walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Electric Cars

Recently on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert described a campaign to find a "wave" for Leaf owners to use when spotting another Leaf on the road.

Sample coverage here:


I saw the bit. I laughed a little. I forgot about it until noticing Gawker found it worth pointing at -- and then I noticed that _everyone_ was doing secondary coverage of it. Okay, that's weird -- I didn't think it was that funny.

Leaves and Volts are very early in their production runs; there are not a lot of them out there. It is not unexpected that there would be more people wanting them than there are available to buy. For a few months now, car blogs have been busy mocking and/or interpreting the relative numbers sold here and elsewhere, and those sales numbers are not always (to be fair, often, but not always) clearly associated with how many are available to buy.


"GM plans to crank up production volume of its Chevrolet Volt to 5,000 a month by January 2012"

Nissan, obviously had an earthquake to deal with, but things are ticking along okay. They plan to open their Smyrna plant by the end of 2012, which is supposed to be capable of turning out (wait for it) 150,000 cars a year (a lot more than 5K/month).

Forecasts for market share of "pure" electric vehicles (I'm going to assume the Volt counts, altho it might now) range between up to 5% and up to 10% by 2020. Even in a truly crappy year for car sales in the US, I think that would imply 600,000 electric cars a year.

Is the electric version of the Fiat 500 going to make up the difference? I doubt it. It'll be interesting to see what rolls out. I only noticed the Fiat 500 EV because I was trying to figure out why Chrysler sold GEM (a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle maker -- think, golf-cart-turned-into-car) to Polaris (I wasn't questioning why Polaris bought GEM -- that part made perfect sense to me).

I'm thinking about electric cars as part of a more global effort to imagine a future job market. Making electric cars presumably does not involve more labor than making internal combustion cars (and probably employers fewer mechanics over the cars lifetime, thus being a net job destroyer rather than a net job creator), however, the process of transitioning from a gas-station infrastructure to a charging station infrastructure would appear to offer some jobs for electricians.

Alas, the number of jobs created for electricians installing dedicated circuits (and possibly a new subpanel or even an entirely new service) for a household to support their electric vehicle would appear to be far fewer than the jobs electricians had during the boom years building more houses than we needed (I'm not going to include the math, but if you care, I can add it). There's a lot of debate about how many public charging stations are needed in addition to the ones at home, but I doubt it's more than double the number of home stations (implying a 3:1 charging station to vehicle ratio, which, honestly, strikes me as ridiculously high anyway -- long term, I expect the ration to be slightly more than one charging station per vehicle in regular use -- and I sort of expect fewer vehicles, too. But there are people out there saying 4:1 so who knows).

A couple side notes on residential charging stations:


"Coulomb says the stations are designed for "residential, commercial and public applications," but who'd be willing to pay extra for an RFID reader on a charger that's installed in one's garage?" Uh, apartment complex owners? I'm assuming apartments are "residential".

That raised the question: are any apartment complexes advertising EV charging stations as an amenity, along with the de rigeur granite countertop and stainless steel appliances? Why yes! And guess where they are? Okay, so the DC one surprised me a little.


Redmond, Belltown and Cambridge did _not_ surprise me. Not one little teeny tiny bit. Once I saw that the DC location was within a half dozen blocks of the Senate office building and the Supreme Court (among other things), I quit being so surprised by the DC location.

From this checkin on electric vehicles, I have come to a few conclusions:

(1) They really do exist. (Yes, I know they never really went away completely.)
(2) The level of mockery suggests that this is a market that people are really trying to avoid serving, rather than a market that is being over-served.
(3) It isn't going to be a net job creator. Probably.

I'll likely be updating this, possibly repeatedly.
Tags: our future economy today
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