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Five Things EVs Will Need To Do Before They Become Mainstream.

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2011 Smart electric drive  -  first drive

2011 Smart electric drive - first drive

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Let's face it. EVs are still a very small, very niche market. Expensive, short on supply and not even universally supported throughout the USA there are a whole series of achievements EVs will need to attain before they are considered regular cars. Here's the five most important things EVs will need to turn the regular consumer from in-the-dark to enthusiast.

Drop The Price.

Unless you include low speed NEVs, EVs are still too expensive for all but the devoted or the wealthy. More sales and higher production numbers will reduce costs, but right now EVs need to reduce in price by at least 50% before many consumers will consider buying them.

And if the price can't be dropped that much, at least make vehicles which make the owners believe every dime they've spent on the car was worth it. This leads us onto the next point.

Deal with the Trim.

While Nissan's 2011 Leaf and Chevrolet's 2011 Volt are examples of electric vehicles with uncompromising trim levels, many smaller electric car companies are happy to build and sell cars with trim levels which would make a pre-war car blush with shame.

Listing things like a conventional radio/cassette or wind-up windows as major selling points does not encourage consumers to part with cash, especially when the car's fuel source is used as justification for a spartan cockpit. Consumers willing to pay upwards of $20,000 for an electric car expect an interior reflective of a $20,000 car and not a $8000 low-budget model.

Atomik Fiat Abarth 500 Electric

Atomik Fiat Abarth 500 Electric

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Give real-life range figures, not ones for optimum conditions.

EV companies are locked in an eternal range battle. Higher mileage per charge is bound to get more custom, right?

In short, no. Car companies who list optimum range in optimum conditions and usually, a slower-than-normal speed may win when it comes to range on paper, but companies who quote smaller range that is consistently and predictably achievable will ultimately win through.

Outlandish range claims feed range anxiety, one of the biggest prohibitive factors to EV take-up at the moment.

Be More Conventional On The Street, And More Sexy On The Track.

Electric cars are different. They're not gasoline cars. But just because they use a different drivetrain and fuel supply does not mean they need to look different too.

Automotive design trends come and go, but electric cars need to look as close to the current trend in design in order to be accepted by a large number of consumers. Cars which appear no different from their gasoline cousins will sell more than cars which look like they have been driven out of a time machine.

2010 mini e electric vehicle ev la auto show 022

2010 mini e electric vehicle ev la auto show 022

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Sure, the niche market for quirky or unusual designs will help drive sales  initially, but it won't give car companies continued sales after those niche market needs have been met.

On the other hand, EVs also need sexy designs, impressive performance and a proven track record to grab interest from consumers who remain devotional to motorsport.

No greater indication of this has been the increase in interest from the motorcycle community after the first electric TTXGP last year on the Isle of Mann. The greater the track record of an EV, the more likely consumers will trust in it.

Change the Sales Pitch and Motivate the Sales Team.

Unless you're at a specialised EV company with dedicated showrooms like Tesla's Apple-esque retail stores the chances are the sales team are still going to be more interested in V8s than electric motors.

It's not always the sales team's fault. Lack of effectual training and managerial pressures to sell specific models often leave the electric vehicles high and dry. Until the sales team waxes lyrical about the benefits of going electric or plug-in, conventional gas cars will always enjoy greater sales.

The good news though is that mainstream automakers are slowly getting the message. More accurate specifications, better trim, racing influence, lower prices and motivated sales teams are bound to appear as competition increases and car companies become more confident in their EVs.

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Comments (9)
  1. hi nikki,
    i dont think we are gonna need all this sales pitch. i think it will be the people demanding them.
    this will occur once there are enough vehicles on the road, such that the average person has an "acquaintance" who owns one.
    i guess i am too practical, but i dont care about what it looks like. and i am not sure that most people will, either.
    when given the choice of a vehicle that is not dependent on the oil companies, and gives us a greener environment, etc. - i just dont see the gas car being able to overcome that.
    plus, it seems to me that the cars look pretty nice. have you seen the coda sedan ?
    the price, of course, is important with most anything we buy.
     
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  2. I don't agree that EVs need to look like everything else. Toyota and Honda took different approaches to hybrids. Toyota made the Prius with very distinctive styling (whether you like it or don't) and Honda quietly put Hybrid drivetrains in their existing Accords and Civics. I think what they learned was that people paying a premium for hybrids wanted others to know. Maybe the Prius was better but I think it had more to do with people wanting to be seen. It may be that EVs need to offer something more unique. Something to make you want one not just because it's an EV, but because it looks great too. Interestingly, now that hybrids are mainstream there is probably more opportunity to have hybrid as an option on an existing model rather than a dedicated hybrid. We'll see how that plays out.
     
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  3. As to the styling, I have to agree with MG. Even Honda executives have been heard to say the Toyota's approach was more effective. Hence the Insight II, but alas, too little, too late. I love the looks of the Aptera. If its thrilling homage to aerodynamics and weight could really give it twice the range of say the LEAF, I could really get interested. Unfortunately, I fear the it is DOA, given the existing "management". In the end though, IMHO, the LEAF and to a lesser extent the MiEV, are gong to dominate the BEV market in the near term, and kill off all of these sort of "startup" companies anyway.
     
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  4. everybody is selling oranges at the produce stands. every conceivable type, freshness, color, etc.
    a new vendor steps up, and starts selling apples. if it can be demonstrated that apples taste better than oranges, there is nothing else that the apple vendor needs to do. apples will start trouncing the sale of oranges.
    if gas cars are oranges, then a hybrid is more like a tangerine, while an ev is an apple.
    in this example, people will find apples to be infinitely superior to oranges.
     
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  5. Speaking of styling, did anyone catch the picture of the Volt they are using in their virtual test drive? I know it's just for the game but it sure looks like fun... apple kind of fun, not tangerine kind of fun: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/images/press/2010/06-22JoyrideRearF1_lg.jpg
     
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  6. Don't request something from cars but from their producers and policy makers:
    1 allow for a market development for city electric vehicles introducing regulations in cities
    2 put system needs (battery modularity) in front of marketing needs for brands
    3 create competition amongst auto-makers to produce clean cars, even if they are serial hybrid/dual mode as transition path
     
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  7. The best example of a viable BEV that could actually be sold in the USA for under $10,000 http://www.21stcentury.co.uk/cars/ford_e_ka.asp
    *without* subsidies and meets your criteria.
    The key to a lower cost drive train is a switched reluctance motor, more-or-less conventional batteries and the cooperation of Ford to revive the first generation Ka. The current Ka, which shares the Fiat 500 platform, is being touted in Brazil as a 5-passenger car and that means it would not meet your criteria of a car that only differs from the petrol or diesel version in the drive-train.
     
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  8. The best way to sell electric cars is to add the price of the wars ($15B a month) and the Gulf oil fountain cleanup and insurance fund for future oil disasters to the price of oil.
    We should also remove the tax deductibility of gas consumption for business vehicles.
    Then we start to get closer to seeing the real price on obsolete fossil fuel vehicles.
     
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  9. The only commentator to mention this thus far was "Efried". The infrastructure to support electric cars does not currently exist. An electric car powered off a city grid will pollute more than a standard Otto cycle engine. The reason for this is because most power is generated from coal, and the process of getting the power from coal to steam to turbines to power lines to your house then to your car is so inefficient. Anyone who believes electric cars are the solution to pollution isn't wrong, just unaware that massive renewable infrastructure needs to be in place first.
     
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