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  • Oct 19th 2012 at 12:09PM
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Thomas Edison famously said that genius was one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. To get to the heart of what's holding back broader adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), though, it's even better to paraphrase one-time Bill Clinton advisor James Carville: "It's the battery, stupid."

That's the gist of a report (PDF) from the Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the way it handicaps various advanced-powertrain vehicle types and what their chances are of making a dent in the light-duty vehicle market. Specifically, the 28-page report notes that neither high gas taxes in Europe nor vehicle subsidies that cut the out-of-pocket EV prices in North America have spurred EV demand in either continent.

Instead, ITIF says, the government's efforts should be put squarely into the research and development required to create an EV battery pack that will cost less than $250 per kilowatt hour and have a 300-mile single-charge range. That means that any money used for tax credits and other consumer incentives should be shifted to R&D funding. In other words, a seismic change from how EVs are promoted today.

Last year, 10,064 EVs were sold in the US, or about one in 125 new domestic vehicles. In 2012, the Nissan Leaf, last year's best selling EV, has seen its year-to-date sales fall 28 percent from a year earlier to 5,212 units.


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  • 91 Comments
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      So basically, they want to switch from the free-market competition-driven system to a command economy government-driven system. Brilliant. Just Brilliant.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        We're already there, Spec. In the free market ( which we don't have anymore at all in this country - we just got ranked #18 in economic freedom ), things don't get tax breaks or subsidies, and even better, they don't get bailouts, nor is there regulation to say that you must sell a certain thing or discourage you from selling another thing.. Nowadays the government calls the shots, and they like it that way, and they've managed to convince people that it should be that way. it is very sad. We were in better shape when there was less regulation, uncertainty, no NAFTA, i could go on.. p.s. you should friend me on facebook if you have it; i am at facebook (dot) com / neptronixneptronix
      Rick
      • 2 Years Ago
      Rob J Londons Low Emisions Zone where 1 in 6 British people live. Large vans and minibuses, pick-ups of £100 a day in Greater London, if they fail to meet pollution limits. It is the first time the vehicles have fallen under the Low Emission Zone, which covers most roads inside the M25. Tougher restrictions will also mean £200 daily fees for lorries, buses and coaches which fall short of European Union standards on pollution. Via Motors Chevy Silverado/Surburban/Chevy Vans E-REVs 100 MPG/40 miles break all these rules would keep you future charge bomb proof, UK governments are always moving goalposts on emissions & London Low Emission Zone Costs. How much would a Via Motors Chevy Silverado/Surburban/Chevy Vans E-REVs 100 MPG/40 miles save a British Company? £100 a day x 365 days £36,500 a year x 15 years of use £547,500 ($880,083). A owner of a fleet of 5 year old Ford Rangers failed to meet Londons Low Emissions (Thats a moving target) he normally kept his fleet of Rangers for 12 years, did not have the money to upgrade trucks, banks would not lend him the money for soot filter modifications that cost £2,000 ( $3,214) , so he had to sell some to pay to mod the rest of his fleet. London Low Emmision Zone has forced a lot of small companies out of business that could not afford to upgrade. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h326ZUKmjqc
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      More R&D won't achieve the savings that comes with mass production. Achieving mass production is the only way savings are realized from mass production. ITIF is a 501c Washington DC lobbyist group pushing political positions they are paid to push (same as the Carl Rove's 501c American Crossroads). ITIF's work reads like a Tea Party rally. "Regulations Are Killing Innovation in Government" "Is Clean Energy Innovation Policy Picking Winners and Losers?" "Big Government Tax Grab!" This whole article stinks of James Carville style political spin.
        Naturenut99
        • 2 Years Ago
        @raktmn
        James Carville is far on the other side. He is no where near a Tea Party person. The rest seems to be absolutely on the nose.
        raktmn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @raktmn
        At the risk of sounding like PeeWee Herman, I actually meant that on purpose since I already named a spin artist from one party. Whether the spin comes from James Carville or Carl Rove it is all just spin, and the stink of political spin is all over this thing. The ITIF even includes a political operative from California Republican Senate Leader Bob Huff. So this is probably Rob Huff's 501c front operation the same way Carl Rove controls the Crossroads 501c front operation. It is no secret that there is strong opposition to EV's in the California Republican Party, and this is the exact nonsense they use over and over at CARB board meetings to try and delay zero emissions vehicle mandates.
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      R&D funding and credits / coupons solve two very different problems. R&D funding solves the issue of betting large Millions of dollars on the commercialization of technology that takes years (decades) to develop and recoup. With how early EVs are, the R&D money should be flowing into patent consortia spearheaded by universities and other research institutions, and then licensed on a FRAND basis. This maximizes ROI and acceleration of technology development and distribution. However R&D does little to help with materials and production costs. No matter how smart you are, if an EV requires a expensive component that can only get cheaper with mass adoption economies of scale, then you're stuck. Yes, there can be some R&D to help with cost, such as refresh / recycling similar to aluminum, but that only goes so far. That's where the tax credits / coupons come in. Being able to subsidize the mass sales solves this problem. The problem here is implementation - these should be paid as cash under the table to the OEMs directly, upon production, so they can be bundled into the MSRP. The small number of OEMs simplifies the whole process considerably. Rather than dealing with nearly 20,000 individuals in 2011, or likely 40,000 individuals in 2012, the government is dealing with a few dozen OEMs. The reduction saves money that would have been burned in processing.
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am in favor of scrapping technology based buyer incentive programs in favor of more R&D funding. But then there should be one, technology agnostic, self funded incentive program. A beefed up gas guzzler tax type program, that takes the money from the guzzler tax and gives it as a rebate on gas savers. This way it doesn't come from revenues, but there is still and incentive to save gas and disincentive to wasting it. Be technology agnostic, it would let the market decide the best way to accomplish these goals.
        Rick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        Until they can get the price down of the batteries it's only gonna be a car for the rich few or big companies awash with a self interest like GE & the Volt. R & D spending at the end of the day is the only real hope for the EV. At the moment gasoline is very expensive in Europe at nearly $10 a gallon, which will come to the US will one day as oil supplies dwindle rather than high EU taxes, we should be jumping into EVs but no Average Joe can afford to buy them, but in the real world lots are getting into cycling and giving up the car in the UK, skipping the EV on mass. If oil was to run out in the UK today only a rich few would be able to afford an expensive new electric car, the massive majority rest would have to walk, cycle, take the bus or train to work. Battery prices will have to fall or it will remain an absolute failure. Gas guzzling taxes are used to pay the Investment banks gambling debts that have been transferred on the the governments books in the UK, with 30 British EV sales in August our government is not paying much out in the ways of incentives in Great Britain that could be ploughed back into R & D instead.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's a bit different, raktmn. That program isn't intended to improve the sales of computers, or to improve the quality/price of computers. It's intended to give poor students equal access to learning tools that have become a necessary part of education.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      There are both battery and electrics motor factories in the USA.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      If we had done that Japan and China and Europe would own all the patents. US companies would be locked out of these new technologies. That's not sound economic policy. All these countries compete against the US by subsidizing their industry. What you suggest is like the former Soviet Union withdrawing from global capitalism.
      JP
      • 2 Years Ago
      Obama simply stopped the fool cell greenwashing. Good for him.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sticking with the teeth brushing meme, Not backing green cars for financial reasons is the same as saying we should quit buying tooth paste and floss to save money.
      Rob J
      • 2 Years Ago
      Personally, I would rather see well made, well enginnered, long lasting, electric cars. And this goes against everything that "economies of scale" and the "corperate model" represents. If we leave EV's to the free market we are going to have medicore products like the iMiEV which, while important for progress, will be " throw away" cars in a few years, much in the same way a laptop from 2006 is essentially useless right now. I would rather see EV's be developed with longer model cycles with cradle to cradle development taken into account and, in my opinion, the market as it stands today, does not operate under that model. It operates under a model that worked in business quarters (3 months), not decades. But maybe my bias plays into this too much. I worked on a government funded 2nd gen ethanol research project at a university where there was no company pushing us forward into production so they could turn a profit sooner. Our research was done when it was done, not when some executive decided it was time to make money from it. I have also worked at an oil sands company where the motto was more of a "get this done now so we can spend less on research and make our profit sooner".
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        If batteries and motors can be efficiently recycled, and EVs can be designed for modular batteries & drivetrains, then there won't be an issue.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          I foresee next-gen batteries moving to a handful of modular, replaceable, standardized form factors, similar to starter / accessory batteries. Standardization and modularit will improve economies of scale. One spare battery module might support a dozen components in dozen cars.
          Rob J
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Yeah, and in the real world, that means selling thousands of cars with non-recyclable (or poorly recyclable) batteries before they have the funds to develop a recycling system. In my ideal world, that means putting up a large sum of cash to develop those batteries/recycling techniques and THEN going to mass production. It bothers me that many electric cars will end up being scrapped in less than 10 years because that is how they were designed - it defeats most of the purpose of developing them in the first place. It's just short vs long term planning.
          Ele Truk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          I don't know why you think EVs are throwaway. First off, the latest generation of EVs have only been around a couple years (like Leaf, or iMiev) so no longevity data exists. I am driving a 1999 Ford Ranger EV (with original batteries) so already it's outlived the average car - Consumer Reports says the average life of a passenger vehicle is 8 years.
          Rob J
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          I should also say that I don't care THAT much about cost. I would take a $60,000 EV that lasts 20 years over a $20,000 that only lasts 10. It's not always about the direct money involves, it's about the external costs. At least for me.
      Rob J
      • 2 Years Ago
      So "average Joe Birt" can't afford an EV and only taxpayer wasting government agencies buy them BUT this pickup truck is what is what is in amazing DEMAND in the UK? Yeah, the UK is such a massive market for pick ups...
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