Electric Vehicles are coming – as soon as the charging stations are built and the price comes down. They have the mirror image of the problem Marcellus Shale drillers having.
Nissan Leaf has sold about 1,400 of its all-electric LEAF so far this year, down about 70 percent from 2011 sales. The company only sold 370 of the “clean” little commuter cars in April.
Ford, on the other hand, has sold only 135 of it’s all-electric Focus this year, including none in February, March or April, as reported by The Motley Fool, an online investment watcher.
The Chevy Volt, on the other hand, is doing well, selling about 7,000 units so far in 2012 – but it cheats. Unlike its all-electric cousins, the Volt has an onboard gasoline-powered generator to charge the batteries that keep the wheels rolling.
Tesla has the high-priced representative of the breed. Its Roadster can be in your garage for about $100,000 – except some buyers still are waiting and the company is going to stop building them by the end of the year.
The marque’s Model S will be the focus of Tesla’s efforts. Starting at nearly $60,000, the sedan has a waiting list of more than 11,000 customers. Unlike the 100-mile range of the smaller cars, the Model S can go about 300 miles and accelerate to 60 from a standing start in 3.7 seconds. For buyers with money, those are impressive numbers.
Toyota plans to release an all-electric variant of its popular RAV4 this fall, powered with Tesla-provided running gear. On the other hand, anyone who wants one will have to move to California, the only state in which they will be sold.
Sticker shock is one of the main reasons for slow sales among the EV clan. The LEAF logs in at more than $35,000, the Ford at $40,000. Even with state and federal tax breaks of $7,000 to $10,000 – depending on the state – they are expensive.
The mileage limitation reverses a cultural rule that assigns the beater to commuting and the new one with the flashy paint job typically is reserved for longer trips to grandma’s and the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, I live roughly in the middle of four major employment areas, all within a single full round-trip charge of the $35,000 LEAF – but parking lots at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor are not yet equipped with charging stations, and without a recharge, I’d have a long walk home from a day of touristing.
The PA Department of Environmental Protection has awarded Car Charging LLC a $1 million grant to install charging stations along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Three service plazas east of Harrisburg will get them this year, all plazas west of Harrisburg are planned for next year. A LEAF owner will not be driving to Pittsburgh for a couple years.
Even then charging will not be as quick as pumping gas. The turnpike charging stations will juice up a car in 20 minutes.
The problem is the reverse of that faced by the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. Since 2006, that industry has been laying the groundwork, working on favorable legislation, and drilling like crazy to get the wells in. Now they’ve got more gas than they can sell, and prices have fallen through the floor.
But truck fleets cannot be converted to natural gas until there is natural gas to power them. Electric generating plants cannot be converted from coal until there is a reliable supply of the new fuel. Gas drillers are moaning because they have no customers for their fuel. Car makers are visibly unhappy that they have no fuel for their vehicles.
Neither industry is in dire financial straits. It won’t be long – maybe 10, maybe 20 years – natural gas will become the predominant electricity generator, and electric cars will affordably hum to visit relatives in far cities.
And by then, wind and solar technologies will have improved to become clean, reliable, sources of residential energy. Natural gas is, after all, just another fossil fuel allowed by the current crop of electric vehicles to generate bad air over someone else’s town – and all those positioned downwind.
Photo by mariordo59
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