October 15, 2012

The fall and rise of the electric car

I've been doing some research about electric cars, and it seems like they are on their way to come back. A part of the research consisted of watching the movies Who killed the electric car? from 2006, and Revenge of the electric car from 2011.

The first movie is mostly about the EV1 which was an electric car developed by General Motors. The first electric car was produced in the 1800s, but the EV1 was the first mass produced electric car, and a total of 1117 were built between 1996 and 1999. The EV1 was a two-seat car and had the similar shape as a Citroen DS where the back wheels are almost covered, and it was developed in California. Several celebrities liked the car, and the actor Mel Gibson said that he felt like he was driving the same car as the superhero Batman, because of the good performance.

But the EV1 failed, and many of the cars were crushed because GM didn't believe that the cars would bring a profit to the company. GM didn't sell the car, you had to lease it for $250 to $500 per month. When GM wanted to pull back the EV1's they simply told the owners that they had to turn them in, or they would face the legal consequences. Some owners fought back, and had to beg to not get their leased cars crushed by GM as well, but in the end all cars were crushed except for a few which were donated to museums and schools. This is one of the reasons to why GM never tried to build another electric car, until they learned about the Roadster developed by Tesla Motors. Here's a video showing one of their models - Model S:


The next movie is mostly about Tesla Motors ($TSLA) and how GM tries to catch up with their own electric car, the Volt. Tesla Motors was founded in 2003, and by now they have three electric cars: The Roadster, Model X, and Model S. What they have done to increase the performance of their cars is to replace the old car batteries, with the same battery as in your laptop. The Roadster has a total of almost 7000 batteries, but the car is faster and has a longer range than any other electric car.

Everyone were blaming General Motors during the financial crisis in 2008, that they were producing the wrong type of cars, and that the Japanese were the smart one who produced the correct environmental friendly cars. But that's not true, GM were producing the exact type of cars the world wanted until the gas prices went up. So now when everyone have begun to produce electric cars, then the car makers will need a high gas price if these models are going to sell, or the electric car may die once again. Most people will care more about their wallet, than the environment, and the current price of gas - not what the price of gas may be at tomorrow.

So in the end what we need to replace the gasoline cars with electric cars is:
  • A higher gas price - people follow their wallet.
  • The ability to charge the electric cars. I myself live in an apartment and can't have an electric car simply because I can't charge it. You currently need to own your own garage if you want to own an electric car, or be able to charge the car where you are working. But more and more charging stations are being build - there's a total of one million of them today around the world.
  • We need to charge the electric cars with clean energy - not with coal power plants. If you buy a car from Tesla Motors, you will at the same time have the option to purchase a solar panel that you can attach to your house. This solar panel is enough to cover all your electricity you need for your electric car. 

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