The Latest EV News

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I like to stay informed on the latest developments in electric vehicles (EVs)—in other words, with the amazing idea of trying to resurrect a technology that died a century ago, with the advent of the internal combustion engine. EVs are a retro-idea so captivating to our genius president that he has been willing to lavish billions of taxpayer money on funding EV makers. It’s easy to play at being a venture capitalist when you’re using other people’s capital.

A new Wall Street Journal article reports that Azure Dynamics, a Canadian company that, in partnership with Ford, makes electric vans for sale in Europe and America, has stopped production of its e-vans and filed for bankruptcy. It did this in spite of receiving millions of dollars in federal grant money, including a recent $5.4 million grant to work on a new electric inverter.

Azure hit the wall after making a miserable 508 e-vans (and retrofitting 1,500 Ford vans to make them hybrids) this year, and only 800 last year.

Ford is now worried about who will service the damn things, and 120 of the company’s 160 workers are looking for work.

The WSJ piece also notes that recent sales of Nissan’s EV (the Leaf) and GM’s EV (the Volt) have been lousy. Fisker Automotive has had two recent recalls and is jonesing for another government loan. Its battery supplier, A123 Systems, has just issued a recall of its products, and is looking for suckers—pardon me, investors — to come up with $55 million to cover the recall.

Earlier this year, Bright Automotive went dim — it filed for bankruptcy when it could not get any more federal subsidies. Last year, EV maker Think Global failed miserably, leaving Indiana with a nice, empty factory. Think Globally, fail locally — what a great business model!




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Comments

Anthony Willis

Checking the Tesla website, they seem to be doing well. They have designed a new sedan last year. The only issue they appear to have is battery going dead which causes the car to be non-functional. As long as the battery doesn't die, the cars average 300 miles on a full charge.

Visitor

First, I agree -- the gov. should butt out.
2nd, there are old and new battery solutions for EV applications that actually make the vehicles practical, but there's a lot of resistance from established, "Big Players" since implementation might break their rice bowls (or at least remove some of the rice).

While four battery techs come to mind, I'll list my two favorites (one very old and one relatively recent), since they can both actually be had, and are well understood -- for the reader's further investigation:

* the nickle-iron battery (AKA: Edison Battery)
* Flow Batteries: there are a wide variety of chemistries available, but from my reading, the most dominant (and origianl discovery) is Vanadium-Redox.

Enjoy!

Rob McMillin

Energy density is king in automotive and aerospace applications. Energy density, in part, won the air war in World War II. (Advanced research on refining extreme high octane fuels allowed Allied aircraft to outfly Nazi planes.) Gasoline has around 13 kWh/kg. By contrast, the NiFe battery is 30-50 Wh/kg.

That is not a typo: it represents a step backwards of three orders of magnitude. Even allowing for the increased efficiency of electric motors (typically 80% and higher), this still means at least one or two orders of magnitude of energy density equivalent have to be surmounted to gift a battery-powered car with the same range as a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. Currently, the best lithium-ion batteries operate in excess of 600 Wh/kg, which still yields substantial trouble for the would-be electric car revivifier.

Gary Jason

This is where free markets are the answer. EVs died out a centruy ago, and the government's attempt to resurrect them at massive taxpayer expense seems not to be working. If "visitor" is right, and we both agree to end the subsidies and let the EV makers compete equally, well, then, they will eventually succeed using the batteries he feels are effective. If Mr. McMillin is right, even with those newer batteries, EVs will still not work out, and will die in the free market.

Personally, I have nothing against EVs, or for them. If they prove competitive in the free market--WHICH OBVIOUSLY THEY HAVEN'T BEEN SO FAR--I would certainly consider buying one. But can we just agree to let the market decide?

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