Contrary to what many people might think, the concept of the electric car is not a recent, modern idea but has been around since the early years of the auto industry itself. During those days, early designs of automobiles were either based on gas, electric and steam engines. It wasn’t until the introduction of the 1912 Cadillac did gasoline engines became more popular, as Charles Kettering’s self-starter design practically put an end to the dangerous cranking issues experienced with early gas engine designs.
But just imagine if the automobile industry headed on a different path instead and opted for the cleaner electric engines? Much effort and focus would have been placed on the issues involving electric engines and from the decades that passed practical resolutions would have been formulated. Now, the industry is scrambling to resolve these issues and make electric vehicles (EV) more practical for general use in light of the much bigger problems the nation and the rest of the world is faced: environmental issues, climate change, and energy security – all attributed to the heavy dependence on fossil fuels.
Things are rolling out for the better however, with groups such as the Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative taking a more dynamic initiative in developing an electrified transport system in California and establishing the state as the national hub for the electric vehicle market. Newer and more efficient green vehicles are being introduced in the market that will showcase the practicality and environmental benefits of electric vehicles and plug-ins – towards a cleaner and greener future ahead.
Issues and Challenges
Despite the tremendous potential benefits of electrified vehicles, certain issues and challenges posed deterrents for the industry to finally pick up and penetrate mainstream consumer use. The following describes some of these problems and issues:
* High price tags for electrified vehicles – The cheapest EVs rolling out in the market can still set a buyer back $32,000, while other models will go beyond $100,000. This high selling price is attributed to the high costs of creating the battery packs which serves as the main source of power for these vehicles. Creating a cheaper, more durable but more efficient battery pack is one of the greatest challenges industry experts and engineers are trying to address.
* Availability of Public Charging Facilities – Plug-in electrified vehicles can be recharged at home overnight and ready for use the next morning. However, without public recharging facilities available anywhere else, usage of these vehicles will be limited to distances within a 50-mile radius only – otherwise, there will not be enough juice for the car to use on its return trip back home.
* No cooperation between EV manufacturers and public utility companies – EV manufacturers will need the full backing and support of electric companies particularly in the area of installing and maintaining public plug-in areas.
These issues need to be addressed before electrified vehicles can be accepted as a practical mode of transportation that people will choose. In a broader sense, the market for electrified vehicles in California can only be sustained if sales can reach at least 100,000 vehicles per year over a period of ten years
Market Trends and Opportunities
Industry experts are seeing a great rebound in the electrified vehicle market as new advances in battery technologies and electronics are bringing in a new wave of better and more efficient electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the marketplace. These new electrified vehicles need only 4 to 8 hours of plug-in time using a standard 220-volt current to drive a range of over 100 miles and at top speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.
These new car designs are far superior to their predecessors in terms of practicality, significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and the big potential savings from gasoline consumption which will only increase as gasoline prices continue to soar in the world market. California will be the central hub for these new electrified vehicles, getting tremendous support from both state and federal governments. In line with the California’s air quality emission goals by 2025, the state is aiming for annual sales of up to 250,000 battery or plug-in hybrid units sold in the marketplace.
The federal government is offering a $7,500 federal tax credit for every consumer purchasing and electrified vehicle but it is only in the state of California where consumers can get an additional $5,000 cash rebate. This will make new EV models such as the Nissan Leaf more affordable to the public, with price tags dropping from $32,780 down to $25,280 if all government tax breaks are considered.
The issue of charging stations will be addressed as well with the federal government pouring in more than $400 million to aid the development of plug-in infrastructures and the upgrade of existing installations. More than 1,600 public charging stations that resemble oversized iPods with cords will begin installation in various parts of Los Angeles and San Diego. Home charging will not pose any problems as upgrades on pole-top transformers can handle the additional load of multiple EVs charging at the same time within a typical neighborhood.
The Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative sees electrified vehicles as the future of California’s transportation and the rest of the nation as well. With tremendous support from local and the federal government in partnership with private companies, environmentalists and other advocates, electrified vehicles now have the potential of transforming the automobile industry – towards a cleaner, greener, and more economical drive for consumers.
Michael Vargas is the founder and principal consultant of Atlas Project Support. This San Diego based firm focuses on energy consumption, sustainable building practices and preconstruction services for corporate, government, and private clients. Atlas is experiencing significant growth as the diversity of clients and continual exploration of new markets sparks innovation and strategic alliances.
Michael holds both academic and industry credentials and has more than 12 years of construction and project management experience. In addition to his consulting business, Michael is a Professor in the Business School at Saint Leo University a Catholic University located in Florida. This educational component resonates throughout Michael’s professional life as he also conducts training in energy consumption and sustainability for organizations and groups. He is an Advisory Panel Member of the Green Building Council Institute’s Continuing Education Committee while chairing the Quality Sub-Committee for the Continuing Education Advisory Group (CEAG), overseeing and auditing curriculum and promoting best practices.
Vargas earned a Masters in Business Administration, a Masters in Project Management and most recently a Graduate Certificate in Financial Analysis from the Keller Graduate School of Management. Michael completed a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration at San Diego State University, along with a Certificate in Green Building and Construction. Specialties
He is recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers as a Certified Business Energy Professional and the California Association of Building Energy Consultants (CABEC) as a Certified Energy Plans Examiner and is a LEED Accredited Professional with the Green Associate designation supporting the US Green Building Council. Michael has a Contractor Quality Manager certification from NAVFAC.