The Electric Car Gold Rush of 2010

The buzz around electric sports-car-maker Tesla Motors is sparking something akin to what happened in California 150 years ago—this time the rush is toward plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.

Tesla’s headline-grabbing all-electric Roadster, which has garnered orders and investments from the likes of the Governator and the Google guys, has inspired a rush of companies trying to capitalize on what they believe is a burgeoning electric vehicle market. Undaunted by Tesla’s difficulties in delivering on early promises or problems faced by the last wave of electric car projects, these companies—mostly with design and engineering experience only—are charging forward with a “if they can build a car, why not us” attitude. For some reason, nearly all these companies claim that 2010 is the year they will hit the market.

  • Fisker Coachbuild in Southern California is already on the charts with its swoopy plug-in, the Karma. If and when it comes to market, it will be a low-volume vehicle produced by a consortium of auto industry veterans, backed by millions of dollars of venture capital funding. Expected in late 2009.
  • Pininfarina, a design studio in Europe with a long track record of supplying vehicle designs to major carmakers is dedicating an assembly line to producing EVs in collaboration with the Bollore Group, a French conglomerate producing batteries for the new vehicle. With €150 million invested, they plan to have it on the market in, you guessed it, 2010.
  • Gordon Murray Design has jumped into the fray, offering an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid using lightweight thermoplastic composites, a skill learned from the company’s work with racecars and high-end sports cars. They also have backing from venture capitalists—but will focus on selling designs to others willing to take on the bigger task of producing the vehicle.
  • Other companies in Europe talking about producing their own grid-connected green machines are Loremo of Germany and Mindset of Switzerland. Both companies claim they will have hybrids on the market in the next couple of years.

2010 or Bust

While announcements from these small companies keep bloggers busy, the big boys—major auto companies and Tier 1 suppliers—are making plug-in vehicle plans of their own. For example, Magna International—a top-tier supplier with a track record of actually producing vehicles for sale around the world—is jumping into the fray with its own brand of plug-in hybrid.

Magna set aside $30 million of its own money to develop systems for the vehicle, which it plans to launch by 2010. Magna has the engineering expertise to develop the components to make a plug-in hybrid work, and has hybrid components for the new car already in the field for testing. This also gives them the leverage of either selling the completed car or some of its components to major brands on their customer list, such as BMW and Jeep.

Meanwhile, the heavyweights are making their own plans: General Motors with the Chevrolet Volt and Saturn Vue Plug-in; Toyota with a plug-in version of the Prius; and Ford with a plug-in Explorer. They have all expressed intentions to enter this portion of the marketplace and do not plan to hand over sales to upstarts. Right behind these players, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Norway’s Th!nk are in various stages of development and testing on a new generation of small electric cars.

The larger companies have a number significant advantages: big R&D departments, and well-established sales infrastructures and marketing arms geared toward moving product.

Finally, a caveat: The underlying battery technology in nearly every one of these endeavors—lithium ion chemistry in various combinations—has still not yet been proven in large-scale vehicle production. Consumers looking to buy their first all-electric car are advised to be wary of extreme marketing claims in this still-developing segment—especially any company promising a date-certain for introducing an electron-powered dream car.


  • Need2Change

    Yes. This reminds me of the 1990s-2000s dot.com boom-bust, and the 1970′s-1080s personal computer boom-bust.

    They’ll be many small upstarts with good ideas and some major players not sure they want to change. In the end, most companies will go bankrupt, but a handful will succeed — and make billions, e.g. Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Google, Amazon, etc.

    The consumer will be confused and make a lot of bad choices, but ultimately, electric propulsion will be king of the road.

    I’m not sure what will happen in the air. Airlines need to find an alternative to fossil fuel.

  • David Wilbanks

    Its May 8 2008 and gas is $3.59 a gallon in my town and deisal is $4.19 a gallon( how is this? Its like charging more for bologna than steak.) My response is that I am actively looking into an electric car, and am definitley changing my voting habits.

  • Anonymous

    DAVID:

    Diesel is more expensive because it is harder to refine to a low sulfur state and also out of a 42 gallon barrel of crude oil, you get 20 gallons of convention fuel and 7-8 gallons of diesel.

    When you factor in this fact, diesel mileage per barrel is no better (if not worse) than regular gasoline. So I don’t know how some of these stupid diesel advocates can’t see this.

    You actually waste more fuel using diesel.

  • DRoss

    Well I must concure with Need2change on this matter. Need2change is correct. The Electric car industries will be just like everything else. From type writters to computers or telephones to Star Trek communicators (cell phones), Electric cars will now begin to make their show on the market place soon. Like all other appliances/commodities, the price will be near the space station at first, but in time will linger, hang around a few clouds here and there, then it will float down to the tree tops and HEY! what do ya know? there close to being affordable to the average working american at mcdonalds paycheck prices.

    What I find funny is that the public really believes that building an electric car is really tough to do. haha, NO IT IS NOT. People were building them back around 1900s. One was even built to run on static electric even. People, the electric car is NOT new. Its old technology that never caught on in the early years of the 1900s.

    Batteries are not new eather. Copper batteries were around in the old egyptian days. Google it, you see.

    What do you think the lunar buggie ran on back in 1969? It sure was not peddle powered. Every so often some one will come out with an electric car. Why did it not catch on in the public, be cause people do not understand electric very well when it comes to paying for it at a pump. What do you charge for it? X number of dollars for what? The watt? The amp? The volt? Charge time? I know, and you might know, but most people are to use to the understanding of the Gallon. It was easier to understand and work with. So gasoline became the energy of choice of the public to use.

    With electric around, who can make money selling oil. Well, put 2 and 2 together. Thats why the electric car never really made it to the show room yet, until now. Now electric car industries have no one from big oil companies working aginst them. when it comes to the government rules and regs, the oil companies complain, but the american public screams louder so the Government wants votes, better ease up, and let the electric car have its day.

    Now with the oil prices skyrocketing, electric cars have a friend in the market place to help them make their claims. Painfull gas prices. Electric is easier at the house plug-in.

    Iis the electric car equill to the gold rush. well that might be going a little over board just now. Perhaps soon though.

  • Anonymous

    Well then why is diesel so prevailent in Europe? I don’t think that it’s that much more expensive to make seeing as it is a major competitor in Europe. Probably the only reason it’s so expensive in America is because of the lack of diesel demand. There are barely any cars in the U.S. that are diesel…

  • Anonymous

    Interesting analogy. Wonder how Europe can sell diesel for less than gasoline….

  • RJ

    For those of you keeping score, the “lunar buggie” mentioned above wasn’t used until July/Aug 1971 during Apollo 15.

  • Anonymous

    Diesel is less expensive because there are less taxes on it when compared to gasoline. European gov’t emphasis efficiency and promote it by offering less taxes on diesel and making it more appealing to consumers.

  • Shines

    I think the reason electric cars have not been produced is because they would not be competitive. I don’t think the oil companies had to worry about it. If car makers could sell electrics profitable they would have. Even the ones discussed above have ranges of maybe 120 miles on a charge at best. An how much will they cost? From what I’ve read the volt will be about $35K and it will run for 120 miles on a charge? I hope people will buy it. Most gas and diesels go 350 – 450 miles before they need to be refueled.
    I think the hybrid makes the most sense at the moment. If you run out of gas you should be able to make it to a gas station on electric. If the battery goes you have the gasoline/diesel to get you there. I don’t believe in most conspiricies – car companies are not owned by the oil companies. They have just taken advantage of the least expensive fuel choices. Now they need to change as the price of oil climbs. If one of these start up electric auto companies comes up with a viable product I’d expect one of the major companies to attempt to buy it. I’m looking forward to seeing what becomes a reality. (but I’m not holding my breath)

  • Th!nk

    Considering also electric cars that are on the market now?
    http://www.think.no/

  • Max Reid

    Anothe EV is coming by 2010

    http://www.zapworld.com/zap-x-crossover

    Price Tag $60,000. Its a proper 5-seater with lot more space and Lithium Battery.

  • jake

    @Shines
    The Volt is not an electric car in the traditional sense, it’s a PHEV. It only gets 40 miles per charge, but the rest is travelled by gasoline. Total range is 400 miles.

    As mentioned, the reason why electrics are not adopted is because they are expensive. Quite frankly I don’t think the range limits today of around 100 for most EVs is going to be that hard to accept for most, esp with 10 minute quick chargers, if it isn’t still expensive compared to normal cars. Tesla got to 221 miles EPA but that’s with a $20k 1000lb battery pack, so people will have to make some sacrifices in terms of maximum range, unless they always want to stay with PHEVs and gasoline. It’s mostly the expensive prices of the batteries, but also because there is little development in electric vehicles for most of the history of the automobile; only recently has interest once again been rekindled. Prices will go down when more people adopt it and more progress is made in development for EVs/PHEVs.

    PHEVs can serve to get people into the door of EVs; they aren’t too much more expensive than normal cars and you don’t have to worry about lower range of the electric mode while still getting the benefit of full electric drive for the whatever the electric range is.

    Gasoline is definitely not the least expensive fuel choice, it’s just the technology for making car that runs on it was cheaper and had continued development (mostly because of Henry Ford’s mass production technique which no other could compete on price at the time, gasoline powered or otherwise). On average in US today, for EVs, a $1.00′s worth of electricity can get you twice as far as a gallon of gasoline in an average car; gasoline went over 50cents a gallon a long time ago, so fuel cost isn’t the issue here.

    As for the conspiracies, don’t believe most of them either, but it’s not as if in the past GM didn’t take an active role in killing off public transportation, esp. street cars. The only theory that I have seen that makes sense for why car companies want to stick to ICE powered cars is that there is still significant profit made in maintenance and repair of cars, which with an EV would be pretty much non-existant. But that’s in the past; right now the future looks bright for EVs/PHEVs with major automakers developing them with free will.

  • Need2Change

    Everything will change and car companies can’t stop it.

    We need to eliminate CO2 pollution. The internal combustion engine needs to go. First hybrids will be king from 2010-2015, and then all electric will become king.

    We need to stop long-distance transporting of goods via trucks and highways. As one example, why does PODS use trucks to transport Pods, when trains could be used?

    Plug-in Hybrids will force highway taxes to change. At first, states will probably increase gasoline taxes to compensate for loss of funds from plug-in or electric vehicles, but eventually states will need to come up with a different source of revenue for highways.

    Airline travel will become too expensive for many. We’re going to see 100% + increases to current airline ticket costs. People will vacation locally, rather than fly across the country. Destinations like remote ski resorts or Florida could be significantly hurt.

    More people will buy homes closer to where they work. Therefore, some home prices will skyrocket, and others (20-50 miles outside of cities) will continue to fall in value.

    People will rely more on mass transit, and drive their cars less.

    The automotive repair industry will decline. People will drive less, and electric vehicles will be more reliable.

    As soon as car manufacturers start selling more cars that get 50+ mpg and the price of gas exceeds $5/gallon, today’s cars getting less than 25 mpg will fall in value. This will be a great opportunity for car manufacturers (even Detroit) to replace every car in the world.

  • MH

    To whoever mentioned Zap in the comments – and everyone who is concerned about the electric car industry: be aware that Zap! is a scam. Read the recent Wired Magazine article that discusses the company and it’s crooked business schemes.

    The electric car business is real but during transition periods as we are now experiencing there is always a few people who decide to take advantage of the public with scams. Be aware!

  • electron

    Governments need to establish price supports for liquid fuels that provide a floor that liquid fuels can not fall through. This will insure that the liquid fuels industry cannot undercut electric tech vehicles. It happened with solar in the late 70s & early 80s. If a price floor for liquid fuels were established, I’m sure you would see alot more assertive development.

  • Stephansdad

    I see three things necessary to make a viable EV succeed.

    1. It must seat no less the four adults

    2. It must be realistically affordable to the lower income of the middle-class

    3. It must be able to drive reasonably at freeway speed and travel minimum of 100 miles on a charge

    Meet these requirements, add a bit of style and a fortune will be made.

    Don’t sell it on “Going green”, sell it on “stick it to the man”.

  • Ed Stevens

    Who are the major EV car developers in North America right now? Are the Norwegian THINK vehicles available here in the USA yet? Are Ford, GM, and Toyota developing fully electric EV’s, or are they going to stick with HEV’s and PHEV’s for now?

  • SteveS

    Cut dependence on foreign oil:
    http://www.setamericafree.org/

  • Tim, Switzerland

    I have ordered a Karma and have been told I will get chassis no.675….. :o)

    The only figure I have never seen answered by any of these start up EV companies, is how much will it cost to charge a PHEV or an EV per charge ??? I don’t need an exact figure as electricity costs are different $ everywhere, but if someone could figure out it something like…. if it costs $1 to charge your phone overnight it will cost $15 to charge a car overnight, that would be very interesting….

  • Anonymous

    “To whoever mentioned Zap in the comments – and everyone who is concerned about the electric car industry: be aware that Zap! is a scam. Read the recent Wired Magazine article that discusses the company and it’s crooked business schemes.”

    Stop spreading malicious rumours MH, no one like a telltale (or a liar for that matter).

    http://www.wired.com/cars/coolwheels/news/2008/02/zap

    Says only that they may not make a very ambitious 2009 deadline…..not that it is a scam

  • jag

    We see this happening because the electric power distribution channel for is not monopolized by the oil company. So we built the first electric distribution Plug-in electric station that allows anyone to create a electric plug-in station from there house, cafe, rest. & etc. Just like this link below.
    http://www.housedna.com/UnusualXchangeMem.aspx?MemI=52
    Plug-in users can sell power at an hourly parking charge to customers and friends.
    Join the revolution at housedna.com

  • rwcole

    Agree that hybrids are the best solution for now. The new Prius gets 51 mpg overall- better than that in the city. At $4 per gallon, you can log 1,000 miles in a month for $80. If you go to a plug in, you might cut the $80 to $40—at an incremental cost of $15,000. That ain’t gonna cut it.

  • Change paradigms

    electric propulsion came before combustion technology….it is just like beta vs. vhs…or current hdvd vs. blu ray etc…not necessarily the better technology won….for instance, in England and around U.S., there were all electric trains and streetcars….Henry Ford used mass mfg. processes to supercede this….and the highway act of ’64 meant the demise of rails for transportation and even for most other things, except coal, ironically, most of which now is from Wyoming….which once again, is the least efficient, but has lowest sulfur content…despite all politics, etc..this has to change…it is, to use the most currently overused, but true, phrase, “not sustainable”

  • RobertReginald11

    It’s good to see that the Tesla company launched this model whom I think will be very well received in this market. I worked for a while at a Fox Car rental agency and I know that people are willing to buy electric cars. Nevertheless, the future belongs to those types of vehicles and it’s good to see the big companies getting better every day.

  • Alpan Yılmaz

    ALPAN AKADEMİ KURSLARI 10 Aralık 1984 tarihinde kurucumuz Hilmi ALPAN önderliğinde kurulmuş tecrübeli,
    seçkin, eğitim ve öğretimi kendisine görev addetmiş ve hala bu bilinçle görevini en iyi ve başarılı bir şekilde sürdürmektedir.

  • Fatih Odabaşı

    2006 yılında Axa Sigorta A.Ş.ile çalışmasını sürdürmekte olup, büyüme kararı alan Şirketimiz,
    2008 yılında Dubai Group Sigorta A.Ş. 2009 yılında Anadolu Sigorta A.Ş. Aviva Sigorta A.Ş, Demir
    Sigorta A.Ş. Ve Fiba Sigorta A.Ş. İle Sigortacılık alanında tüm branşlarda çalışmasına devam
    etmektedir.