Is this really the dawn of the electric car era?

CBC has a new article: Tesla, Volvo, BMW — all join in: Is this finally the dawn of the electric car era? Let’s examine this question:model-3

The very first Tesla Model 3, the electric car maker’s much-hyped, long awaited mass-market vehicle, rolls off the assembly line today.

This is certainly positive news. Without such vehicles, electric cars are toys for the rich. Yet I would argue that the Nissan Leaf, at US$30000 before tax rebates, already fits this bill, though its limited range (100 miles on a charge) is a problem. The Chevy Bolt, at $37500, is a little expensive, though it has almost twice the range. So what makes the new Tesla, which is likely to be price at $35000, such earth shaking news?

Volvo this week announced all of its car models launched after 2019 will either be electric or hybrid. It’s the first major traditional automaker to set a date for phasing out vehicles powered solely by the internal combustion engine.

If you look at the details of this press release, it merely says that all new gas powered models will have electric assist to save fuel. Electrically assisted vehicles don’t plug in like a full hybrid. Rather, they use breaking to generate electricity, then use the generated electricity to assist the gas engine, reducing its fuel consumption. Moreover, the company will continue to make existing models.

France announced it will end the sale of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles by 2040 in a bid to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In France, which is densely populated, this may be practical. Since France generates most of its electricity from clean nuclear power, electrics will deliver their maximum environmental benefit.

BMW also has plans to electrify each and every one of its makes and models by 2020.

This flatly contradicts the October 2016 article BMW is striking back at Tesla and Mercedes with at least 2 new electric cars, which merely claims that BMW plans to add two new electric models by 2020. And what does “electrify” mean here? Is it merely referring to the addition of electric assist? Will BMW, like Volvo, also continue to make gas powered models? These are for profit companies. They are looking at the trends, but they are going to build what they can sell.

Volkswagen says it will spend $2 billion in the United States on electric vehicle infrastructure which includes the installation of more than 500 charging stations across America.

This is sound. Tesla has also invested heavily in adding charging stations. From what I’ve been able to find out, supercharging stations cost around $100,000 to build. With 2 billion dollars, you could build a lot of them.

The question is: Does all of this finally mark a tipping point in the adoption of the electric car?

Yes, that is the question. So what has changed? The author goes on give the opinions of technology enthusiasts who claim that Tesla’s Model 3 is a game changer. But if you know anything about high tech marketing, you know that there is a chasm that needs to be crossed between selling to enthusiasts and to pragmatic buyers.

John Dixon, president of the Tesla Owners Club of Ontario, who claims he was one of the first people to own a Tesla in Canada back in 2012, owns a Model X and has two Model 3s on order. “Don’t ask me what I’m doing with them, they’ll be a second car in my family or for an employee or my son or something,” he says.

Clearly this man does not represent the average car buyer. Even in Ontario, where the government offers up to CA$14,000, the cost of a Model 3 will still be higher than the cost of an economical gas powered car. With government incentives, it is getting close, but then again, the Model 3 is at the same price point as the Bolt. How did that do last year?

There were a record-setting total of 11,000 electric vehicles sold in Canada last year. Nearly two million vehicles [were] sold in Canada in 2016.

That’s right, folks. Last year, when Chevy had an electric car similar to the Model 3 on the market, electrics made up a whopping 0.5% of the market. This puts them solidly in technology enthusiast space. Will the Model 3 be the DVD player to Chevy’s laser-disk? I guess we’ll see. I’m certainly hoping so, because I’d like to be able to afford one some day.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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