• Apr 12th 2009 at 3:20PM
  • 13
According to Henrik Fisker, the auto industry is due for some big changes. As the only representative of a young automaker participating in the Newsweek Future of Automotive Panel Discussion at the New York Auto Show last week, Fisker was the voice of the insurgent. For example, he said that, in 2020, plug-in hybrids will cost less than $20,000. This from the man who's selling them today for $90,000. Another thing that will really change is the way that electricity is generated in America. It will be much, much cleaner, and it's this clean energy that will be what is used to get people to and from work and school. Looking at all the factors, and Fisker said that the next 24 months will be tremendously important for the green scene. "The car industry needs to reinvent itself," he said, "and it needs to happen now."

Other members of the panel included Lou Rhodes, from Chrysler's ENVI and Kevin Smith, from Edmunds.com. Newsweek's Dan Lyons was the moderator. Read more about what was said after the jump.




Fisker said car companies have been improving the internal combustion engine for about 100 years, and now make improvements to the automobile of just one to two percent a year. This isn't enough, he said, "We need to set some unrealistic goals."

The moderator tried to bait Fisker a bit by asking what he thought will happen to Tesla, but Fisker smartly declined to answer directly. Instead he said that, generally, there have only ever been three major auto companies active at any one time in the U.S., but new vehicle technologies are opening a window for smaller companies to find a legitimate niche. Fisker said he thinks it's reasonable to expect room for 2-3 big car companies and 2-3 small ones.

There was a lot of talk about the sexiness of green and electric cars. Fisker said anyone who spends more than $10,000 on a car cares about style and what that car says about the driver. People who pay less than that are more interested in reliable transportation, getting from A to B probably without trouble. Nonetheless, people today are willing to spend much more for their ICE cars and Fisker believes that the factors driving expensive vehicle purchases today will influence electric-drive models in the future.

The electrification of the vehicle also opens up pathways of communication that simply were not there before. The gas pump, for example, simply dispenses fuel into the tank. A charging cable can not only provide power, but also tell the grid or the owner or the automaker all sorts of details about the vehicle.

Rhodes said that the main reason that there aren't more electric vehicles on the road today is the prohibitive cost. No surprise there. His guess is that the tipping point will happen when there are 100,000 new EVs made and sold annually. Sure, this is a huge number compared to how many EVs are on the road today, but it's a small, small percentage of the vehicles currently sold around the world each year. Chrysler itself sells 40,000 GEMs each year, so it's worth assuming that Rhodes probably means 100,000 full-speed EVs a year to change the world.

Lyons also asked Rhodes if the Dodge EV is going to be a savior for Chrysler. Rhodes answered that it won't be the car that has the potential to turn the company around, but the technology inside it. Electric drive is the future even if, as Fisker said, most people believe that the pure EV market will remain limited for quite a while.

For another report on the panel, see PSFK. You can also listen to the full discussion in the audio clip below. The 49-minute audio clip starts with Henrik Fisker.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      The GEM from Chrysler has sold ~38,000 TOTAL units since its inception nearly 10 years ago - the article above reads 40,000 units for 2008, and is INCORRECT. I don't believe they've sold more than 3,000 units (more close to 2,500) for the year 2008
      • 6 Years Ago
      So, is no body thinking about the hyper inflation that is going to take place soon because our government is allowing the PRIVATE Federal Reserve to print money we don't have thus making it more worthless than ever? Maybe he is including inflation, so in today's money I guess the car would be about $10,000?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I bet the imiev will be 20k by 2015.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It really depends on how fast the price point of batteries move. Given an affordable BEV ~100 miles of range is the goal, when the batteries for 50-60 miles is cheaper than the cost of an ICE & associated systems, BEVs will undercut the plug-in hybrids (talking about the 40-50 mile plug-ins). I say that price is around $5000 (looking around at replacement part prices, a 4 cylinder costs $2-3k, transmission $1-2k, exhaust system ~$1k, add miscellaneous stuff like other emissions equipment, fuel pump/tank, etc and subtract for buying in bulk and you get ~$5k).

        The battery cost will have to be from $500-300/kWh to reach that point.

        In the short term, the BEV gets some cost savings by saving on R&D.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It makes sense. When the battery market expands and matures, the price of batteries will go way down. EVs will actually cost less to produce than a traditional car because they as much as 40% fewer parts. In a few years the automakers will be treating EVs like like they did SUVs - cashcows - because it will cost them less to produce..while enabling them to price them at a premium, at huge profit.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Two quotes from VW (which has major investments in diesel-hybrids and consistently talks down EVs), and one from a US automaker, whose just barely avoided bankruptcy by mortgaging the entire company, don't really mean much.

        "The industry has been saying things like this about electric cars forever."

        What are you talking about? I posted actual concrete figures. Read my post again. Those automakers are actually committed to building to building those models. Six automakers are committed to production amounting to at least 80K EVs by 2012, with another seven planning plug-in models...with another 3 saying they considering US bound EVs. Even the most pessimistic estimation would show we're going to surpass 100K EVs and plug-ins by 2014 at the absolute latest. Thats just the facts.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Oh shut up. If anything, Frisker is being pessimistic..."

        @ polo


        No, you.

        The industry has been saying things like this about electric cars forever.

        Funny thing, VW CEO Martin Winterkorn says Electric cars 15-20 years away - http://www.autobloggreen.com/2009/03/04/vw-ceo-martin-winterkorn-electric-cars-15-20-years-away/

        Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen America says Electric Vehicles 35 Years Away - http://www.altdotenergy.com/2009/03/electric-vehicles-35-years-away-from-mass-market-says-vw-ceo/

        And considering Ted Mecke, a Ford VP agrees with me, since those corporate numbers for production release are always moving targets - "You've misunderstood. That's a running target. It's always 5 to 10 years away." - http://www.forbes.com/2009/03/18/ford-electric-cars-business-autos-jerry-flint.html


        Henrik Fisker's statement is hardly a revelation. So yeah, until you truly understand my point, shut up yourself.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If by 'facts' you mean prepared corporate statements on production car estimates of industry changes years away that could be altered at any moment, then yes.

        If by facts you mean "I know exactly what is going to happen years from now because I read something one car company says" then you truly are a fruitcake in the extreme.

        You want quotes going back for 20 years be my guest. Do a Google search. You'll get more quotes saying all electric and hydrogen cars are 'just 10 years away' than you can shake a stick at. Go ahead. I'll wait.

        "actual concrete figures" O.o What drug are you on and why aren't you sharing? There is nothing concrete about them at all. They are an arbitrary number on only a potential manufacturing goal of cars that don't even exist yet!

        "BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Tesla, and BYD have announced plans for"
        "Saturn, Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Audi, Hyundai, and Volkswagen have announced plans for"

        Plans and more plans... yeah, sounds solid to me. I'd bet my life savings on that one. I think you need to look up the definition of 'plan' and 'committed to' because I don't think they mean what you think they mean. Business, like many things, is always a fluid situation; ever changing. They can plan things 'til they are blue in the face. Doesn't make it any more real than it is right now.

        Fisker or any car manufacturer for that matter, knows what's going to exactly happen in the future about a much as a tea leaf knows the history of the East India Company. It's not your statement I should re-read. It's this part of the article you need to re-read. The one where it reads "His guess is". Which is just as accurate as the same blanket quote people have been tossing around like a frisbee since as long as I can remember:

        "It's just 10 years away."

        I've been reading things like this for hydrogen as well as electric cars for a long time and it amazes me his similar they all are to the same statements today.

        Bottom line is, no one knows exactly if, when or how much any of those particular production goals will be reached, let alone if the auto sales market can sustain those numbers. There is a myriad of unforeseeable events that could change any one of those values to alter the outcome in time, money or units or all of the above. And that is true not just for EV's but for all ICE replacement vehicle options different manufactures are working on.

        So pray a butterfly doesn't flap his wings in China and they only produce 79K cars. Maybe you can ask any of them what next week's lottery numbers will be. Since you seem to have so much faith in their 'facts' they surely must know. Unless of course they only will know say... 10 years from now.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Everything is just 'ten years away'."

        Oh shut up. If anything, Frisker is being pessimistic...

        -BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Tesla, and BYD have announced plans for EVs by 2012, with figures from 10K-30K first year, each.

        -Saturn, Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Audi, Hyundai, and Volkswagen have announced plans for plans for plug-in hybrids for 2010-2013.

        -Detriot Electric is planning 30K EVs for the US by 2011 and another supplier Magna marketing their EV around to the automakers (Ford has already signed on) and want it produced in high quantities to lower the price.

        There will be at least 100K full EVs on the US market by 2012, and at least double that in plug-in hybrids by 2013-14....with production for all those vehicles doubling or tripling for the next couple years after that. Looks like we'll be seeing those $20,000 EVs alot sooner.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Everything is just "ten years away".
      • 6 Years Ago
      The new Honda Insight Hybrid has a base price of $19,800, so if you can somehow install a plug on it for less than $200 then we're already there. A 110 VAC charger probably costs $50, assuming you don't add any extra batteries or anything.

      I don't see this taking ten years, but you're going to get a very basic plug-in economy car for that price.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm fairly sure they are talking about a car with a reasonable amount of plug-in range, at least 10 miles. And the Insight can't drive on electricity alone. For that you need either a series hybrid like the Volt, or a series-parallel, like the Prius. For the current hybrids, the battery can only take you around 2 miles in slow speeds; adding a plug would be relatively pointless with that kind of battery pack, and though technically you can call it a "plug-in hybrid" it doesn't achieve the goal of traveling a decent amount of trips purely on electricity.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The 16kwh pack of lithium cells used in the Volt is $8k.. that probably does not include the cost of the whole pack, wiring, cooling etc. 16kwh will give you an 80 mile range but it should be derated to get longevity out of the pack.. other companies are promising $300 a kwh for LiFe cells. A pack of this size could easily be fitted to a 2010 Prius and it would gain you a lot.. not so much with an Insight but perhaps not. Cheap batteries are here now, apparently.
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