Future of Electric Cars, Post Obama

By Joel Arellano | June 05, 2012
In a recent article, CBS News takes the Obama administration to task for loaning nearly $2.5 billion to encourage various car companies to build electric cars. Ignoring the political bent of the article, let's take a look at some of the EVs mentioned in CBS' report and their future on America's roadways.
  • The Navistar eStar is a six-ton commercial vehicle built by truck and engine company Navistar International. The eStar has a range of 100 miles before needing to recharge, which takes 6-8 hours. However, the lithium-ion battery packs can be swapped for fresh ones in as little as 20 minutes. FedEx plans to use the eStar for its Los Angles, California territories. We don’t see the average car or even truck owner considering these as a daily driver.
  • The 2012 Ford Focus EV is currently on sale. Motor Trend drove the all-electric hatch, which they found quite solid on the road. This reflects our own views of the gasoline-powered Ford Focus Titanium edition, which we drove earlier this year. Unlike our model, the Ford Focus EV interior space suffers from its battery packs.
  • The Nissan leaf EV is one of the most popular EVs currently on the road. Our colleagues over at Automobile Magazine find the Leaf to be a normal car as long as you don't turn on the Eco mode, which severely saps its power. Oh, and they miss engine sounds (which the Leaf, as an electric car, barely makes).
  • The Chevrolet Volt saw strong sales surges the past couple of months despite so-called "battery fires" investigation which were quickly (for a government agency) and legitimately snuffed out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Both Fisker and Tesla's EV offerings have been closely monitored by the automotive press, partially because their electric cars but more that they're electric sports cars. With estimated price tags in the mid-$50,000 (Fisker Atlantic, Tesla Model S) to six figures (Fisker Karma), such high-end EVs are not really for the masses like the Nissan Leaf or the Chevrolet Volt.
  • The Ford Transit Connect is still available and its parent company Ford in no current danger of going bankrupt. (Does CBS News know something we don't know?) Instead, Azure Dynamics, which builds the all-electric powertrain for the Ford Transit Connect Electric model, is currently in bankruptcy protection as of March of this year.
Not mentioned in the report is the Mitsubishi i electric car. Now on sale in Hawaii, the Mitsubishi i is a pure electric car like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV.
So where do we see the future of EVs here in the states? From a consumer's point of view, they will continue to proliferate as automakers build them to meet -- yes -- consumer demand, but also to meet government laws here and abroad. While CBS does have a point that the electric vehicle growth most likely won't meet the 1 million by 2015 advocated by the Obama administration, honestly, who cares from a consumer viewpoint? The vehicles are here and expand car buyers' choices. Source: CBS News, Automobile Magazine, Motor Trend