6

Biz Fix: Who’d kill for an electric car?


 

In the money: The plug in electric car is fast moving from pie-in-the-sky concept to on the ground reality as evidence mounts that high fuel prices are forcing drivers to hang up their car keys. BMW plans to have an electric version of its Mini on U.S. roads by next year. Nissan aims to offer an electric car to commercial fleet customers by 2010, with consumer models to follow two years later. Meanwhile GM is sticking to its goal of getting the Chevy Volt into dealer showrooms by 2010. The company is working with 30 U.S. utility companies to make sure the electrical grid can handle the extra power demand. Until the cars are actually available, and people prove they’re willing to shell out for them, there will be questions about the viability of plug ins. But things have definitely come a long way from when the electric car was written off for dead.

Trading down: I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that Malcolm Bricklin is suing Chinese car maker Chery for fraud. In a lawsuit Bricklin accuses the company of reneging on a joint venture that would have seen Bricklin’s Visionary Vehicles sell Chery cars in the U.S. Instead Chery ditched him and signed on with Chrysler. What is surprising is the language and alleged losses thrown around in the suit. Bricklin claims he’s out more than $14 billion in potential profits distribution rights. That’s a lot of Chery cars. Even Toyota, one of the world’s largest, most profitable automakers, only earned $1.7 billion last year. Bricklin also says Chery’s modus operandi has been to “serially plunder Western technology.” That’s funny too, because back when Bricklin was flogging Chery cars, he didn’t seem to mind that they bore a striking resemblance to vehicles designed in Detroit. In Bricklin’s promotional parlance, that just meant they were “international cars with American soul.”

Update: Bricklin’s PR people point out the $14 billion figure isn’t related to potential profits, but instead with “distribution rights for a 30-year period” and that he’s only asking for a percentage of that amount, which hasn’t been specified.

Number cruncher: After watching oil climb so steadily for so long, it’s easy to forget the price of crude can also go the other way. Over the last week and a half oil prices have plunged nearly 14 per cent to around $127. Is this the end of “the end of cheap oil” stories? That’s doubtful. Analysts say relative calm on the geopolitical front, not to mention calm on the tropical storm front, are the reasons for the drop.

Boom or Gloom: Ever so slowly there are rumblings of a recovery in the U.S. A Conference Board of Canada report today says the American economy will struggle back to life in 2009. And U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said a recovery in the housing sector is a matter of months, not years. This hardly adds up to a boom, but after so much gloomy economic news, any bright spots are welcome.

Ticker tape: Henry Blodget on what Apple’s cheaper pricing means for rivals like Research in Motion…


 

Biz Fix: Who’d kill for an electric car?

  1. There is one major factor in the implementation of an electric car that few people report on or give serious thought to! Consider this (1) combustion engine = thousands of moving parts requiring lots of maintenance an ongoing support re: oil changes, rad coolant, tune ups etc etc etc. (2) electric engine = 1 big moving part = requires no ongoing maintenance with no tune ups no oil changes no rad flushes etc etc etc. – If I were a mechanic right now or selling automotive parts or owned a gas station etc I would start thinking about the future.

  2. There’s a number of subtle factors as well. Consider the noise the average vehicle makes. Stand in pretty much any neighborhood in any city and you’ll be able to hear cars going by somewhere.

    Now imagine when most vehicles are essentially silent. Seems pretty cool, we’ll be able to take down those big ugly retaining walls and stuff they put up to separate neighborhoods from the noise right? But now think about what this means to various animals and people trying to cross the street. Combine a silent vehicle with a drunk driver. Maybe the out of work gas jockeys will get work cleaning the streets?

    Here’s another interesting issue, the shift to a mostly-electric car society will drastically cut into the time honored “road trip”.. at least until they get better ranges on a charge. What happens to those little tourist vistas along the highway? I’m thinking particularly of all the little roadside attractions, B&Bs, and other such stuff you find when you’re travelling into BC. Also.. camping. I don’t know how good the technology is going to get, but the family hopping in the RV, or in the truck w/fifth-wheel trailer or the like is quite possibly an endangered species.

    It’ll be different.

  3. the shift to a mostly-electric car society will drastically cut into the time honored “road trip”.. at least until they get better ranges

    I think most large-market electric vehicles in the future will have range extenders (a la Chevy Volt) — essentially an on-board generator which will run occasionally to recharge as necessary.

    Damn I wish I took Small Engines Shop in High School…

  4. Hey T. : speaking of no noise I live in Victoria BC and here there is a very rich little municipality known as Oak Bay (you need tro be seriously wealthy to live in this area)- we call it living behind the Tweed Curtain – they just passed a by-lay allowing low speed EV’s but get this they need to address the issue of some sort of noise maker!

  5. The electric car that was such a flop in the 1990’s will still be a flop today, which is why GM is not building another crappy EV-1. They are building a range extended electric vehicle, NOT a battery-only electric vehicle. Others are doing this because anyone can build one of these things – they are fooling no one – the public will quickly find out that they are just as impractical now as they ever were. The movie lied.

  6. Blodget’s article doesn’t mention “Enterprise Device Administration” or similar. Until it does, RIM win, almost irrespective of price.

Sign in to comment.