A Bad Week for Electric Vehicles
It's not quite clear whether makers of all-electric passenger vehicles need upgraded batteries or upgraded customers. Maybe both.
Improved technology might bring cheaper batteries with extended range and a longer useful lifespan. But firms like Nissan might also benefit from customers that don't mind paying a lot and aren't suffering from "range anxiety."
Certainly, it is easier for automakers to change their strategy than to invent the perfect customer. This week, Toyota said it would roll out 21 new or redesigned gas-electric hybrids. It will expand sales of a version of the Prius that plugs in. But it is tempering expectations about its all-electric eQ, saying it plans to sell just 100 of the tiny vehicles, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told the WSJ that it will upgrade the battery in the Nissan Leaf EV to help the firm lower its price. The Leaf has suffered slowing sales, and recent critisms that the battery's capacity has dropped too quickly for drivers in hot climates.
Interestingly, Hundai says it would like to leapfrog the battery issues and instead offer a fuel cell-powered electric vehicle, says Reuters. The FCEVs will have their own problems - high sticker price and a lack of refueling stations.
Chrysler, a brand not known for cute subcompact city cars, has been a laggared in electrified vehicles. Nonetheless, it has a test fleet of plug-in hybrid vehicles. But the company has already determined that the initial batteries will need to be upgraded as the test showed problems with overheating. The company is testing how fleet operated electric vehicles might be able to transfer power from their batteries to the electric grid - a process called "reverse power flow."
Lux Research, which has been sounding the alarm about likely weak sales of EVs commented on the Toyota announcement. "The reality is that HEVs and light PHEVs are simply far more economical now, given high battery costs, and will remain so for years to come. As a result, in 2020 sales of HEVs and light PHEVs will be 16 times greater than those of heavy PHEVs and EVs."
Cute but rare? Toyota's eQ, all electric vehicle. Credit:Toyota