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Old 12-15-2006, 02:49 PM   #1
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Will NEV's ever catch on with sub/urban drivers in North America?

Here's another NEV company startup, this one based in Michigan:

Will Ferndale electric car maker click or short circuit?




Think you'll ever see your neighbour driving one of these?

Like the ZENN car, it's an NEV with a top speed of 25 mph, limited to drive on roads with max 35 mph limit. The market is estimated to be anywhere between 7,000 - 15,000 vehicles per year.

My take: functionally, they're not really much different than bicycles.

Unfortunately, cycling doesn't appeal to the majority of the driving-age population (in North America at least).

NEVs could probably work for a lot of local 2-car (and some of the 1-car) households in the small city I live in.

But I doubt they will ever catch on for urban driving unless...

- their purchase price is significantly less than the cheapest ICE runabouts (they're not - the NEV's I know about are around $9-15k US);

- the price of gas/diesel rises high enough that operating costs favour small EVs over small cars (including battery replacement, which vendors rarely mention when touting their vehicles' "low" operating costs);

- people suddenly decide that vehicle emissions are a key purchasing decision;

- governments enact legislation that tilts the financial balance in favour of EVs (e.g. London, England's congestion charge & parking exemptions).
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Old 12-16-2006, 01:18 PM   #2
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Will they catch on? Probably not. Some communities have pretty much reached market saturation for NEVs. You see a lot of old people in warmer climates using them, but that's pretty much it.

What will catch on? Highway capable EVs, if and only if someone manages to sell one for an affordable price. The problem is, the big automkaers have the economies of scale but refuse to make EVs. The smaller companies willing to make EVs don't have the economies of scale to mass produce a car, thanks to the regulations lobbied into place by the big automakers in the 1970s to shut out competition. Now days, if you want to build a mass produced car and sell it in the U.S., Australia, Japan, or Europe, it is going to takes hundreds of millions of dollars for design to meet all regulations, and for the machine tools and factory space to build the car in tens of thousands of units per year.

A $20,000 electric midsize sedan that seats 5, does 0-60 mph < 9 seconds, 200+ miles range, 100+ mph top speed, and cost parity with similar gas cars at under $1.50/gallon gas is perfectly possible. However, you need mass production of the cars and components and access to the Ovonic or Panasonic NiMH batteries to do it. With Lithium Ion batteries you could also meet those specs, but with cost parity with similar gas cars around $2.50-3.00/gallon gas. AC Propulsion, Commuter Cars, UEV, and Tesla sadly know this all too well, but there isn't much else they can do for now except build low volume cars that cost $70,000+ as a consequence of being virtually hand-built and using components that have not been produced in large automotive volume.


An NEV costing $9,000-15,000, that can only legally operate on roads with a 35 mph speed limit or below? That isn't going to catch on in any meaningful quantity, when it would take years to recoup that in gas savings(perhaps decades, due to an NEV's extremely limited use).

Forget NEVs. We need real electric cars that are highway capable.
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Old 12-17-2006, 10:45 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Toecutter
Will they catch on? Probably not. Some communities have pretty much reached market saturation for NEVs. You see a lot of old people in warmer climates using them, but that's pretty much it.

Forget NEVs. We need real electric cars that are highway capable.
Of course, being illegal where I live, I've not seen NEV saturation (I haven't seen any NEV on the road anywhere I've driven. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the laws here change in a couple of years.

I take your points about "real", highway-capable EVs.

But I'd still argue that we should be using the appropriate tool for the job, and in many 2-vehicle households (even if the "primary" vehicle is a highway capable EV), both vehicles don't need to have the same capabilities. For hops to the grocery store or whatever, where the person insists on driving a car, a second, NEV style vehicle makes sense.

"Forget NEVs" is kind of extreme. I don't see it as an either/or issue.
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Old 12-17-2006, 06:51 PM   #4
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If they'd come down dramatically in price, more people would buy them for the role you outline. But as things are, with a price tag around $9,000, they will usually be avoided in favor of a car that has much more utility. In high volume, NEVs would come down dramatically in price, but as it is, I don't think there will be a lot of people spending $9,000 on a grocery getter.

The economic reality is that for the same price, a much useful car or even a highway capable conversion can be had. Unless prices come way down with higher volume, I don't see NEVs making any real impact on oil consumption, and even with mass production of EVs and their parts, you'd probably have affordable highway capable EVs coming onto the scene. There's also the issue of highway capable EVs often being more energy efficient than NEVs due to aerodynamics. I know of Cushman NEVs that get like 250 Wh/mile at 35 mph(these examples have had their governors tampered with to allow over 25 mph), which is what a midsize car would get at about 60 mph!



I'm not against NEVs, mind you. In fact, one of the places I have in mind for a potential job makes NEVs. I see them as more of a stepping stone, given these companies don't have the economies of scale to do a real car, they are starting with NEVs instead. They may raise the cash to do an actual car 10 or more years from now, but by then the oil crisis could be pretty severe.
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Old 12-17-2006, 07:18 PM   #5
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I have a buddy that used to live outside the Atlanta airport in a community set up for golf carts. He says that I would love it there. Everyone drives these things all over the place. So it works in some places but I think that's the exception and not the rule. I agree with TC $15,000 is just to high for a 25 mph car. I've seriously looked into it but it's just to much money. You could buy a beater for $500 or less and convert it or have someone else do it and have $15,000 (maybe less) tied up in something that would be safer, faster and a lot more range.

I think Americans just won't drive something that small and that slow. There is alway the image that bigger is safer and power is good. As an example: I had some one asking about the Prius the other day and the conversation went like this:
New car?
Yes, It a hybrid and it's really fun to drive.
That's suppose to get good mileage right? How you do coming over?
Yea, I got 85MPG on the way over here.
Is it pretty fast?
No
Huh.

End of conversation
And that I think is the American mind set.
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Old 12-17-2006, 07:36 PM   #6
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Well, you should have mentioned that the Prius performs like a normal car, because it does. 0-60 mph about 10 seconds for the Prius, which about matches typical entry level midsize cars. Many of these gas guzzling SUVs and pickups people drive around in do 0-60 mph in 12 seconds or slower. The Prius certainly has performance in the 'acceptable' range.

Many Americans seem to care about speed without really knowing how fast a typical car is.
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Old 12-17-2006, 07:45 PM   #7
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Hello -

25 MPH max? DOA. Might as well get a moped for a grand and go 35 MPH when it's not raining. Same limitation is true of the Zenn cars (otherwise a real cutie) :

http://www.zenncars.com/

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Old 12-17-2006, 07:48 PM   #8
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That's why I like the Zapp Xebra. At least you can legally take that one on the highway, even if it may only do 45 mph. This grants it much more practicality and utility than an NEV. The Xebra is also about the same price as a typical NEV. If I had my way with one, in would go a WarP 9", 156V+ pack of AGMs, and Zilla... *evil grin*
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Old 12-17-2006, 08:20 PM   #9
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You make a point, but I think that depends on whether the person in question is middle class and wealthier, or working class. The latter often buy SUVs not because they really see them as 'cool', but because they can be had in reasonable condiction for dirt cheap given that the used car lots can't get rid of them. These vehicles also have the advantage of a high ground clearance, which reduces the harsh ride and damage caused by the piss poor condition many U.S. roads are in. The former buy what they think it 'cool' because they have the money to obtain 'cool'.

Sadly, it is this the former that determines what cars trickle down to the 2nd hand market for the latter. Many within the latter would LOVE to obtain an EV, but they would never be able to afford a new car unless they incurred upon themselves more dangerous debt.

Make electric cars that burn rubber, or aerodynamically efficient musclecars with huge engines that still return good gas mileage, and both will catch on as 'cool' in no time. Trying to sell an NEV as 'cool' may be difficult, but it is not impossible. After all, the auto industry has managed to sell faux trucks on car platforms as 'cool', when the people driving them look like retards riding around in a short school bus.
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Old 12-17-2006, 08:58 PM   #10
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If they built a bare-bones EV that could get to 45 mph with a range of 50 miles and keep the costs to a minimum by stripping the car of everything unnecessary to driving, I would probably be first in line to get one. What's a shame is that even though EV's cost more to make due to the lack of the market to support mass-production, so seeing one that will end up being cheaper than an ICE car even without features probably won't occur any time soon.
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