Electric vehicles much closer than widely perceived

23Aug09

I’ve only been following the EV space for a couple of months, but sporadic announcements had already given me a sense that, despite the growing economic and political significance of environmental issues, with the exception of the much-heralded press darling, Tesla, the popular press was largely ignoring the state of progress on this important front.

So, today I Googled “2010 EV launch U.S.” and the results confirmed my vague sense.  The specialty online press is robust and all over this sector.  Here is a sampling of just the individual makers’ announcements.  (This does not include the many parallel announcements of EV recharging infrastructure development, which gained temporary notoriety recently when the mayors of Seattle, Portland and San Diego engaged in some media smack talk about who would be first to claim the title of most EV-supportive city.)

According to the director of EV [electric Vehicles] solutions at the California based company Aerovironment, full EVs currently in the development stages and expected to be ready for production within the next three years outnumber the plug-in hybrids and EREV [extended range electric vehicle] expected to reach the market within the same time frame. Aerovironment director Kristen Helsel said, “I thought the majority would be plug-in, but by our numbers, 60% are full EVs vs. plug-ins.”

  • August 23, 2009: According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the Warren Buffet-backed Chinese automaker BYD has moved up its plans to sell a fully electric car right here in the United States next year. Interestingly, the automaker had originally planned to sell its first products here in the U.S. in 2010 before delaying that projection by a year. The new announcement puts BYD back on track for its initial target of 2010 and, perhaps not coincidentally, in line with the launch of the new Nissan Leaf.
  • August 22, 2009: Electric Cars: Mitsubishi (Now), Nissan 2010, BYD 2010, Toyota 2012, Honday by 2015
  • July 27, 2009: Nissan today revealed its electric-vehicle platform on a Vera-based prototype, showcasing its pure zero-emission vehicle ambitions which are expected to hit the U.S. and Japanese market as early as next year.
  • June 4, 2009: A California upstart plans to bring an all-electric sedan to market by the end of 2010.  Coda Automotive will initially sell the 100 mile range car only in California, for a $45,000 pricetag.
  • June 4, 2009: Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the maker of Subaru automobiles, today announced the launch of its Subaru Plug-in STELLA electric vehicle (EV), which is equipped with a high-performance lithium-ion battery. The model will be sold in Japan directly through FHI. Delivery will start from late July and around 170 units of delivery in total will be planned in this fiscal year (by the end of March 2010). After-sales services will be provided through some Subaru dealerships designated by FHI.
  • May 18, 2009: Chrysler is getting charged up about electric vehicles.  In a surprise move, last year, the ailing American automaker rolled out a trio of battery-powered vehicles that it announced would go into production during the coming decade.  Vice Chairman Jim Press has since said that one of them is set to debut as early as 2010.
  • April 20, 2009: As we draw closer and closer to the Chevy Volt launch day, we might wonder if GM has an exact target date within November 2010 for the launch. Greg Ceisel is the Volt Program Manger. I asked him whether GM will begin to ship Volts to dealers closer to November 1st or November 30th. “The exact date in November is about the middle of the month,” he said. “There is a target date. In this program, every hour is scheduled.”
  • December 12, 2008: Following its debut at the London Motor Show earlier this year, Britain’s answer to the Tesla Roadster, the Lightning GT electric sports car, is expected to move to the next stage of development in 2009. The team behind the Lightning GT has announced that they will be producing two prototypes by the second quarter of 2009, with a view to start the first customer deliveries in early 2010.
  • October 22, 2008: Chrysler has announced plans to launch its PeaPod electric car worldwide in 2010. The compact city EV will be available as a one-seater, a two-seater or a utility van, at prices starting from around $20,000.
  • September 25, 2008: Chrysler LLC announced today that the Company and its ENVI organization have new production-intent, advanced electric-drive technology packaged in three different vehicles – one for each of its brands, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge.  Chrysler will select one electric-drive model to be produced in 2010 for consumers in North American markets, and European markets after 2010. Additionally, approximately 100 Chrysler electric vehicles will be on the road in government, business, utility and Chrysler development fleets in 2009.
  • July 25, 2008: Daimler was not so forthcoming about their EV Smart till it didn’t pass around a hundred tests or so, and apparently since the car has done sufficiently well in those tests, the car will be on the roads by 2010. This tit-bit was announced by none other than the company CEO Dieter Zetsche.
  • June 19, 2008: General Motors and Toyota have are already that they are moving forward with their plug-in hybrid plans for 2010, and it looks as though at least one more automaker will be joining the party. Volkswagen has announced that it will be launching three hybrids in 2010 – including one plug-in – alongside an all-electric vehicle.
  • Think is back, part of an apparent resurgence of interest in battery-powered electric cars.  The Norwegian electric car maker, once owned by Ford and headquartered, briefly, in Southern California, has announced formation of Think North America with plans to begin selling a sub-$25,000 EV in the U.S. in 2010.

For car junkies who may fear that the evolution away from the internal combustion engine (ICE) would mark the end of exciting cars, the good news is that EV performance figures are amazing.  The instant-on, full-torque nature of electric motors produces stunning acceleration and torque.  Further good news is that these cars are good looking.

Let the future begin.

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