed to local distribution lines, does not care where the load is.

    Most likely it will be a fairly constant load and the utility can budget baseload plant power for it.

    Lets see, random variations during the day of hundreds of kW, and probably much lower use at night – that sure sounds like peaking power rather than baseload – which is defined as steady power, day and night.

    The charging facility can even help the grid by allowing some modulation of the charging process by the utility, and perhaps even temporaily discharge the batteries abut 1-2% as needed.  These 50kw charging facilities may actually reduce the need for instant peaking power or spinning reserve. It would not affect the charge time much if you varied the charge rate 1-2% as needed.

    So, you can help the utility by decreasing the peak load of 50kW that we have just added, to 49 or 49.5kW?  If they need that 1-2%, then the 50kW is a real problem.

    I think fears for the grid are overblown,

    I have no fear for the grid -they are generally very well managed.  What I am saying is that using fast chargers during the day is adding to peak loads, charging at night is using spare capacity.  If EV’s are to scale up to any size to make a difference to oil consumption, a proliferation of these fast chargers will increase peak power loads – and may need local distribution upgrades.   And the charging stns always need that peak power to be produced somewhere – they are making the overall load profile worse instead of better.

    and please dont use the Japan disaster as an example.

    I used Japan as example – not their tsunami.  Like most other western countries, Japan uses a good deal of natural gas for electricity  from the EIA, natural gas is 28% of their electricity generation, and Japan has very little hydro, so that NG is almost certainly taking the peak loads.  The same applies in California too, the other place where the most Leafs will be plugged in. 

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  43. By Wendell Mercantile on March 31, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Paul N.

    The 1909 Baker Electric car had a range of nearly 100 miles using nickle-iron batteries. Only problem was it’s top speed of ~15 mph.

    Not so bad though when you think of congested urban environments. Traffic now moves across Manhattan or Washington DC no faster. However, I wouldn’t want one in Wyoming or Montana.

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  44. By Herm on March 31, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Paul, do you have a good understanding of baseload, peaking and grid stabilization issues?.. please dont take this question as an insult.

    The charging facilities that I am talking about are industrial, used by taxi companies and others (mass transit, USPC, UPS, rural hwy charging etc), these loads are very predictable.. I would never advocate 50kw charging at home, I think many drivers would abuse that.

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  45. By paul-n on March 31, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Wendell – that’s exactly the point – increases in speed have taken away the range advantage of better batteries.  The faster you go, the stronger the vehicle needs to be, the more battery capacity you need to carry that extra weight.  The Leaf is capable of 90mph – does it really need to be able to go that fast?  Making it a four seater – an optional addition added weight for the capability of carrying four people – which it will do a minimal amount.  

    You have a lot of car here, for a driver that is trying to reduce their oil/carbon footprint.  Smaller would have been cheaper and had longer range – which is reason #1 why many potential buyers don’t become owners. 

     

    @Herm – yes, I am very familiar with grid load issues – I used to manage a village sized electric utility and deal with these issues regularly – what’s your experience?  You seem to be missing the fact that load created by these chargers has to come from a generator, somewhere, and if it is during the day – these chargers add daytime (=peak) load to the grid.  The loads are only as predictable as the taxis plugging – it will not be steady, though it will be predictable that peaks will occur during the day.  

    UPS and USPS ev’s drive during the day and charge slowly all night – the ideal arrangement for EV’s – these taxis will be fast charging at any time they need to, day or night- but mostly day.  Saying these things are “industrial” (which they aren’t – they are purpose built for public use) does not change this.

     

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  46. By Herm on March 31, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Thanlks Paul, I’m an electrical engineer in a related field, but i dont want to mention my employer.. times are tough.

     

    Suppose we have a 50kw charge of a taxi going on, suddenly the utility throttles back 50%, now you have 25kw more available you did not have previously.. things get worse and now the utility is discharging the taxi’s battery at 50kw (for about 4 seconds without any significant impact on the available range or life of the battery).. so in a matter of milliseconds we shed 100kw of load off the grid.. now multiply that by 100 taxis charging at the same time and you can make a nice impact on grid stabilization. Each charge station with the automated swapping device will stock about 15 batteries, with that they could constinuosly swap batteries at peak times. Taxis are automatically routed to the most convenient nearby facility.

    Taxis are usually driven 24 hours a day by different drivers, they average perhaps 150 miles a day.. they will use L3 charging (20 minutes, up to 50kw) if the demand is high, but they can also charge at lower rates while parked waiting for a fare. 13k taxis in New York city.

    Obviusly you will have to build new baseload generation to support these chargers if you end up with13k users. You may ask why not put a large battery pack in the taxi and avoid all these hassles?.. Its doable.

    Here is an interesting article:

    http://www.greencarcongress.co…..10207.html

    A 20MW spinning reserve based on A123 iron phosphate lithium batteries, they can sustain that for 15 minutes. Its intended to support a 500MW plant in northern Chile.

     

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  47. By paul-n on April 1, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Ok, so now that we understand each other, lets get down to the details…

    So what you are talking about is the vehicle to grid (V2G) scheme.- not what you mentioned to start with.  If you are looking to manage such transient peaks,  yes, you certainly could swing from full charge to full discharge, though I don;t know what the batteries would think of that.  

    Your 100 taxis are 5MW, and yes, that is a lot of instant “generation” to command.  If you think this is both workable and useful I will not argue – managing such short term spikes is not my area.  But overdo it – discharge for 5 minutes = 10 extra minutes downtime for taxi driver – and you are costing them money.  You will need to pay enough for that 50x5min=4.2kWh to make it worth their ten minutes – probably $2/kWh or more.

    What was my area is managing total load, and you have added 5MW of total load – and – inevitably – this will be higher during the day than overnight

    Each charge station with the automated swapping device will stock about 15 batteries, with that they could constinuosly swap batteries at peak times. Taxis are automatically routed to the most convenient nearby facility.

    Are you now talking about a Better Place style battery swapping system – quite a different concept – and the Leaf was not designed for this, though you could probably modify for it- at the cost of warranty.  There is a significant cost to having 15 of those $12,000 battery packs lying around.

    Taxis are usually driven 24 hours a day by different drivers, they average perhaps 150 miles a day.. they will use L3 charging (20 minutes, up to 50kw) if the demand is high, but they can also charge at lower rates while parked waiting for a fare. 13k taxis in New York city.

    I think you are lowballing the miles per day – from this NYT article, they do 80,000/yr, or 220mi/day, for 3 charges.  Taxis in Vancouver do about 180 miles per 12 hr shift (I guess V traffic moves faster than NY traffic!) so you would be looking at 4 charges for 90 miles each, but more likely 5 charges for 72 miles, given the way taxi drivers drive.

    Staying with NY, and say 10 of 13k become electric, you have 10k x 3x 1/2 x 50kW – that is 750MWh/day – 31MW baseload, but almost certainly this will be higher during the day – there is simply less driving done in the early morning hours – presumably the cab companies can track this. There is always enough baseload to handle the night time, but for the day, you are adding a substantial load – probably more than 60MW at times -it has to come from somehwere, before you can then think about getting it back with your V2G.  Then, you could, in theory, get your peaking power plus the same again from V2G for short periods.

    Obviusly you will have to build new baseload generation to support these chargers if you end up with13k users.

    No – you don’t have to – you could use peaking power (existing or new, if needed) at day and existing baseload at night.  If you want to make use of nighttime wind power, in places that have it, like Calgary, then peaking power is the way to go.

    You may ask why not put a large battery pack in the taxi and avoid all these hassles?.. Its doable.

    I’m sure it is, but the Leaf was not designed for that – you will add more weight, expense, and lose passenger capacity – though you will gain some range.

    I’m sure the system could be made to work, and I can see where you are going in trying to get maximum utility out of these battery packs.  but in doing so, you are adding peak load, and possibly needing redundant batteries, modifying the vehicles, plus the cost of the charging stations themselves – including potential local distribution upgrades to service them. 

    You wouldn’t be looking at this if you didn’t think you could make it work , but there are substantial equipment costs, both local and external, that must be acknowledged to make it work at any scale large enough to make a difference – which was my original point.

    And not even considering the challenge of trying to get the 13k NYC (or any other city) taxi drivers to change – though at least they will have clean new taxis.

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  48. By russ-finley on April 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

     

     

    Nissan Leaf, meet Ford Pinto

    This may have been mentioned in the comments somewhere, but the Leaf sold out almost immediately. They have stopped taking orders for the rest of the year until they catch up. I can’t even get in line for one yet. So, I don’t get it. If sales are weak, why can’t anybody even place an order for one?

    And a Leaf will release less GHG than the “average car” even using the grid average for GHG release. It can’t match cars like the Prius. Also, you don’t need to have hydro to release a lot less GHG. Some areas use a lot more nuclear and gas than coal. It’s primarily coal that is causing the higher GHG numbers.

    I’ve driven a Leaf. It’s a full-blown five-passenger car. I’ve been reading that the Volt is a four passenger car. Is that wrong?

     

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  49. By rrapier on April 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    Nissan Leaf, meet Ford Pinto

    This may have been mentioned in the comments somewhere, but the Leaf sold out almost immediately. They have stopped taking orders for the rest of the year until they catch up. I can’t even get in line for one yet. So, I don’t get it. If sales are weak, why can’t anybody even place an order for one?

     

     


     

    I think based on comments from readers, it is safe to say that sales have been low due to the production side, not the demand side. Right now demand for both the Leaf and Volt seem to be extremely high.

    I’ve driven a Leaf. It’s a full-blown five-passenger car. I’ve been reading that the Volt is a four passenger car. Is that wrong?

    I found that it is very commonly reported that the Volt is a mid-sized car and the Leaf is a compact. Maybe I need to write a story on 5 Myths of Electric Cars. I would need 3 more myths to go along with sluggish sales and the size issues. Anyone got ideas?

    RR

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  50. By Wendell Mercantile on April 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I would need 3 more myths to go along with sluggish sales and the size issues. Anyone got ideas?

    I’m not sure it’s a myth, but the embodied energy in electrics is worth looking into. Perhaps the way to frame it as a myth is to explore the idea that “wheel to wheel,” the energy consumed in making an electric (particularly their batteries and the exotic metals for the magnets in the motors) mean electrics may not save any total energy over the life of the vehicle.

    [link]      
  51. By mac on April 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Here are the latest U.S. sales totals for the plug-in challengers, since launching late last year:

    Volt: 1,536
    Leaf: 471

    A few things to keep in mind: 1.) the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have not yet affected sales numbers, but we may see an impact next month. 2.) Nissan is reserving most Leafs for domestic sales (over 5,000 have been made thus far). 3.) Both companies are selling more now than before. The Leaf sold 298 units in March vs. 67 in February; the Volt moved 608 in March vs. 281 in February.

    http://green.autoblog.com/

    [link]      
  52. By doggydogworld on April 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Article on a different kind of EV, Smith Electric van delivering corn chips in New York City. Note the comments on life cycle cost:

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/green…..ewton.html

    [link]      
  53. By Kit P on April 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm

     

    “they average perhaps 150 miles a day.. … 13k taxis in New York city.”

     

    I thought urban area had good public transportation. So you have a large number of 150 pound aggressive drivers in big cars without a passenger much of the time. Clearly, the solution is to ban taxi and limos except with 3 or more passengers.

     

    Then I opened Paul’s link and what should pop up? It is a 4wd SUV. It does not snow in SF.

     

    “they pay 60% less for gas.”

     

    Or twice as much as the POVs in my driveway.

     

    “The past 3 years at Yellow Cab of Vancouver, it now has 42 Prius taxi’s on the road out of a total of 208 taxi’s in it’s fleet.”

     

    I always wonder if people actually read what they link. If the only reason you do something is good press, then maybe it is a bad idea.

     

    While we are on the topic of links not supporting the boast!

     

    “Note the comments on life cycle cost ”

     

    None were provided. Maybe we can.

     

    “most medium-duty delivery trucks”

     

    Even equipped to run of CGN. The truck should cost about $30K

     

    “a Newton can range from around $85,000 to as much as $135,000 for the most powerful 120 kilowatt-hour version (which offers a range well in excess of 100 miles).”

    So how many days can you buy gas for $35k.

     

    “16-mile daily route”

     

    Remembering that we have to get to the ware house and gasoline a $5/gal, we need $10/day/

     

    That works out to about 10 years of daily driving assuming free electricity. Of course we are only using half the battery capacity. Buying a few might be a good hedge but waiting seems to be the better business choice.

     

    Storing electric is a very bad idea. It is expensive, it is inefficient. They have huge environmental cost. They are heavy. You need a very good reason to use batteries. I have one battery in my car to start my engine and set of jumper cables. I always have two good batteries on my boat.

    [link]      
  54. By Herm on April 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    “So what you are talking about is the vehicle to grid (V2G) scheme.- not what you mentioned to start with. If you are looking to manage such transient peaks, yes, you certainly could swing from full charge to full discharge, though I don;t know what the batteries would think of that.”

     

    I was thinking more of a “charging station to grid” scheme, not vehicle to grid. the stations will have many batteries on standby and thus can be used for that.. The concections are already there. 15 batteries per station can service 2500 users, per PBP.. but I’m sure a commercial taxi service would need more batteries. The station can afford to have the expensive bi-directional chargers needed for this scheme.

     The Leaf is not intended to for battery swapping, I got confused with the trial that is ongoing in Japan with taxis swapping batteries.. then I posted a link to Leafs being used for taxi service and the confusion settled in. Studies have been done that 2% cycle of the battery in a V2G scheme does not affect the life or range of the battery.. overall the battery is not discharged since the cycles go both ways.

    I have a family member that runs a taxi service.. that what his cars average in a day.. btw they go thru starters, brakes and transmissions like popcorn.

    [link]      
  55. By Herm on April 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    I would need 3 more myths to go along with sluggish sales and the size issues. Anyone got ideas?

    I’m not sure it’s a myth, but the embodied energy in electrics is worth looking into. Perhaps the way to frame it as a myth is to explore the idea that “wheel to wheel,” the energy consumed in making an electric (particularly their batteries and the exotic metals for the magnets in the motors) mean electrics may not save any total energy over the life of the vehicle.


    The motors may not have any exotic metals in them, unless they use permanent magnets and they are not particularly exotic either.. mostly iron, copper and aluminum. The lithium batteries are not that exotic either, made of thin films of aluminum and copper and oil based plastic.. the aluminum film is probably the most energy intensive to make. Lithium batteries are highly recycable, but can be dangerous if they still have a charge.

     

    You can probably relate the weight of the car to the embodied energy used to make it, probably similar to ICE vehicles. Whats the embodied energy of gasoline?

    [link]      
  56. By paul-n on April 1, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I always wonder if people actually read what they link. If the only reason you do something is good press, then maybe it is a bad idea.

    Not sure how you think I didn;t read the link, since you saw the information I extracted from it (the average driving distance per shift).  As for the 42 Prius of 208, that site continues a disturbing trend I see in websites, and even technical and government papers, of not giving a date, so we don’t know when that was. But, since you are interested in how many they have, here is the current status from Yellow Cab Vancouver’s website;

    With a fleet of 249 taxi cabs on the road, available 24 hours a day, Yellow Cab Vancouver features 37Wheelchair accessible Taxi vans and more than 200 hybrid electric vehicles,

    So, if the company goes on to replace almost all its non-minivan taxis with Prius, I’m guessing they think it is a good idea.

    The website goes on to say most of the Yellow Cab shareholders are also owner drivers – so they made this decision themselves, not a corporate PR dept.

    So that looks like they made a business decision there.

    Unlike the Frito-Lay example – Here I agree with Kit this seems a PR exercise, though with a fleet of 7000, there is nothing wrong with trying a few experiments on new electric trucks.   I am amazed they only do 16 miles per day.  My take on their numbers is a little different.  they say 8-18 MPG, so that is 1-2gal/day per truck.  

    When you read that they often leave it idling for an hour doing  delivery, you see the first problem – you do not need an electric truck to turn off an engine.  

    So eliminate that waste and they are at just 1 gal diesel/truck/day, or about $1500/yr at $4/gal, if operating 365 days.  You will indeed need more than 10 years to get back the 1/3 extra you paid for the truck.

    It would seem if Frito Lay really care, the first thing they would do is stop their drivers idling, and look at other wasteful practices going on.  Once they have minimised their waste, the payback on electric will be marginal, if at all.

    At 9000 lbs chassis weight for that truck, you have a very heavy truck, before you are even carrying anything.  A diesel equivalent with a 3L engine (same 120kWpower) weighs 2/3 of that.  EV’s will have to address their weight problems, in addition to their range issues.

     

     

     

    [link]      
  57. By paul-n on April 1, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Herm – We could go back and forth for some time here – I’ll just have to peresume you have a good business case for what you are looking at – though you could really do the same thing without needing any EV’s.

    As for your family taxi company – they should talk to the Vancouver co’s .  Any time I have been in a Prius cab in Vancouver, I used ask about fuel and running costs.  Gave up asking as the answer is always the same – owner drivers,fuel use 1/3 of what it was, brake life 3x what is was, would never go back to a non-hybrid car.  Sounds like that would be a better business decision than an EV fleet.  

    [link]      
  58. By Herm on April 2, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Paul N said:

    As for your family taxi company – they should talk to the Vancouver co’s .  Any time I have been in a Prius cab in Vancouver, I used ask about fuel and running costs.  Gave up asking as the answer is always the same – owner drivers,fuel use 1/3 of what it was, brake life 3x what is was, would never go back to a non-hybrid car.  Sounds like that would be a better business decision than an EV fleet.


     

    I talk to him about Priuses all the time and he just looks at me.. his company can barely afford to buy 2 year old used GM sedans for taxi duties.. I forget the specific model but its very common.

    Fancy places like NYC mandate their taxi medallion owners to use a specific vehicle, and I think thats a good idea. I believe Toyota has missed the mark by not selling a Prius specifically designed for taxi service.. stripped models with tougher ulphostery, rubber carpets, lots more room in the back and larger doors. The new Prius V looks very interesting.

    For the record: I dont recommend anyone buy a Leaf or Volt today, wait a few years for the tech to mature a bit… in the long run I think it will be the future for everyone and even for long distance over the road hauling.

     

    [link]      
  59. By Kit P on April 2, 2011 at 10:45 am

    “I’m guessing they think it is a good idea.”

     

    If something is a better choice environmental I am thinking you would not have to guess. It is about the perception of being ‘green’ not the reality. I have always liked the idea of a Hybrid not enough to actually buy one. What the world needs is hybrid red Mustang GT Cobra convertible for street racing.

     

    The other question you have to ask is does NYC really need chips? Frito-Lay should be distributing fresh broccoli grown in organic communes. Group hug!

    [link]      
  60. By Wendell Mercantile on April 2, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Frito-Lay should be distributing fresh broccoli grown in organic communes. Group hug!

    Kit P.

    I’m shocked. Do I detect a whiff of a sense of humor?

    [link]      
  61. By Marlowe Johnson on April 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

     

    I think based on comments from readers, it is safe to say that sales have been low due to the production side, not the demand side. Right now demand for both the Leaf and Volt seem to be extremely high.

    I’ve driven a Leaf. It’s a full-blown five-passenger car. I’ve been reading that the Volt is a four passenger car. Is that wrong?

    I found that it is very commonly reported that the Volt is a mid-sized car and the Leaf is a compact. Maybe I need to write a story on 5 Myths of Electric Cars. I would need 3 more myths to go along with sluggish sales and the size issues. Anyone got ideas?

    RR


     

    Robert,

     

    Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan yours and as a fellow biofuels/ethanol expert I greatly value your efforts on this blog to separate fact from fiction and to highlight the many challenges that need to be addressed for bioenergy/fuels to make the next step.

     

    Having said that, this post on EVs isn’t up to your usual standards.  Perhaps, it’s because it’s outside your area of expertise. But in any case the LCA you cite under the ‘green’ section is of such poor quality I wonder if you’ve got some biases on this particular subject.  There are countless other LCA studies on EVs and PHEVs of far greater quality that you could have cited (google EPRI or UC DAVIS and PHEVs for a start).

     

    I’m glad you’ve admitted that poor sales are due to production limits rather than demand.  Now if we correct that part of the post and the green part, what exactly are we left with? Range anxiety.  Fair enough, but as you note implicitly in your thread this is a non-issue for PHEVs as they simply switch to liquid fuel ICE once the battery is depleted.  It is certainly an issue for EVs, but even there, I suspect that most EV customers in the early stages will be in Europe/Asia, where daily commuting distances are much, much shorter than in North America where PHEVs make more sense.

     

    If I were to do a top 5 myths it would go like this:

     

    1. Environmental benefits of EVs

    • peak charging vs. nightime charging
    • impact of grid mix
    • lifecycle impact of vehicle manufacture on well to wheels GHG emissions (less than 10% for both ICE and EVs)

    2. impact on the grid from charging

    • utility scale impacts (marginal in the short to medium term)
    • neighborhood scale impacts (could be significant in some affluent neighborhoods with rapid EV uptake AND old, undersize tranformers

    3. economics

    • up front cost vs total cost of ownership

    4. range anxiety

    • EVs vs PHEVs
    • charging infrastructure rollout

    5. ICE vs Biofuels vs EVs

    p.s. I recently paid a visit to Iowa’s BECON and BioCentury facilities in DesMoines and saw some pretty neat stuff.  Ever been there and if so what was your impression?

    [link]      
  62. By Wendell Mercantile on April 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Range anxiety? What range anxiety? This Audi A2 with a battery from Kolibri got 375 miles on a 63 kWh lithium-metal-polymer battery: New Test Appears to Back Range Claim for Battery

    [link]      
  63. By paul-n on April 8, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Wendell, that claim tells us nothing new – if you put in enough battery capacity, you can have long range.  It might cost $40+k in batteries to get it, and take away all the useable interior volume, but you can do it.  This company refuses to reveal the power to weight of their batteries, or what a price might be, – which are the two key parameters for automotive batteries – so what is the point of all this?  Looks to me like they are just trying to maintain visibility to attract more funding – it is starting to sound suspiciously like EEstor.  

     

    In reality, you can solve range anxiety – but you replace it with price anxiety.  The end result is the same- very few mainstream drivers will buy until both are resolved.

    [link]      
  64. By Wendell Mercantile on April 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    …that claim tells us nothing new – if you put in enough battery capacity, you can have long range.

    ’tis true. I’ve often thought about two possible ways to get around range anxiety:

    1. If you are planing a long trip in an EV, you would go the dealer or a rental agency, and rent a small two-wheeled trailer to tow behind the car. That small trailer would contain a small, constant-speed diesel engine turning a generator you could plug into your car. Result: Unlimited electric range — but only when needed for special occasions. .

    2. Same as above, but the small two-wheel trailer would contain only batteries. Again you would rent or lease it as needed, or possibly purchase outright if you need long range all the time.

    Of the two, option one would cost less and offer more flexibility. Keep filling the fuel tank for the diesel-generator set in the trailer and go as far as you want.

    [link]      
  65. By Herm on April 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I have always liked the trailer idea, for a bit extra cost (perhaps a lot more) make the trailer able to suppy 240VAC also, then it could serve double duty as a whole house generator. Obviously a dc generator driven by a motorcycle engine is the simplest solution.

     

    Here is Toyotas range extender trailer for the RAV4:

     

    http://www.evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm

    [link]      
  66. By Marlowe Johnson on April 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    …that claim tells us nothing new – if you put in enough battery capacity, you can have long range.

    ’tis true. I’ve often thought about two possible ways to get around range anxiety:

    1. If you are planing a long trip in an EV, you would go the dealer or a rental agency, and rent a small two-wheeled trailer to tow behind the car. That small trailer would contain a small, constant-speed diesel engine turning a generator you could plug into your car. Result: Unlimited electric range — but only when needed for special occasions. .

    2. Same as above, but the small two-wheel trailer would contain only batteries. Again you would rent or lease it as needed, or possibly purchase outright if you need long range all the time.

    Of the two, option one would cost less and offer more flexibility. Keep filling the fuel tank for the diesel-generator set in the trailer and go as far as you want.


     

    of course you could go the more direct route and simply rent a traditional ICE vehicle….

     

    IMO it will be interesting to see if PHEV makers move to a more flexibile marketing approach along the lines of consumer electronics whereby the same vehicle is sold with multiple battery size options.   For some 60 mile all electric might be ideal.  For others (i.e. me) with much shorter daily commute distances a 15mile AER would be sufficient.  While my auto-engineering friends tell me that there are complications owing to battery weight and it’s impact on safety and handling, I wouldn’t be surprised if the market eventually moves towards this sort of a customizable approach…

    [link]      
  67. By paul-n on April 9, 2011 at 2:44 am

    I like the range extender engine too.  I know of a guy on Vancouver Island that has a Chevy-S-10 EV conversion, and keeps a Honda generator (6000W) in the back for that purpose.  he gets 50miles on batteries, and on a trip, he starts the generator at the start, and slows the depletion of the batteries, giving him 100-150 miles.  A purpose built generator could do much better.

    Sounds like a great business opportunity for U-Haul I’d say.

    As for the different battery sizes, I too expect to see that option – we have cars with different engine sizes, so why not?  You could have an auxiliary pack that you put in the trunk and plug in.  But the extra pack is still not enough to give “road trip” range, just better than normal.  In which case you are probably better to have it plugged in permanently so it is always available, and you are cycling the main battery pack to a lesser state of discharge.

    i still think a better option for EV’s is simply a smaller, lighter, less optioned car – it will be cheaper too.

     

    [link]      
  68. By Herm on April 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

    The next generation of the Leaf may use a different battery chemistry, almost double the range without changing the size or weight of the battery box.. at that time Nissan will have the option of offereing a shorter range , cheaper and lighter version by just not filling up the battery box. You could see two versions, Leaf Classic and Leaf 200

    [link]      
  69. By Wendell Mercantile on April 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I still think a better option for EV’s is simply a smaller, lighter, less optioned car – it will be cheaper too.

    Paul,

    Already exists: GEM Electric Cars ~ Passenger Models

    The GEM e2 has a range of ~35 miles and costs less than $10,000. The GEM e2 Electric Vehicle – starting at $7,495 MSRP

    Something like the GEM e2 would seem perfect for bopping around town, going to the supermarket, library, apothecary, etc. — at least in the Sunbelt.

    [link]      
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