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NYIAS 2012: Electric Vehicles

One thing is certain, oil is a finite resource and one day it will be gone. With $10/gallon gas possibly in our future, electric-powered vehicle’s time may come sooner rather than later. Car makers have been demo-ing pure electric-powered vehicles (PEVs) at NYIAS for many years and show goers have been teased with futuristic concept cars and prototypes, but none of them were available to the consumers. Last year, a few (Nissan LEAFChevy Volt) companies finally began selling models which can actually purchased.

While each generation of e-car has seen significant improvements in battery life and driving range, there are still many issues (cost, refueling time, etc) to be addressed. As the majority of commuters drive less than 50 miles total each day, electric cars builder such as Ford have made the 100-mile range their unofficial minimum standard. One concern of potential PEV buyers is recharging. To address that issue, companies touting their electric cars are emphasizing how PEVs can be easily refueled at home.

While most at-home chargers will work with the standard 120V outlet, an adapter is still required to condition the power going into the car. In order to standardize the recharging step, the industry has agreed to adopted  the 5-pin plug. This standard plug it will make it possible for recharging stations to be placed in malls, parking garages, and other such locations. PEVs may still have their own proprietary fast-charging mechanism, but they will all have a common mechanism for topping off the batteries while away from home.

There are a number of companies (FordMitsubishietc) with emerging PEV lines, but the clear leader right now is Nissan. The Nissan LEAF is the only regular size electric car (5-passengers) currently for sale with a sizable customer base (around 10,000 at the end of 2011). While these numbers are just rounding errors compared to their gas-powered counterparts, the sales trend is definitely heading in the right direction.

Like the other electric cars, the LEAF can use the standard 120v to charge its batteries. However, the LEAF can also be charged using a proprietary 440v charger. The higher voltage can recharge a drained battery to 80% in less than 30 minutes.

Those interested in test-driving a Nissan LEAF and other PEVs can do so at the NYIAS. There is an indoor test track at the basement level. Since the PEVs make no noise and give off no fumes, the track may be a bit difficult to find, our suggestion is to just look for the line 🙂

While waiting for our turn at the wheel, we noticed a corner booth for the DeLorean Motor Company. We don’t know anything about this DMC, but they are definitely trading on both on the original car’s name recognition and its “Back To The Future” association. Also, they have retrofitted the original DeLorean and converted the car into an all electric vehicle.

There is no argument that DeLorean was ahead of its time when first introduced in 1980, but we are not so sure about this DeLorean, even with its all electric drive. The problem for this DMC is that the converted offering is not cheap. At a delivery price of $95K, we can think of better ways to spend the money, like buying either a Tesla or a Fisker. Also, we are not sure if this DMC will be around any longer than the original DMC.

While Tesla Motors was not present at NYIAS, Fisker Automotive, a company with a selection of electric cars positioned to compete directly with Tesla, was there and generating a lot of interest. Not only were Fisker’s offerings were electric, they were also extremely cool looking.

Solar roof, regenerative braking, and nanophosphate Lithium-ion battery pack are just some of the advance tech packed into Fisker’s cars. The Fisker patented EVer™ technology uses an electric generator and battery pack to power the dual electric motors to drive the wheels, giving the cars a range of up to 50 miles of electric driving. After 50 miles, the internal combustion gasoline engine engages to support the electric motors for an additional range of 250 miles. (Note: the plug-in hybrid is never run by the gas-powered engine directly. The engine provides the energy to run the electric motors).

We predict that PEVs are going to be a significant part of the overall car market in five years. Manufacturers not offering a model by 2020 are going to be left in the dust. We drive a 10-year-old gas-gulping Porsche Boxster now, but we would not be surprised if the Boxster is the last gas-powered car we will ever own. Well, if these all-electric Porsches are the future, then we sure hope it is.

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