Chevrolet and Nissan both have electric vehicles set to hit the streets this Fall. But unless you're extremely lucky the chances are you won't be driving one until at least the middle part of 2011.
Why? Because of limited production runs, demand is outstripping supply. Is it part of some big conspiracy with big oil, automakers dragging feet or a plot to ensure EVs never become popular?
Orwellian conspiracies aside, the answers behind limited EV production runs at the present time are more practical and pragmatic. Here's five reasons why EVs are being produced in limited numbers right now, and why it could be a good thing for the long term EV future.
Limited initial production is less risky.
Making sure that buyers exist for a product even before it is officially launched is a great way to ensure that there is a constant flow of money to help offset retooling costs, research and development and retraining of staff. As car companies have found to their peril in past years, making lots of something doesn't necessarily ensure it will sell.
Exclusivity comes from limited numbers.
Remember what happened when the Toyota Prius launched? Every movie star, environmentalist and politician had one. Toyota created a desirable, ecologically sound vehicle which initially had a huge waiting list.
Nothing says desirable like limited numbers, and nothing attracts attention like an unusual car. If you're lucky enough to be an early adopter of the 2011 Volt or 2011 Leaf then expect to be stopped regularly by people wanting to know about your new ride.
2011 Nissan Leaf spied -- via Nissan-LEAF.net
It's easy to make an electric car, but it's hard to make a good electric car. With any new vehicle or new vehicle technology there are bound to be some hiccups which need smoothing out along the way.
With any first generation of a new vehicle problems crop up in the wild which were never conceived of in the prototyping process. Selling a limited number of first generation vehicles allows car companies an easy way to make any final tweaks before ramping up production.
New technology is always expensive.
It doesn't matter if the technology is the latest computer chip, the latest OLED television or a plug-in vehicle; new technology costs more to produce. Naturally, that cost filters down to the consumer. High ticket items have less buyers and as the cost comes down, more consumers can afford them. By that time, the new technology isn't all that new.
Not everyone is ready for an EV.
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A large proportion of the population struggle to comprehend how the 2010 Toyota Prius works. In fact, it is often mistaken for an electric car that ‘you don't have to plug-in'.
Range anxiety is also rife. Many consumers panic about being stuck without a charge, a fear the 2011 Chevrolet Volt should easily overcome with its range-extended gasoline engine. Initially, more consumers will feel at home with the Volt than they will with a Leaf.
But until the general image of EVs change, many consumers still feel unable to make that switch.
Developing new products is risky, both to the companies creating them and the consumers buying them. Electric cars are no different. For now, demand outstripping supply is a good thing. It creates buzz, fosters good relationships with natural EVangelist drivers, minimizes risk, and proves the vehicles have what it takes to tackle the mainstream auto market.