The End of Hybrids? Not So Fast

The very first electric cars are still six months away from car dealerships, and some auto writers are already pronouncing the end of the age of hybrids. Warren Brown of the Washington Post, said, “Hybrids are merely a way-station until we get proper electric cars and infrastructure…The Prius’s dominance seems to be almost over.”

Brown was responding to Mathew DeBoard, of the, who on Earth Day wrote that the Toyota Prius is “the most important car of all time,” but mostly because it showed the way to the new world of electric cars.

While Brown and DeBoard are arguing about the past historical significance of the Prius and hybrids, both writers are overlooking the future of the technology. If hybrids are a bridge technology, as they assert, then a study of the product plans from major carmakers would suggest that it will be a very long bridge:

  • Toyota plans to double hybrid production in the next year, and will introduce an entire family of Prius cars in the next few years.
  • Ford’s electrification strategy includes the all-electric Ford Focus and Transit Connect, but also the Ford MKZ Hybrid, due later this year, a plug-in hybrid Ford Escape, and a pair of next-generation hybrids by 2013.
  • Hyundai this summer will introduce its first hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid, and told us that it’s working on a new dedicated hybrid-only model to compete against the Prius.
  • Honda is re-investing and re-engineering its future hybrids in a quest to take the lead on fuel economy. It will introduce the CR-Z this summer, and use the technology on a hybrid minivan and in their Acura luxury division.
  • General Motors is on track to introduce its Chevy Volt—which is fundamentally a plug-in hybrid—late this year and will follow with a plug-in hybrid crossover SUV. GM executives continue to assert that mild hybrid technology is a critical strategy for making future hybrids affordable.
  • Mercedes is expected to convert its entire S-class to hybrid technology in the next few years.
  • Of the major car companies, Nissan stands alone in its belief that pure electric cars are a single-point solution. Yet, its luxury division unveiled the Infiniti M35 Hybrid, its first hybrid, at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show two months ago. UK’s Autocar reported that all Infinitis will be hybrids within 10 years.

At, we are huge fans of plug-in electric cars—and in fact will launch a sister site,, in just a few weeks. For us, it’s all about options, with hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs—as well as more fuel-efficient gas- and diesel-powered vehicles—all playing a role in more sustainable automotive future.

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  • AP

    “The Prius’s dominance seems to be almost over.”

    What dominance? The entire hybrid market share is what, 3-4%? The conventional ICE-powered vehicle is still dominant by far, by better than a ratio of 20:1.

    Only Federal laws will change that, so what becomes the leader is largely determined by external influences, not the technology or economics themselves.

  • sp

    In this context “dominance” does not refer to automobile market share. If you read the article the quote was taken from, it’s clear that the author was referring to dominance in alternative vehicles, and opening up a pathway from the hegemony of ICE vehicles to something more earth friendly.

    I would expect a reader of to be a little better informed. At least take the time to read the relevant articles, rather than criticizing a quote out-of-context.

  • J-Bob

    The only thing that currently limits hybrids from going to full electric is the means of storing the energy. Whether the battery is going to be chemical, kinetic, or solid state.. its the energy density of the battery that will determine how fast this hybrid transition takes place.

    If the last 20 years are any indication (from Lead Acid to NiCad to Li-Ion) are a baseline.. using that methodology would show that some new means of storing the energy entirely for a car to go entirely on battery power for up to 300 miles standard, could be in as little as 5 years to an outset of 10 years.

    If we can achieve the same progress in the next 20 years as we’ve had in the past 20, we could see cars with a range approaching 20 miles per pound of battery.

  • sp
  • AP

    sp, in other words, the Prius being dominant in the world of alternative propulsion is like a college basketball team winning the NIT. We’re # 64!

  • Dave K.

    Most in the U.S. are 2 car familys anyway so there is no conflict, my dream garage has an EV and a hybrid or PHEV in it. My wife would drive the hybrid (mainly because of range anxiety) and I would drive the EV, when we go out together we would take the EV and when we go out of town of course the hybrid, simple.
    My family fuel consumption would be 1/4-1/8 of my ICE basline.

  • Dom

    This supposed “Prius dominance” is only in the US (and maybe Japan) anyway. I think you’ll find the rest of the world has a different story to tell…

  • Phil

    ap – do you have a particular axe to grind or are you just argumentative and backward thinking?

  • ex-EV1 driver

    We can give AP a break. He works for the big-3 so he’s been force fed a lot of the koolaid but he’s a smart thinker with valuable insights nonetheless.

  • Anonymous

    Phil: AP works for GM … (as he mentioned in may of his previous posts) … don’t take him serious on anything Toyota related, he just likes to bash them.

  • Phil

    OK – no problem, I am brand new to this site and I drive a beat-up old school 2002 Prius with 85K trouble-free miles on it. I love all cars, especially high performance cars of which I have and do own many (GM, Ford, Ferrari, BMW) and I can tell you that the Prius has been OVERALL the most satifying drive I have ever owned. So, I really find comments like AP’s, from experience, to be out of touch. But I can understand and respect where he is coming from, I just don’t agree and don’t understand the fear that prompts that attitude… FYI, I hope that GM has a great hit on their hands with the VOLT, and that AP will come around when they do.

  • AP

    Actually, I did need to get a dig in because ex-EV1 driver (whom I also otherwise respect) has repeatedly called for the death of the IC engine and called it outdated, antique, outmoded, etc. (although electric motors have just as long a history in cars as IC engines). Plus, calling the Prius “dominant” reminded me of the phrase “Being a big fish in a small pond.” For hybrids to really make a difference, there need to be a lot of them sold, and there just aren’t.

    I’m actually just more open-minded (believe it or not) than most of the people who post here. There are many ways to be fuel-efficient, and fuel-efficiency is very important to me (sorry if that doesn’t agree with any prejudices towards GM people). I really don’t care how it’s fueled/charged. But I don’t think any one technology should be favored, or criticized more than another. I don’t think the government should incentivize one technology over another. Having government make those decisions leads to debacles like the (East German) Trabant and the EV1 dilemma.

    How about having better aero and lighter bodies in ALL cars-not just hybrids?

    Actually, I’d be happy to drive an electric vehicle, but I’ve yet to see one that can compete economically with the conventional IC engine powertrain, until we tax oil more heavily, at least. With the current economics of fuel costs and foreseeable battery technology, I’m skeptical that any switch to electric propulsion will be quick or complete. Like it or not, I predict the IC engine will be going strong 50 years from now.

    My only real complaint against Toyota is that they pushed and maintained their “green” image by using profits from gas-guzzling Tundras, Sequoias, and Land Cruisers (worst in class fuel economny, by the way) to subsidize their loss-making Priuses. It has been a classic case of of “Wizard of Oz” (don’t look behind the curtain).

    And which vehicle became the scapegoat for all things non-environmental: the Sequoia? the Tundra? the Land Cruiser? Nope. It was the Hummer!

    I guess the Prius smoke-screen worked. If we would have done the same thing, we would have been called hypocrites.

  • Anonymous

    AP – I agree, no single specific technology should be favored. Instead all promising alternatives should get support. I beliefe the future is no ‘one size fits them all’ – people have different needs. For some pure electric might work, for others a hybrid and even others a complete different technology. Than there is also the ‘primary family car’ and the day-day commuter car. We have one family car (small SUV) for big family trips and one prius that I use for my daily commute – would love to trade it for a limited range EV, since my commute is only 15miles (7.5 each way). Bottom line: we need choice, so that everyone can get the best fit. I don’t need 100miles pure electric for my commute. But I need something with >>100 miles for family trips.

    It’s e.g. a big problem that in germany diesel is subsidized which might explain why many companies there (and people in general) were somewhat late in the game to look at alternatives to diesel, since diesel has a higher mpg. People where happy with cheap diesel and high milage, but people never saw the true price of the diesel (many don’t even know that diesel is heavily subsidezed). I think this is an example how goverment support for one single technolgy blocked new developments of alternatives. Germans still don’t like the idea of hybrids, arguing that diesel is cheaper and more efficent.

    For the dominance of the prius: Agree, it is not really dominance. It probably just feels for many people that way, because the prius enabled the whole discussion about alternatives to good old gas engines to become more main stream. At least now more people are talking about it. All we need now in the US is higher gas prices to keep the need for more fuel efficiency up – most people are only interested in saving money and don’t care if they do anything good about the environment. Maybe some sort of gas-tax (environment fee) that is used to support ALL alternatives.

  • DC

    I fail to see why encourageing one form of propulsion over (others) is inherently a bad idea. Especially when many of the “alternatives” to gas are clearly as bad, if not worse than the gas-powered paradigm they seek to replace. The only people that seem to make this arguement that promoting one particular system (electric in this case), over others is wrong, are the people that want to keep dirty fossil-fuels in the game as long as possible. The only problem with this non-argument is it implies that all alternative are somehow on an equal footing and all deserve a place in the future. Well, this simply is not true, take hydrogen for example. It can never solve any of the problems with our current energytransport system, in fact, it would actually make things far worse if pursued even semi-seriously. Same with ethanol etc. These conculsions come not from emotion, rhetoric or special interest lobbies, but are grounded in physics and science and rational research.

    The end goal, is not, nor should ever be a “perfect”, cost-free solution, because such a thing is a fantasy. Rather the best that we can hope to acheive given the time and resources we have at hand. And yes, by this measure hybrids have no real future as they really dodge the central problem by pretending to be something they are not, a solution to the core problem, gas-powered mobile trash bins. Even more annoying, people that say they dislike the “one solution”, conviently ignore that governemts and industry for over a century have incentivized ONE solution, (GASOLINE) to the virtual exclusion of all others. So if one soluton was good enough when gas was king, why all of a sudden should we need to adapt a pluralistic approach that the fossil-fuel advocates themselves never permitted?

  • AP

    DC, we agree on hydrogen; I don’t see it ever beating out electric cars. It’s too complex and delicate (the book “The Hype About Hydrogen” covers this well). We agree on ethanol – it’s a political boondoggle, makes no sense energy-wise, and do we really want to wear out our farmland on fuel?

    I’m wondering where you’re getting your info on gasoline engines to justify calling them “gas-powered mobile trash bins.” They are now extremely clean (today’s IC-engined car emits fewer pollutants traveling down the road than a 1965 car does when it’s turned off). Older ones might be dirty, but gee, they’ve changed!

    As far as incentivizing gasoline vehicles to the exclusion of others, the government has subsidized electrical power expansion through the REA (Rural Electric Association) to provide power to everyone’s homes, and the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and Hoover Dam. You can use propane and natural gas in vehicles w/o road tax (gasoline is penalized here). They have subsidized ethanol (which is idiotic and an energy sink), and California temporarily mandated EV’s, then pulled the rug out from under the manufacturers who took them seriously.

    Electric cars don’t pay road tax on electricity either.

    Wow, when you think about it, gasoline and diesel are the most penalized power sources out there, and yet they are more successful than any others. Hmmmm…

    The reason I don’t think the government should pick winners and losers is because 1) it costs us taxpayers too much money, and 2) they usually pick wrong.

    FYI, Anonymous, diesel fuel is actually heavily taxed in Europe. It’s just that gasoline is MORE heavily taxed in Europe. (And still, electric cars haven’t caught on there! You’d think if they made sense anywhere…..)

    We do need to reduce our oil imports for strategic reasons, but it should be done with a higher fuel tax, not CAFE.

    I really have no favoritism toward gasoline, I just don’t see any alternatives with the combination of pluses gasoline powered cars have. If there were economically justifiable alternatives, some entrepreneur (Bill Gates?) would put his money on the line and rake in the money (but the established auto companies would have already).

    Sometimes we really want something to be true, but while some might base their comments on emotion, I try to base mine on facts – although I do get frustrated when things get ridiculous!

  • usbseawolf2000

    In April, Prius outsold the entire Acura brand or the entire Audi brand. More people bought Prius than Honda Odyssey in April. You can’t get more mainstream than that.

    There is no single model that dominate the entire car industry.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    “If there were economically justifiable alternatives, some entrepreneur (Bill Gates?) would put his money on the line and rake in the money (but the established auto companies would have already).”
    I think you’re missing something: Entrepreneurs (Musk, Miles, Buffett, Fisker, Wilbur, Brin, Page, Gage, etc) are already working on this today and you’re denying it. Of course, it is too early to tell the results, just as it Bill Gates didn’t appear to be very much in 1978 either. The only facts today are:
    a) The Tesla Roadster can wipe out nearly any other stock vehicle, including those costing 3X as much on anything except a long-straight road and it’s pretty good there.
    b) The auto makers only proved that they don’t want to make money off of EVs by violating every rule they’ve written on how to sell automobiles, then claiming there was no market.
    c) EV1 lessees put up a harder fight to save their cars than the ‘owners’ of any automobile ever have.
    d) 100% of EV1’s found homes and there were waiting lists
    e) I put over 20K miles on my Tesla in the first year during which I only visited gas stations 4 times (twice to air up the tires, twice to get a soda 🙂
    Anything else is purely speculation, partially, as you say, guided by emotions, but I contend also partially guided by education, experience, systems understanding, and vision.

  • AP

    ex-EV1 driver, I’m not denying that there are people trying it, but note that I said “and raking in the money.” There is no money in it. I’m not sure if Tesla provides financial reports, but I know they borrowed $650,000,000 from the government to stay afloat, which is $130,000 per car they’ve sold, if I assume they’ve sold 5,000 cars (I realize they are developing another car which is closer to mass-market).

    I’ll address your list:
    a) The Tesla is very fast, and I imagine it is a blast to drive. I suppose it’s not quite as nimble as a Lotus Elise in the turns (my favorite part of driving), since it weighs 1,000 pounds more.
    b) I don’t know about the others, but we (at GM) spent $1,000,000,000 to develop the EV1, not including the cost of the cars themselves. If we had sold 10,000 EV1’s, we would have had to charge $100,000 per car, PLUS the actual cost to build and assemble the parts, to break even. I’m not sure what salesmanship could make a success out of that.
    c) If I had leased a car that cost $1,000,000 ($1 billion divided by 1,000 cars) for GM to provide and only paid $499 per month, I wouldn’t have wanted to give it up either.
    d) When you give something away for nearly free, everybody wants it. It was an incedible bargain.
    e) You’ve saved a couple of thousand dollars on gasoline in a year, but spent a lot on more the car (a Lotus Elise is about $50,000 vs. $120k for a Tesla).

    Personally, I’d take the Lotus Elise, because it would be much more “flingable” and easier on the tires. It wouldn’t have the straight line speed, but you could drive it long distances to watch road races (one of my hobbies) and tour the track.

    When I started here, a wise old engineer said, as I admired a Ferrari Testarossa, “The more a car costs, the less it’s worth.” What he meant was that a lot less effort goes into the average expensive car, because you don’t have to be too clever to make a few thousand expensive vehicles, and if they have issues, you can afford to spend time with the customer to make things right. Exotic cars tended to also be temperamental, because fewer engineers work on it to get the kinks out.

    You have to be much more clever to make a quality car for the masses, that is high in quality, but inexpensive to produce, so you can make a profit. And they have to be more reliable, because it’s a person’s everyday transportation. It takes many more engineers, much more money, and the stakes are much higher.

    We’ll see how Tesla does on their next car. I honestly wish them the best, but I don’t envy the uphill battle they have before them. It’s a bit like farming on poor ground. Just a slight drought can doom you.

    I am willing to be proven wrong, but I seriously doubt we’ll see any EV car manufacturer “honestly” profitable (self-sustaining) for at least 10 years, and then only if gasoline finally does skyrocket (and that’s been “just around the corner” for 35 years).

  • Felipe Esteve

    There are a lot of other types of hybrid systems for cars, And these ones are waiting for an opportunuty. What will we do with millions of heavy batteries in the future?
    Pneumatic or hydraulic hybrid systems don’t have that problem. And should be less expensive.
    And even there are systems like the pneumatic hybris system shown on
    that are capable to recover energy from braking and exhaust gasses too.

  • Felipe Esteve

    There are a lot of other types of hybrid systems for cars, And these ones are waiting for an opportunuty. What will we do with millions of heavy batteries in the future?
    Pneumatic or hydraulic hybrid systems don’t have that problem. And should be less expensive.
    And even there are systems like the pneumatic hybris system shown on
    that are capable to recover energy from braking and exhaust gasses too.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I haven’t noticed any American car company “raking in the money”. As my employee, you should keep that in mind.
    I also think you’d be surprised at how well the Tesla stands up against its close relative the Lotus Elise. The Tesla has to slow down in the turns a bit more but the Tesla gets up to speed a lot faster. The turns are a blast! (isn’t it cool to be able to talk about vehicle dynamics on a green-car forum 🙂 ! )
    I also think you don’t understand where Tesla’s money went. The $650M is for the future, more affordable EV sedan, not the Roadster. Tesla put the roadster on the road for about $130M over about a 5 year period. Compare that with GM’s $1B for the EV1 – shame on GM’s fiscal mismanagement. For reference, at about $30M per year, GM paid it’s CEO $150M in salary over that same time period. Who got the better deal? Will Tesla be able to put an electric luxury sedan on the road for $650M while it took GM $1B to barely put the EV1 out. I’ll definitely rub GM’s nose in that continued shame if Tesla succeeds.
    I’ve heard the $1B story from GM (Dave Barthmus has the mantra fully memorized). How much of that was to hire lawyers, lobbyists, and PR firms to try to kill the CA ZEV mandate? How much of it was provided by the Federal Government (I can’t remember the program name)?

    Pretend its 1978 and you’re talking about IBM and DEC versus Apple and Intel.
    Past history doesn’t predict future performance.
    If you take any new car design and divide it by 1000, you’ll get a huge recurring price. Toyota lost money on their first Prius’s as well – until it went to a regular production line, then the went into the black very quickly.
    That isn’t what killed the EV. It was the buggy whip makers (3rd rate engineers and finance majors) mis-managing the car companies that had clawed their way up to the top and were afraid to change the processes that they had mastered.
    Your Wise Old Engineer’s wisdom is obsolete with EVs (I bet he doesn’t want EVs either as they’ll obsolete him too). ICE = too many hot, moving parts. My Roadster will soon be going in for it’s 2nd scheduled checkup – at 24,000 miles. There’s no actual maintenance scheduled to be done, Tesla just wants to look it over so they can congratulate themselves, yet again, at how non-temperamental their design actually is. Don’t confuse an EV with a maintenance hogging (wimpy) Ferrari that spends more time on a lift than on its wheels.
    I haven’t saved any money with the Tesla compared with the $50K extra over the cost of an Elise but I can see a sustainable future in it. Freedom isn’t free but at least I don’t have to give the ultimate sacrifice (I’m a Veteran don’t forget)- in fact, I’m having a blast being free! 🙂
    Do you really think that $3/gal gas hasn’t skyrocketed? I remember $0.30/gal. 10X in 35 years sounds like skyrocketing to me. It even took 10 years of 2-digit inflation for us to even be able to tolerate it. Too bad we don’t still control the currency that set’s crude prices like we did in the ’70’s. Do you feel secure?

  • AP

    ex-EV1 driver, you’re right, it’s not 1978. Back then, GM was resting on its laurels and cheapening its cars to maximize profits. Now, Toyota is doing that (have you examined Toyota’s build quality lately rather than drinking the kool-aid of the past?). We, other manufacturers, and suppliers have all noted a distinct drop in Toyota’s quality.

    I’ve never argued that EV’s take little maintenance. But you pay for it in initial cost. The required maintenance for ICE’s is so minimal today that I don’t see the big deal.

    I’d like to know where you’ve gotten the idea that GM has 3rd-rate engineers. GM is known to have better engineers than any other manufacturer (and certainly better than Tesla). We’ve had management problems before, when the bean-counters refused to pay for higher quality parts, but our engineers have always been highly respected, especially by the Japanese.

    Please remember that Tesla was the company who had to turn to Detroit engineers to solve significant issues in build quality, and that their only potential innovation, the 2-speed transmission in an EV, failed to work. I personally know quite a few people who could have handled that job!

    I’m afraid you are showing that you are getting your information about us from some very limited and biased sources.

    The reasons it took $1 billion to do the EV1 were several. We had arrogant leadership (in Roger Smith) whose method was to throw money at things (he had no product knowledge), we had a bloated cost structure (high UAW labor rates – I made less than a starting line worker when I started there with a masters degree) and much poorer Computer-Aided Design tools. (Roger Smith sowed the seeds of destruction that eventually sent us into bankruptcy.)

    Now we do much more with much less, and now we can make money on our products. I know you’re still prejudiced against our products because they all use ICE’s (much like 99.999% of all other products), but if you opened your eyes and compared our products to others, you’d be forced to change your tune.

    If you notice, in all this, I haven’t said the Tesla is a bad car. I just see it as a niche vehicle, made with other company’s parts, that anyone could have done.

    And I haven’t said there’s anything wrong with electric cars. I think they’re cool, in the right circumstances. I could see buying one in a few years for commuting. They just aren’t superior.

  • AP

    ex-EV1 driver, what I meant by “A more a car costs, the less it’s worth” was that it’s easy to make limited-production cars. It takes much more skill to make cars by the millions, and they are usually better cars because more work is done on them. While I admire Lotus, and would enjoy an Elise, I wouldn’t expect it to be as reliable as a Chevy Malibu. The Malibu is not as exciting, but it’s more versatile, quiet, and comfortable. It’s “worth more” in terms of utility and reliability.

    And I’m not talking about the ICE powertrain. Brakes, tires, seals, electronics, that’s where limited production cars often suffer.

    You’ll know that EV’s are successful when they are numerous, profitable (i.e., self-supporting), and mainstream.

    From your comment about “owing GM,” I know that you think it’s important to be self-supporting. EV’s are not even close yet. Based on another article here on the cost of batteries, it will be a while.

  • Colston Westbrooks

    You had an EV-1 (AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!) I wish they would have never took those off the roads 🙁

  • ex-EV1 driver

    No, No, No,

    re: “I’d like to know where you’ve gotten the idea that GM has 3rd-rate engineers. “

    I don’t mean that GM has 3rd rate engineers any more than anyone else does (a few always slip through). The majority of GM’s engineers are 1st rate, equal or better than anyone in the Silicon Valley, NASA, or other glory locations! A problem is that too many of the managers making a lot of the decisions at GM were 3rd rate engineers that really didn’t understand anything other than the details of the technology that GMI had taught them. Every place gets a few 3rd rate engineers and unfortunately (Dilbert principle), with out a lot of effort, they (Roger Smith et al?) can rise up to management where they can make many bad decisions.

    re: “Please remember that Tesla was the company who had to turn to Detroit engineers to solve significant issues in build quality, and that their only potential innovation, the 2-speed transmission in an EV, failed to work. I personally know quite a few people who could have handled that job!”

    This is utter mis-information which I’ve heard from many in Detroit. I don’t know who is passing this nonesensical mantra around but they don’t have a clue what happened at Tesla:
    First of all, there is no reason an electric car needs a transmission at all. Tesla’s management, however, felt that for marketing reasons, they needed to be able to beat supercar performance but, since it hadn’t really be done before, felt that a conventional (ie archaic ICE paradigm based) approach of using a transmission was necessary as a risk reduction.
    They, therefore, tried to develop a 2-speed transmission to give low speed torque while maintaining top-end speed. Being a small, startup in an industry that does not know startups, they couldn’t get anyone who knew about reliable transmissions to work with them. Instead, they could only get specialty (ie racing) transmission experts to work with them. These guys, of course, can’t build transmissions that last very long. The transmissions Tesla started with would fall apart after about 5000 miles. The mistake, however, was not Tesla’s incompetence but the choice to put a transmission in in the first place.
    Tesla’s engineers, in parallel with the transmission development effort, developed a Power Electronics Module (PEM) and electric motor that could put out enough low-speed torque to allow the roadster to get the targeted 4.7 second 0-60 acceleration while maintaining the 125+ mph top speed (limited today, purely by the chosen cooling system and desire for efficiency – so don’t count on this limit remaining, should the market drive it higher). What Detroit probably also missed is that part of the 0-60 acceleration was because they didn’t lose the 0.1 second required to shift a transmission.
    So, I guess, you’re right that the buggy whip experts (transmission engineers) in Detroit can make better buggy whips (transmissions) than Tesla’s Silicon Valley geeks. They can feel really good about themselves, knowing that Tesla’s engineers can’t whip (shift) their teams (motors) to perform as well as Detroit’s buggy whip engineers can. They will be able to smugly take this satisfying knowledge all the way to the unemployment line since EVs don’t need to be whipped (shifted) like horses (ICE) do. They will propagate this knowledge, even to the smart Detroit engineers such as yourself so you completely miss the key lesson. EVs don’t need transmissions.

    Now getting past the misunderstandings, let me address a few other key points you made:

    Tesla did nothing that anyone else couldn’t also have done. I agree. They DID something. Nobody else DID. Why not? Why did GM kill their EV1 when they could have made an electric version of their ‘Vette that would have trashed any ICE ‘Vette. This would have really brought the costs of batteries down and fast so they could take their brake, tire, seals (whoever needs them), electronics (not really a Detroit specialty), etc along and made great, sustainable vehicles for the future. No, Detroit put silly $5 fuel sensors on their fuel lines and claimed they were ‘flex fuel’ when we all know that E-85 is a farce and irregardless, with 100% E-85 use, the ‘flex fuel’ vehicles would have to have their fuel systems replaced after a short time because they really can’t handle the ethanol. It did allow them to fit through CAFE loopholes they had gotten slipped in though.

    Up front EV costs: The only part of an EV today that is more expensive than an ICE today is the battery. Electric motors are quite simple, power electronics are trivially cheap, and EV power trains are also trivial. Now on to the battery. With no high-volume, large format, commodity, high-specific-energy, battery business on our planet, it is certainly difficult to predict where the costs can go. Li-ion and to a lesser degree NiMH raw materials are extremely cheap. Therefore, the costs lie in the manufacturing. Tesla was forced to start with a high-margin car in order to bring the volumes up to get battery prices down. They’ve apparently been doing a great job, dropping the price from the early days of ~$50K down to the $20K they’re warrantying them for today. That is in 1 year of manufacturing. Between improving manufacturing methods and automation, getting better cell pricing through stronger buying power, Tesla’s battery costs have come down a lot. With even stronger buying power, more investment by others to meet Tesla’s and other EV manufacturer’s needs, this will only drop further.
    I just hope Tesla’s ego-maniacal financier doesn’t destroy the company before others pick up the battle from them.
    I have to disagree with your assessment that I hate GM products because they have ICEs in them. I like the ICE. I like ’57 Chevy’s, early ’60’s ‘Vettes and Mustangs, ’70’s muscle cars, black ’78 trans Ams, ’80’s Mustang 5.0s, ’70’s station wagons, pre-1990’s pickup trucks, Jeep CJs, several different Porche’s, 1991 Geo Metro convertibles, etc. I also like the horses, sailboats, and steam engines. I really liked the performance, convenience, and future capability of the EV1.
    The problem is that I believe the time has come to start moving beyond the ICE yet its industry is fighting dirty to preserve itself, to the detriment of vehicle performance, society, and the future of our lifestyle.
    I’m happy to let the market decide itself but we have no free market so that is tough (although as Tesla proves, not impossible). We do have free communications though so I’m taking advantage of it to counter myths that the ICE industry is creating as part of their dirty fight to continue business as usual.
    I, personally, believe that our future hope lies in smart folks such as yourself and many others who frequent, with excellent knowledge, insight, and strength.
    I also believe that there may be other solutions to the world’s transportation than EVs. I just have seen that EVs really do offer one real solution yet they are being unfairly beat down for greedy, parochial reasons.
    Sorry to all for the long rant.

  • Reed

    A touch of consumer reality: our ’04 Prius has been mechanically/electrically problem-free for 148,000 miles. Year-round fuel milage of 45/gal.; average fuel cost for 6 years of $3.00/gal. We’ve enjoyed a fuel savings of about $10,000 as well as some 90% fewer emmissions over any other available four-passenger vehicle we might have purchased in 2004. Six years ago no one offered us a proven, reliable, environmentally responsible, cost-effective automobile other than Toyota. We expect to drive ours another two years, to 200,000 miles and then gladly take delivery of a 2012 plug-in Prius. Make sense?