I recently watched the movie Who Killed The Electric Car?
. While obviously anything said in such a movie has to be taken with a grain of salt, I think the general message was probably on target: there is currently demand for electric cars, at least among urban populations, and it is possible to build an affordable electric car that performs adequately, the problem is that the current auto manufacturers and dealers already have a line-up of vehicles that fit the range of car driving needs out there, and introducing more will just result in them having their own products compete against each other. In other words, they're entrenched in current politics and technology. I agree with the existing auto companies that it simply isn't a good idea for them to be building electric cars at this time. However there is also, definitely, a market for electric cars, and if there's one thing that a free market is good at, it's providing what the consumers want. The solution to this modern economic conflictâ€”that the consumers want something that the existing companies simply can't sellâ€”is simple: start a new company that sells what people want.
That was pretty much the thought I had after watching the movie, that someone should start a company that builds and sells only electric cars. There's demand for it, the technology to do it exists, and it's been pretty well shown to be economical. Technologies more recently developed for hybrids, such as regenerative breaking, are also very applicable to improving electric cars, making them even better than they would have been before. While I think it will certainly happen that the existing manufacturers will bring electric cars to the market again (and do it right this time), for their own very valid reasons, they just can't do it now. The hybrid car, is definitely a step in the right direction. Once one company has their entire line switched over to hybrids (a goal, I was told by the president of Toyota a few years back, that Toyota plans to meet by 2007... we'll see about that), especially if at least some of those hybrids are plug-in hybrids, they'll be well positioned to make the next transition to fully electric cars. But, that probably won't happen until 2009 or 2010 at the earliest.
Enter Tesla Motors
, a company planning to do exactly that. Started in 2003 in San Carlos, California, they're planning to start selling their first production vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, in early 2007 (in select cities only). In fact, they've already sold out of their first 100. Starting with an $90k electric sports car, they're going after the high end market first, which will allow them to sell cars even before they've become large enough to leverage economies of scale and sell cars affordable to the Average Joe, and will then work their way down the line over the next few years until they have a lineup of electric cars to suit just about everyone's needs. The plan is to have an ~$40k, four-door family sedan some time in 2008
, and an even more affordable third model some time after thatâ€”probably, you know, 2009 or 2010. I would not
be surprised to see, if Tesla does well enough to stick to their plans, the major car manufacturers releasing their own electric cars (again) to compete with the Tesla models. Which is a good thing, competition will only lead to more affordable cars made with better technology.
As usual, I expect the market will solve our dependency on oil faster and more effectively than regulation from the government ever will (don't get me started on hydrogen fuel cell cars...).