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Why aren't electric cars already ubiquitous?

By mongeese · 69 replies
Jul 14, 2019 at 9:50 AM
  1. At their recent NextGen event designed to build hype for electric vehicles, BMW announced two: a futuristic, hybrid sportscar and a realistic-looking battery motorbike. At the same event, speaking quietly to media backstage, BMW’s board member for development Klaus Frohlich said, “the shift to electrification is overhyped.”

    BMW had previously announced that they would release twenty-five new electric vehicles by 2025; at NextGen, they accelerated that timeline to 2023. Frohlich only said that “there are no customer requests for battery electric cars. None.”

    In the numbers:
    Presently in Europe, battery-electric sales are up 88% year on year, petrol sales are up 3.1%, plug-in hybrids are down 5% and diesels are down 18%. Plug-in electrics comprise 7% of the market (source).

    BMW is being forced to stop developing various diesel engines, as they’re becoming too costly to redesign each year to comply with environmental standards and new market conditions. Soon to be sacrificed are the 1.5L three-cylinder, turbocharged six-cylinders, and the V12. Frohlich said BMW could replace these models by “flooding Europe” with a “million [electric] cars,” but the problem, he says? “Europeans won’t buy these things.”

    Frohlich’s apprehension aside, it seems clear that many automobile manufacturers aren’t as excited about electrification as their press teams suggest, and that’s in the present day. Have manufacturers been silently dreading the end of the combustion era, and could they have already swamped the market with electric vehicles if they’d wanted?

    This time two years ago, the European Commission leveled a record-breaking $3.4 billion fine at Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF for colluding “on the pricing and on passing on the costs for meeting environmental standards to customers” for their diesel trucks. Volkswagen’s MAN was also a colluding party, but they were exempted from the fine for exposing the other manufacturers. In April this year, though, Volkswagen and Daimler were caught again, and this time with BMW.

    The three automobile manufacturers were accused of colluding to limit, delay and avoid the adoption of selective catalytic reduction systems and Otto particle filters, both technologies designed to reduce toxic emissions from diesel engines found in ordinary cars. The toxic emissions are a large contributor to the pollution associated with tens of thousands of deaths each year, and the only benefit to the manufacturers was profit. The EU is still investigating.

    Time and time again, manufacturers have chosen profit over the moral choice and compliance with EU regulation. If electric was less profitable than combustion, it follows that they would be willing to break laws (to a degree) and sacrifice the environment to slow electric adoption. Hint: electric is less profitable.

    “[Hybrids] are not more expensive than battery electrics. They are thousands more expensive than internal-combustion cars but we can’t charge that to customers and those regulations are reducing our profit pool. We can’t have the same margin on those cars. We know. The level is between the internal-combustion margin is halfway more but if we charged the customers for that cost, we would have downsizing with customers going from a 3 Series to a 1 Series,” Frohlich said.

    Following the most basic doctrine of our economic system, one would expect manufacturers to follow customer demand, and though some surveys suggest a market eager for electrification, others find a social psyche disconnected from reality.

    One survey conducted by the American Automobile Association in April found that reliability is the chief concern amongst people shopping for electric cars. This is intuitive; electrics and electronics are frequently the least reliable things in any household. However, this conclusion has no logical or empirical basis: electric cars are far more reliable, it turns out, due to their simplified drive train. While combustion vehicles will have many moving parts susceptible to failure (like gearboxes, in my personal experience) electric vehicles have motors connecting directly to the wheels, cutting out the majority of reasons why you’d need to go to the mechanic.

    Most shoppers are also very concerned about safety, with 77% and 60% prioritizing good crash ratings and advanced safety features like automatic braking, respectively. Given the frequency of smartphone’s batteries exploding, this concern is also intuitive, yet still not based in reality. The top five most popular combustion vehicles in the US all rank lower than the most popular electric cars in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s testing.

    Despite many shoppers’ concerns being unnecessary, there’s one very large and real issue that’s no doubt on your mind: charging. Let me attempt to describe the European and North American charging networks in the briefest way possible.

    Internationally, there are three charging levels: lunch date, dinner date, and overnight stay. That’s roughly how long each level takes to charge about 100 miles’ worth, but as the date is a car in this case, the least amount of romancing is ideal. Level one (the slowest) is only useful at home and office locations and is more or less ignored by electric drivers on the road, leaving levels two and three.

    In both continents there’s a ubiquitous level-two charger found plentifully in most cities. In North America it’s the J-Plug (J1772, formally) and it’s generally configured to 6-, 7- and 11-kW configurations. In Europe and the UK, it’s the Mennekes plug (IEC 62196) commonly found at 22-kW, and occasionally at 11-kW and 7-W. Any battery electric that doesn’t support these plugs natively will have an adapter available, including the Tesla fleet.

    Level three is where it’s really at, but unfortunately, it’s a horrific mess. There are three competing standards, the Supercharging network developed by Tesla, the CHAdeMO network introduced by Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, and the SAE Combo CSS network co-developed by Volkswagen, Ford, BMW, and Hyundai. Not only are these networks not cross-compatible (except for Tesla vehicles which can charge off CHAdeMO with a $450 adaptor), but even amongst a single network, they’re horribly inconsistent with speeds.

    All three networks are generally equally common, meaning if they’d been standardized from the beginning, each battery electric would have two to three times as many level three charging stations available right now. Logic and experiments confirm an average person is significantly more likely to go electric if there are numerous fast chargers in their area. But that’s not the only ridiculous error dissuading buyers from electrification.

    “I couldn’t do a test drive because the key was lost. I was encouraged to purchase a non-electric vehicle instead.”

    - Louise A., at a Nissan dealership in Connecticut

    In 2016 the Sierra Club sent undercover volunteers to 308 car dealerships in the US, to highlight the differences between how a salesperson acts with an electric vehicle versus a combustion one. The results were staggering: one in six dealerships told the volunteers their electric cars were not sufficiently charged for a test drive, only half the salespeople described how an electric is charged (or refueled for hybrids), and one third did not discuss the tax incentives. In 2016, that incentive was usually $7,500 in tax credits.

    “There were no EVs in stock and he stated that he has no interest in ever selling an electric vehicle... He said that the only way he would sell an EV is if Volkswagen forced him to.”

    Tony G., at a Volkswagen dealership in Maine.

    A separate study published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 found buyers looking at electric vehicles were consistently less satisfied with their experience than those looking at combustion vehicles. Ratings on a buyer satisfaction index score show plug-in vehicle buyers were 94% as satisfied as non-premium combustion buyers and 88% as satisfied as premium combustion buyers. A notable exception was Tesla, whose customers were highly satisfied.

    There are two clear reasons why dealerships aren't very good at (or are outright hostile to) selling electrics. For starters, like most of the population, they have a poor understanding of the technology and are unable to discuss it and will shift customers to familiar ground. And secondly, as mentioned above, electric vehicles require far less maintenance and in a world where dealerships make half their profit in maintenance fees, that’s a disincentive.

    The bottom line is this: many manufacturers and dealerships are holding electrification back in the name of profit, and customers are afraid of electric cars due to common misunderstandings. Had all this been resolved a long time ago, who knows how many electric cars might’ve been on the roads today.

    Permalink to story.

  2. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,832   +677

    Cause they suck
  3. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,547   +1,767

    Electric cars are expensive.

    The infrastructure for electric cars is still in its infancy, and is a drop in the water compared to gas vehicle infastructure

    Range still massively sucks; Charge times still massively suck ( I can put 500 miles of range into my car in 2 minutes. Electric can do 300 miles in 2 hours.)

    Most classes of vehicles have at most 1 option for an electric car

    Most electric cars look like a bug that got ground up and put through a wind tunnel by greenpeace. They look stupid.

    And finally: electric vehicles dont do anything that gas vehicles dont already do. "muh enviromants" isnt going to make most people switch. You'd think environmentalists would have figured that out by now. As people typically cant afford 3 cars, whatever they own is going to be a daily driver, family vehicle, long range traveler, ece all in one box, thats why crossovers are so friggin popular now. People are not going to sacrifice utility and familiarity over some invisible gas.
    loki1944, psycros, Burty117 and 2 others like this.
  4. poohbear

    poohbear TS Maniac Posts: 296   +209

    After reading this article the solution seems simple: make electric cars more profitable for dealerships and manufacturers and they'll become more ubiquitous. The rub, of course, is how do we make them more profitable for dealerships & manufacturers?
  5. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,939   +1,488

    Range, charging time and price.
    HofyPC, loki1944, arrowflash and 2 others like this.
  6. Dimitrios

    Dimitrios TS Guru Posts: 465   +346

    The only thing I like about electric cars and me being into performance cars is less maintenance and less parts to buy. Good example are oil, spark plugs, belts, coolant, fuel filters, garbage emission parts that lessen the performance of a car and even life long term wise like 4+ O2 sensors, EGR, and other crap.
    Burty117 and Theinsanegamer like this.
  7. Bluescreendeath

    Bluescreendeath TS Maniac Posts: 138   +216

    The article inexplicably leaves out some of the biggest reasons why people don't have electric vehicles (EV) but instead decides to place all the blame on greedy dealers and ignorant consumers.
    1) much higher price - EVs are significantly more expensive than regular cars for the ones that have decent range. You're looking at a 20k+ price premium for sedan sized EV compared to sedan sized gas or hybrid cars. (I'm not talking about those small cheaper micro-EVs that only have around 100mpg)
    2) lack of charging stations even if all 3 charger types mentioned were standardized
    3) lack of range compares to regular cars, especially if the EV has to use the heater (regular cars get free heat from the engine's waste heat). Unless you're comparing tiny microcars like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Bolt that only get around 100 mpg, more expensive and bigger sedan sized EVs get 200-300 mile range while a 1.5 L engine honda accord gets almost 500 miles.
    4) You need a house with outlets/tools/etc capabale of charging EVs to charge at home. How many people own houses in America? The people living in condos, apartments, etc wont be able to charge EVs. Going back on its higher upfront price, EVs are basically for rich or well to do people who own houses and can afford paying a large premium over gas cars.

    None of these big problems are caused by consumer ignorance or greedy dealers.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019 at 12:13 PM
    Footlong, treetops, quadibloc and 5 others like this.
  8. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,043   +13

    I don't think it is just "less profitable". It's more a matter of "no demand" due to all the reasons already provided in the article. We have to pay more for a vehicle that is less convenient; which sane person will do that?

    So the technology has to mature, or some tech available that allows us to use cars the same way we do now.

    Writing from Australia we take range as a HUGE issue as everything is so much father apart. Anyone who needs to drive long distances often will immediately discount the idea of an electric vehicle, even if charging stations are 100m apart.
    psycros and Dimitrios like this.
  9. Ean Mogg

    Ean Mogg TS Booster Posts: 117   +52

    Range, I know the range will increase in the years to come as battery technology increases.
    Charging time, I know that will get less as well as it's done since battery technology's been in use.
    Price, As electric vehicles need about 200 parts to work as opposed to petrol cars 1000 shouldn't electric cars be cheaper? I know they are in early development but shouldn't the car companies take the hit for the future profits they will make on these cars.
    Dimitrios likes this.
  10. Dimitrios

    Dimitrios TS Guru Posts: 465   +346

    So after reading the story real fast I assume dealerships or salesman don't really make money off electric cars. I would buy one if they go for around $15-$20K

    I live in CT and we have many many car dealerships. Why don't dealerships just build charging ports and charge the customer's to have it charged? The only way other way I see a way to make more profit is if the Dealership provided some sort of warranty plan on batteries and you can select the 3-5 service plans for the battery. I mean the dealership will make bank because most batteries last pretty long.

    IAMTHESTIG TS Evangelist Posts: 1,720   +806

    Reliability isn't just about the drive train components, its the entire vehicle as a whole and particularly with Tesla's shoddy software they are stetting a bad standard. Nissan didn't help with their non existent battery maintenance system. Both Tesla and Nissan are the most popular electric cars in the US market and have a negative reliability and longevity expectation by people.

    Realistically though the primary factor is cost, and they are still too expensive for most people.
    psycros and Dimitrios like this.
  12. Tyler Fawkes

    Tyler Fawkes TS Rookie

    Really? Which one have you been driving?
  13. Tyler Fawkes

    Tyler Fawkes TS Rookie

    Traditional automakers don't want to build them because they require a lot of R&D investment and assembly line re-tooling. That cuts into their profits. Not a lot of R&D money goes into vehicles they've been building for 100 years. Traditional auto makers don't want to sell them because there is little or no money to be made on service. The service department is the big money maker for most dealerships. Traditional dealerships don't want to sell EVs because they have to invest in training sales staff and service technicians. Consumers for the most part don't know they exist, because they are rarely advertised and only in the dead of night. Consumers who do know about them have to wade through a bunch of misinformation to figure out if they want one and all the conflicting data is just confusing and too much trouble for most.
  14. Tyler Fawkes

    Tyler Fawkes TS Rookie

    According to Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds Automotive, the average new automobile sold rolls off the dealer lot at around $33,000. According to USA Today, the average new pickup truck purchased drives off the dealer lot for around $40,000. There are now several EVs in the $32,k-$38,k range before discounts and incentives. Also, in many cases you can lease an EV for less than a comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Good luck finding one at a dealership though.
  15. netman

    netman TS Addict Posts: 315   +98

    "Hint: electric is less profitable." Not true at all!

    The main reason the electric cars have not taken off is the oil companies influence in collaboration with auto manufacturers as they don't want to loose their lucrative market so they spread lies, deceits and misinformation to public...
    Lounds and 3volv3d like this.
  16. 3volv3d

    3volv3d TS Addict Posts: 163   +61

    This. Basically you have a market already in full affect, and you have stock which is money which you don't want to go to waste, you only have to change to electric once you have milked the oil for all its worth.
    And during this time if people want to adopt to the smarter idea of electric cars whilst going against the grain of the money making 1 percent who just want to sell oil and gas guzzlers, then they have to pay a premium for doing so.
    It pays a funding towards the development of the technology while at the same time acting as a tax for the loss from the missing fuel sales.
    Every technology that is in its infancy is charged at a higher price. It also looks more chic and fashionable to obtain something that not everyone else can afford, even if it is a bit, crap.
    And that comes from years of research, selling cars in areas where they are not suited, like range rovers in UK cities, not practical in any shape or form, but put a high price on them, make it a fashion accessory like a pooch in a handbag, and every woman buys into it.
    You have to know your markets, and how they work.
    Dimitrios likes this.
  17. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,547   +1,767

    Ah, yes, the nebulous "ebil gubbermonts an coopuratons!" defense. Seeing as companies like ford and nissan have reported low sales and tiny profits, if not losses, and even tesla, the biggest electric auto makers, struggles to keep their statements anywhere close to black, but I guess tesla is in cohoots with the oil companies too, spreading that misinformation about profits and costs because reasons.

    But no, its a giant conspiracy. Riiiiight.....
    psycros likes this.
  18. neeyik

    neeyik TS Addict Posts: 82   +63

    Leaving cost aside, here in the UK, the fully EV market is still far from being able to take off until the whole support infrastructure is embedded into our lifestyles. A significant portion of the British driving population don't have a discrete driveway or carport in which to safely charge the vehicle overnight - I.e. their cars are parked on the roadside. Until the EV industry can find someway to easily charge these such cars, without having people trailing cables from their homes, few people in this situation are going to fully EV.

    It might seem that the solution to that problem is to provide large tax incentives to businesses to offer multiple fast charge points on their premises, but I'm not sure this would help people who work at small companies, where the car park is nothing more than dirt patch, or for those folks who have to use private multilevel car parks; the latter would almost certainly pass on the cost of installing a huge number of charging points onto the customer, and the former is not going to see much cost benefit for doing so either.
    Burty117, mosu and psycros like this.
  19. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,387   +5,015

    Sales from coast to coast is anything but low. I guess that falls right in with the other lies we are to believe.

    You may not believe it. But any time a small guy came in and presented something that would counter oil production. They were soon never heard of again. They were either bought out or vanished. I'm beginning to think the same is taking place with battery tech.
    Dimitrios likes this.
  20. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,994   +3,481

    I'm not a fan of Tesla but at least they are investing good money into pushing the tech forward. Electric vehicles have not been improving at a fast enough pace.
    Dimitrios likes this.
  21. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,939   +1,488

    To add on top of this if your electric car breaks good luck finding a mechanic to fix it, you'll have to go to the cars manufacturer to fix it and it's probably going to cost a lot since it's complex and fiddly. There's also a lot of software and do I need to tell you how most software these days is mostly rushed buggy piece of ****?

    We also need to see how age will affect batteries in electric cars and how reliable are they after 10-15 years. There are a lot of questions that require time to be answered and people won't spend huge amounts of money for something untested (unless they're gamers).

    Me thinks if you want an electric car revolution you have to work on making them as affordable as possible which means no fancy infotainment systems, autopilots and so on...The downside with that is they will become less attractive (Personally, I don't even like those features in modern cars) And even then it will be too expensive for most people, they will buy them used once they become cheap but it's gonna take a few years for that.
  22. Bullettube

    Bullettube TS Rookie

    I have a great idea! Put solar cells on top of the vehicle, vans and SUVs have more prime real estate then sedans, but still some is better then none. This way the vehicle can recharge itself, even while being driven. The vehicle's computer can "shut off" a battery section to recharge. Most importantly the charger must be built into the vehicle and it must run on house current (120volt or 240V). Apartment dwellers could park outside under a street light light, the vehicle would recharge itself while you're at work.
    But of course, we need better batteries, Lithium batteries are a dead end: they are made of a rare earth element that is expensive to mine, refine and manufacture. They also need a cooling system because they'll overheat while discharging or recharging. They also cannot be too close to the outside of the vehicle as they will explode in any kind of accident, and this affects how large they can be.
    I'm a retired auto/truck/heavy equipment mechanic, so watch what you say when you debate me.
  23. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,712   +2,507

    A couple manufacturers are about to implement roof-top solar on their electrics and hybrids. But that's a Band-aide on a sucking chest wound - pure electric is probably 20 years away from real practicality. Europe has once again demonstrated its utopian ignorance and fully justified "Brexit" by putting a hard deadline on internal combustion. And then there's this:

    "This time two years ago, the European Commission leveled a record-breaking $3.4 billion fine at Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF for colluding “on the pricing and on passing on the costs for meeting environmental standards to customers” for their diesel trucks."

    Collusion is one thing but the second part is basic economics. Apparently the EU hasn't given up on its communist fantasies that wrecked much of the European economy in the 60's and 70's.
  24. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,387   +5,015

    I'm not sure I want a name brand charger costing 6 times the price of other chargers built in. Maybe one that could be carried along with ease, but not built in.
  25. Aus spot

    Aus spot TS Enthusiast Posts: 31   +20

    No one mentioned the issue of dead battery after 5 to 10 years, possibly less in those environments that cover negative tempuratures to over 40c. It kills normal batteries quickly.

    That the car batteries are possibly a bigger environmental issue than some fumes

    That batteries are currently majority charged by coal or gas power stations.

    Hydrogen if it can be extracted cleanly is the future. Drop this crazy battery idea.
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