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Can electric cars break out of niche status in US, China market?

20 05 10 - 14:59 Can electric cars break out of niche status in US, China market?


By Jaeah Lee,


Beijing and New york - Interest in electric cars is surging:

- Nearly 52,000 people were wait-listed as of mid-April for General Motors' electric model, the Volt, due in November. As of March, almost 56,000 people had signed up to reserve Nissan's all-electric Leaf, due in dealerships by December.

- In China, leading automakers BYD and Chery have announced plans to roll out their own electric models within the next two years.

- Investors, too, are excited. Electric-car ventures made up nearly 40 percent of $1.9 billion invested in 180 green-technology companies worldwide in the first quarter of 2010, according to a study by the Cleantech Group and Deloitte. Yet in the United States and China, automakers' caution, weak price incentives, and concerns over the electrical grid are slowing the electric car's introduction. If electric cars can't break out of niche status in the world's two largest passenger car markets, then a transition away from gasoline-powered vehicles could be delayed. And many would-be buyers are likely to be frustrated by the lack of available cars. "There is undoubtedly going to be a backlog, where demand exceeds production for the next few years, due to the trepidation of the automakers that the electric car is not something consumers want," says Marc Geller, cofounder of the advocacy group Plug In America.

Take the 56,000 people who have signed up for a Leaf. Nissan is planning to start deploying it in only five states. Total cars initially available: 4,700.

Other automakers are also proceeding cautiously. Bob Lutz, the outgoing vice chairman of GM, has said the company will produce about 8,000 Chevy Volts in 2011. BMW's Mini is rolling out its electric car in three phases. In 2008 the company released a test fleet of 450 Mini-E vehicles and is getting ready to announce its second phase. The third phase will be released around 2015.

Similarly, in China, the sheer size of the auto industry and the country's ambitious clean-energy goals suggest a potentially huge market for electric cars. China overtook the US last year as the largest auto market in the world.

Still, Chinese auto-makers hesitate to mass-market their electric models domestically. BYD's all-electric e6 production line at the company's base in Shenzhen was "ready for manufacturing" in March, but was only producing the gasoline-powered F6, according to Yang Binbin, who writes for Caixin magazine, a business publication based in Beijing.

In the meantime, the company is focused on government-funded mass- transit projects, which guarantee investment returns. In March, BYD chief executive officer Wang Chuanfu announced that in the first half of 2010 the company will sell only 100 e6 cars, to a taxi company in Shenzhen.

Chinese green-car subsidies on hold

The uncertainty surrounding Chinese demand for electric cars is tied to subsidies, Mr. Yang says. The government-run newspaper China Daily reported on April 8 that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had postponed its plans to launch incentives for private purchases of new energy vehicles in March.

"Unless the government adds detailed action plans and centralized direction to its plan, China may well squander the vast opportunity electric vehicles are now offering," Yang Jian, the managing editor of Automotive News China, wrote in a December 2009 editorial.

One reason for automakers' trepidation is technological. Most electric-car makers are working under the assumption that once the battery runs down, cars will recharge at home rather than on the road - limiting the cars to short distances.

"If I'm going to consider an electric vehicle to buy as a second vehicle for commuting, then I'm going to have to see clear advantages and a quick payback period," says Trevor Houser, a partner at Rhodium Group, an economic advisory firm based in New York. "That's going to be tough."

To address the "range anxiety" of prospective electric-car consumers in the US, a number of states, namely California, Oregon, and Hawaii, as well as private companies, are working to develop and install public charging stations on a large scale. Nissan has teamed up with AeroVironment and eTec, firms that specialize in installing public charging stations. The firm eTec got $100 million in funding from the US Department of Energy through the stimulus bill.

Public charging infrastructure is still in a nascent stage, however, partly due to concerns that electric cars would lead to a spike in electricity consumption.

US, China partner on electric cars

In November 2009, President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a new joint initiative on electric vehicles, agreeing to work together on research, technology, and standards.

"The focus is on market creation – how to increase demand in China for electric vehicles," Mr. Houser says. He recently served as an adviser in the US State Department and worked on the joint initiative. "Not only are there environmental and energy security reasons for this, but also the more demand there is, the less Chinese companies will be inclined to manufacture purely for export."

Forecasts suggest that demand for electric cars will rise gradually, but not expand into the mainstream anytime soon. Ernst & Young's survey of 1,000 licensed drivers in the US found that only 10 percent of drivers would even consider purchasing a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., predicts that pure-electric vehicles will account for more than 1 percent of the market by 2014; hybrids and plug-in hybrids, 24 percent.

Electric-car advocates argue that consumer demand will surprise carmakers.

"The suggestion that the electric vehicle is doomed to be a niche vehicle is wrong," says Plug In America's Mr. Geller. "What needs to change is merely perception, and that perception will change faster than the ability to deliver the cars." Used tags: , , , , , , ,
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Bridging the gap between the Smart Grid green energy program and home appliances

Thursday 24 June 2010 at 11:51 am By Dave Porter



Reno - Axial Vector Energy Corp. (OTC: AXVC) may be one of the first green energy companies to have bridged the gap between the $3.4 billion smart grid energy program announced by the U.S. Department of Energy and home appliances when the Company unveiled its product which controls individual home appliances more efficiently using Bluetooth technology. more

BP oil spill: with escrow plan, Obama races to claim BP's money

Monday 14 June 2010 at 12:57 pm By Mark Sappenfield


The Obama administration's management of the BP oil spill cleanup now appears to be a race for money.

Reports Sunday indicate that President Obama will direct BP to set up an escrow account from which damage claims by individuals and businesses along the Gulf Coast will be paid. If BP refuses, Mr. Obama is prepared to argue that he has the legal authority to force BP's hand, the reports suggest.

The move comes as BP considers whether to pay dividends to its shareholders. Members of Congress including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have demanded that BP refrain from paying dividends to shareholders at a time when BP has enormous and open-ended financial obligations in the Gulf. more

Low-income women learn skills for green jobs

Saturday 29 May 2010 at 11:45 am Low-income women learn skills for green jobs


By Desmond L. Marshall



Washington - Renee Owens, 36, an unemployed single mother with two kids, ages 6 and 12, was searching for work. But in a bad economy, few companies were hiring.

She has worked as an unskilled laborer at constructions sites, and her last job was at the International House of Pancakes, where she made $3.20 an hour, plus tips. Then she lost her job and was unemployed for a year and half. more

New bill would create communities for electric vehicles

Saturday 29 May 2010 at 11:39 am New bill would create communities for electric vehicles


By Desmond L. Marshall



Washington - With the Gulf oil spill in the news, three senators introduced a bill Thursday they say would reduce the use of oil.

Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced the "Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010."

Alexander said the BP oil rig disaster should create more opportunities to reduce oil consumption. more

Gulf Spill Puts US Energy Bill on Slippery Slope

Saturday 29 May 2010 at 11:30 am Gulf Spill Puts US Energy Bill on Slippery Slope


By Llewellyn King



Washington - With energy, Senate Democrats find themselves between a rock and two hard places. Nonetheless, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced their climate and energy bill.

Its timing is awful. Its fate is uncertain. Yet its sponsors felt it had to be done now. more

Can electric cars break out of niche status in US, China market?

Thursday 20 May 2010 at 2:59 pm Can electric cars break out of niche status in US, China market?


By Jaeah Lee,


Beijing and New york - Interest in electric cars is surging:

- Nearly 52,000 people were wait-listed as of mid-April for General Motors' electric model, the Volt, due in November. As of March, almost 56,000 people had signed up to reserve Nissan's all-electric Leaf, due in dealerships by December.

- In China, leading automakers BYD and Chery have announced plans to roll out their own electric models within the next two years.

- Investors, too, are excited. Electric-car ventures made up nearly 40 percent of $1.9 billion invested in 180 green-technology companies worldwide in the first quarter of 2010, according to a study by the Cleantech Group and Deloitte. more

Building a Continental Renewable Super Grid

Tuesday 04 May 2010 at 10:03 pm Building a Continental Renewable Super Grid



By Roy Morrison



As the planet warms and the economy cools, renewable resources are emerging as a realistic means to solve both problems in a timely fashion. Advocates of renewable energy want trillions of dollars spent in the coming decades on a continental-scale smart grid that will slash global greenhouse gas emissions and turn society toward a prosperous and ecological future.

How can we build such a grid? What are the next steps? Are we trapped in a future of false promises on clean coal, more nuclear proliferation, resource wars for oil, rising pollution, and business as usual? more

Last chance for climate change legislation?

Thursday 29 April 2010 at 8:41 pm Last chance for climate change legislation?


By Brad Knickerbocker,


It's crunch time for climate change legislation on Capitol Hill, and the bill to be introduced Monday could be the last chance for passage before lawmakers face voters this fall.

The bill coauthored by Sens. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, and Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut has as its main goal a 17 percent reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) from 2005 levels in 10 years and 80 percent by 2050.

It has easier requirements on emissions caps for power plants and other major contributors of greenhouse gases - easier than previous legislative proposals. It also has incentives to build new nuclear power plants. There are also provisions for offshore oil drilling.

The measure pleases no one entirely. more

Obama's gambit to marry US policies on environment and energy

Monday 19 April 2010 at 11:18 am By Mark Clayton


True, America is still guzzling fossil fuels. But since taking office just over a year ago, President Obama has quietly set the nation's energy policy on a new course.

Even as health care dominated the news, Obama energy czar Carol Browner - working with the departments of Interior, Energy, and Transportation - has established a new, unified energy-and-environment policy. But whether this focus on renewable power and energy security can succeed depends largely on whether Congress approves climate-energy legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions, energy experts say. more

Waste-hating freegans Dumpster dive for food

Sunday 18 April 2010 at 9:24 pm Waste-hating freegans Dumpster dive for food



By Megan McCourt




Washington - One night as Madeline Nelson was foraging through a Whole Foods Dumpster in Manhattan, a man gave her a look of pity and held out a dollar bill. That wasn't what she was looking for.

Nelson, 54, was searching for good-quality food that had been tossed from the store's stocks of slightly wilted produce, day-old bread and dented canned goods.

Nelson is a freegan - a mash-up of "free" and "vegan." more
 

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