Batteries are still expensive

We’re mulling over the idea of getting a second car again. Web advertisers know this all too well, and every web ad seems to be for one of the latest cars I built online. Part of me wants a Prius and part wants a used small pickup. The Prius would haul me between cities leaving our current car as a backup, while the pickup would haul pellets and stuff around town, and be the backup for when my wife stays at the house.

Used vehicles aren’t much of a bargain right now, though, so buying a new Tacoma might even be an option. Buying an EV as a backup for local driving would seem to be a logical choice, but they are very expensive.

The Prius and Fusion hybrids are selling well, but highway driving isn’t their strong suit. For city commuters, the Camry hybrid now costs less (in the long run) than the Camry internal combustion. But the NY Times Wheels blogs the obvious: EVs and plug-in hybrids – which cost even less to operate – are still expensive to purchase:

Money talks. And unless automakers can make a better economic case to consumers who are considering an all-electric vehicle, like the Nissan Leaf, or a plug-in electric, like the Chevrolet Volt, these alternative-fuel vehicles will remain a very small part of the market in the United States. …

For current owners, the early adopters, the decision to buy an alternative-fuel vehicle was more of an emotional one, said Neal Oddes, senior director of the green practice at J.D. Power, a market research firm. Of current owners, 44 percent said the top benefit of their vehicles was lower emissions. Those owners were more willing to pay a premium for their vehicles.

But future buyers are more pragmatists than idealists. Of future buyers, 11 percent said they would consider an electric vehicle for its environmental benefits, but 45 percent said they were interested in saving on fuel.

After being a frustrated early adopter in my youth, I’d now count myself in the pragmatic camp. If I won the lottery I’d certainly run out and buy a Tesla, but in today’s economy, I’m hesitant to buy any sort of new car – especially one with expensive batteries that deplete in a few years.

MIT Technology Review says battery prices should drop, but that it might take decades for manufacture to become practical:

There are plenty of reasons why electric cars aren’t catching on, but one problem is certain: the batteries cost far too much.

For electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to compete with gas-powered cars, battery prices need to drop by between 50 and 80 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy. Getting there might require inventing entirely new kinds of batteries, but there’s also a strong case that improvements to the lithium-ion batteries that power the current generation of electric vehicles may be enough. …

Electric vehicles cost less to operate than gas-powered ones, but that economic advantage largely disappears in the face of expensive batteries. The battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt costs about $8,000. The larger battery in the Nissan Leaf costs about $12,000.


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