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A BEV NICHE?

THIS MAY seem like beating a weary horse, but evidence continues to build indicating the inanity of battery electric vehicles being anything but a niche market. Even the federal government has hedged away from its “1 million EVs by 2015.” And schemes around the world have proven less than successful. Here’s the latest (i.e., post my attendance at the SAE 2013 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium, summarized at www.wp.me/p2ETap-Qz).

The federal goal hasn’t changed, but the means of reaching it are different. A couple years ago, at least to the media and greater populace, the term “EV” implied a battery electric. Federally funded goals were to get a BEV range of 300 miles and to cut battery cost by more than half.

The battery cost target still exists, these days from $650/kWh down to $300/kWh. But, for a while there, the term “EV” was broadened to “PEV,” meaning any car with a plug deriving energy from the grid. Now the term “electrified vehicle” is being used, meaning not only BEVs and PHEVs, but conventional HEVs as well—and, by implication, even FCEVs (because a fuel-cell car is, after all, an EV that makes its own E).

Indeed, it’s refreshing to see this redefinition of means. It might even be achievable, though it will call for doubling today’s sales rate of electrified vehicles in this broadest sense.

Specialists

Specialists see BEVs as optimal for small cars in a short-range urban environment.

What of BEVs specifically? They remain at best a specialized niche, with recent examples in countries as different as Israel and Norway.

According to The Guardian, March 5, 2013, Israel’s BEV adoption has been a bust, despite conditions suggesting otherwise. Israel is a small country, about the size of Maryland, with $7.50/gal. gasoline, few natural resources and surrounded by petroleum producers who’d just as soon see Israel wiped off the map. The company Better Place even had a business model to mitigate range shortcomings— with battery packs swapped in 5 minutes.

The

The Renault Fluence Z.E., introduced as a concept car at the 2009 Frankfurt show, is part of this company’s aggressive electrification program.

Renault bought into the Better Place idea, its Fluence Z.E. being available in Israel (as well as Denmark) with the necessary pack-swapping hardware.

How did they do?

Notes The Guardian, fewer than 750 cars were sold; Better Place lost more than $500 million; its founder Shai Agassi got pushed out last October and his successor bailed in January.

A Reuters headline on March 13, 2013, reads “Norway Shows the Way with Electric Cars, but at What Cost?” The country has been relatively successful with electric cars—albeit largely through government subsidies.

Norway is oil- and natural-gas rich giving it a strong economy contrasted with those of other European countries. (Note, Norway opted not to join the EU.) Its electrical grid is almost entirely hydroelectric, thus eliminating the dirty-coal-fueling-EV quandary. A downside is Norway’s climate, with cold weather sapping battery energy.

A BEV

A BEV rally in Oslo, Norway. Image from Zero Emissions Resource Organisation.

BEVs accounted for 3 percent of Norway’s February 2013 car sales, compared with only 0.1 percent of ours in 2012.

How did Norway achieve this?

One reason is stiff taxation on conventional cars. A Volkswagen Golf priced around $24K in the U.S runs $42,000 in Norway. By contrast, it has been computed that BEV subsidies are as much as $8200 per car—for each year it’s on the road.

Tax breaks on purchase and registration are worth $1400/year, almost $11,000 over the life of the car. An Oslo BEV commuter saves another annual $1400 in road tolls, avoids $400 in other charges, drives in the bus lane, gets free parking worth $5000/year and free charging—this last, if one of Oslo’s 446 BEV-specific parking places is available. The government plans another 800 more spots over the next four years at a cost of 59 million crowns ($10.33 million).

The arithmetic doesn’t work out, even from a carbon-trade point of view (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-PB). Bjart Holtsmark of Statistics Norway calculated that a Toyota Prius HEV contributes 0.66 ton of CO2 a year compared with zero CO2 for a Norwegian-hydroelectric Nissan Leaf.

An implication is that Norway is paying $12,338 to avoid a ton of CO2, hardly rational policy when the right to emit a ton of CO2 is around $5.22 [corrected figure, 3/16/13] in the EU’s carbon-trading market. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2013 by in Driving it Today.
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