Are electric cars losing their spark? – USATODAY com

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Electric Cars

By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY

than electrifying auto the plug-in car revolution is feeling like a fizzle.

By Dan MacMedan, USA

Shannon Arvizu lives in Beach, Calif. but charges her car at Monica Place shopping twice a week because is no charger at her condo complex.


A year after the two plug-in electric cars major makers went on buyers appear put off by high prices — even with subsidies — and, for the moment, by gasoline prices.

The Nissan and Chevrolet Volt also had their own issues. For owners of the and other electric-only vehicles, still are relatively few places to in and recharge away from limiting use. And the Volt, has a backup gas engine to run a generator for range, is under the shadow of a safety probe of why its big lithium-ion pack could catch days or even weeks suffering severe crash

Meanwhile, some start-up of electric cars, including the City car and the egg-shaped Aptera, gone bust. Others hit pot holes and delays in their to get plug-in cars in front of Even some major have had hiccups developing new

Electric cars on the way to showrooms face stiffer competition conventional cars and hybrids not only are cheaper, but also gotten markedly more as automakers work to meet federal fuel-economy rules.

All these problems amount to big bumps on the road to President ‘s stated goal of 1 electrified vehicles (including hybrids) on the road by 2015.

But some avid electric-car say they aren’t all that at muted mainstream interest in the models of electrics. I think the is just not really ready for — and I don’t think (the are ready for the public, says Art an electric-car fan who is president of CNW Research, a of auto-sales trends.

The high-tech for instance, had narrow interest car buyers overall, even the National Highway Traffic Administration ‘s probe battery fires began month.

About 1% of general said in a July CNW survey they were willing to buying a Volt, a figure fell to 0.6% this after reports of the safety Among those in the market for a new car, Volt interest from 4.3% to 2.1% the same period.

GM had hoped to 10,000 Volts by the end of this but now acknowledges it will fall Just 6,142 Volts had sold through November, to Autodata.

Nissan has sold Leaf electric sedans last month, and the company has it is satisfied with first-year that were hampered by delivery problems that appear ironed out.

But the sales of those two models just 0.1% of the 11.5 new car and truck sales in the U.S. November. While Nissan and were delivering limited of their shiny new electrics, sold almost 120,000 of its 50 Prius gas-electric hybrids, the March tsunami in Japan disrupted production.

Electric-car enthusiasts believe day will come. Just when the car arrived to take on the it was not an instant win, says Paine, a Volt driver and of the documentary Revenge of the Electric Car . had its debut earlier this This stuff takes a time to shift.

It’s not potential car buyers reject the of being green. Most the idea — until it involves the and substantial expense of installing a charger on top of paying a substantial premium over an equivalent car. And then there is for range limits.

The Leaf, the government says can go 73 miles charges, has a sticker price of including destination charges. which goes 25 miles or on the plug-in charge before the gas kicks in for more juice, is at $39,995.

Many buyers of car do qualify for the federal $7,500 tax as well as more tax subsidies in states. And they will get the down the road for using electricity at a fraction of the price of

But consumers apparently can’t get the fact that a Chevrolet for example, compares in size and with the Chevy Cruze. starts at about $17,000.

The big is price, says Craig vice chairman and automotive leader for consultants Deloitte. The between electric and conventional is still not at the trigger point gets consumers to run out and buy electric.

As with CNW’s research, a study shows limited in electrics from potential More than half of surveyed say they aren’t to pay a dollar more to drive rather than conventional.

would have to hit $5 a gallon consumers would take a look at electrics, Giffi On Monday, regular gas averaged a gallon nationwide, according to the Energy Information Administration .

‘as a citizen’

Then is the issue of where to plug in. home charging can be problematic for such as Shannon Arvizu, who have a charger at the Venice, condo complex where she

Arvizu drives her Volt to a shopping center with charging twice a week if need be, she can run the car on gasoline alone).

She mind. She’s a true in electric cars who works on her at a coffee house while her gets its volts. She drives her with a certain patriotic

There’s a reason that I this car, because it the future, says Arvizu, who a doctoral dissertation at Columbia on electric cars. I’m not it as a consumer. I’m driving it as a

Arvizu thinks the Volt concerns are overblown. Gas-powered can catch fire in a serious she says, as opposed to the electric’s which could potentially fire hours or days the crash. In either case, she it’s only prudent to a gas tank or discharge a damaged after an accident.

And she faults automakers for not doing to promote electric cars for she believes is the ego boost and fun they — not just because they money on gas.

They Marketing 101, says 33, who works as a clean-tech researcher. forgot that people buy because it makes them good and feel good. … cars are sexy, fast and

Despite lackluster interest, plug-ins from major are on the way. Mitsubishi delivered the of its electric cars earlier month, a small, odd-looking, four-door called simply the i. is launching a $39,995 Focus in the first half of 2012 and the plug-in small van sometime in the half of the year. Toyota introduce the $32,000 plug-in of the Prius in 14 launch states.

all have high hopes. GM point out that while the aren’t huge, there’s no of Volts and there are more lined up to buy them. North chief Mark Reuss Chevrolet could sell up to Volts next year production ramped up.

Electric Cars

A Cadillac is in the works as well.

Nissan, is upbeat. Leaf launched in California, Arizona, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. It’s now on in 30 states but not yet nationwide.

And electric aren’t languishing on sales Makers are selling every one produce and coming new models help offer more cost-cutting scale and visibility for the industry, predicts Brian president of the Electric Drive Association, a trade group electric vehicles. He cautions looking at the relatively few sales so

We’re looking out of the wrong of the binoculars, he says. We’re getting started.


But there is no ignoring some of the for the industry this year:

an electric-car start-up that had to make vehicles in Elkhart, filed for bankruptcy protection. The unit created to market the car based on one sold in Europe a factory in Norway was backed by Valley financiers.

•Aptera, of an egg-shaped electric vehicle on that looked a little bit a rolling Cessna, announced it liquidate. Executives say they unable to find financing for the Southern California-based company to for federal loans.

•Fisker raised the price again of its plug-in extended-range Karma going on sale now. $102,000, up from about originally. Because the batteries space inside the car, it is by the government as a subcompact.

Another start-up, Tesla Motors. is production of its pioneering $109,000 sports car and won’t be ready to selling its next all-electric the $57,400-to-$87,400 Model S sedan up to a 300-mile range, until summer.

There are already than 7,000 reservations for the Model S, says Ricardo a vice president.

He says the launch of the electric is off to a respectable start. I don’t what they expected. not like from day one to the next going to have electric he says.

It wasn’t like was going to be a seminal year.

Sexton. an electric-vehicle enthusiast who was with General Motors initial electric in the 1990s, the also takes the long

We’re in the era of skinned knees and having to grow up, she says. The companies are finding it’s to play than they

She faults the big companies, too, for overpromising and undercommunicating.

We have to get our act quick or it will disappear, she There is way too much work to be

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