electric cars: who will buy them, and who will make the batteries

Today’s New York Times has an interesting piece on electric cars. In it, an executive from Ford is quoted as saying that the company intends to have (a paltry) 10,000 electric vehicles available for sale by 2011. And, apparently, the first one will make its debut next Sunday at the Detroit Auto Show. Here’s a clip:

…Ford and its supplier partner, the Canadian firm Magna International, built the Project M prototype in the body of a Ford Focus compact car. It is planning a more distinctive design for the finished product when it goes on the market in two years.

The modest expectations for initial sales are reflected in Ford’s plan for introducing the car at the auto show Sunday. There won’t be the usual dry ice, flashing lights and pounding music.

Instead, there will be a simple announcement at a news conference, and the car will be parked on the street in front of the convention center, available for short test drives by journalists through downtown Detroit…

As the car is expected to only get 100 miles to the 6-hour charge, it’s not surprising that the company is less than enthusiastic. But, one hopes that better technology is around the corner.

Speaking of batteries, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard that the lithium ion battery company A123 Systems, which recently acquired the Ann Arbor company TJ Technologies, is talking about opening the first of what could be several manufacturing facilities in southeastern Michigan… And I know what you’re all thinking — “If only there were an available plant here in Ypsi.”

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6 Comments

  1. Curt Waugh
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    My family is the perfect customer for a light-duty electric car — AS A SECOND CAR. This is the great untapped market. Why does everybody insist on only designing primary vehicles. The secondary market is HUGE.

    We have a strong need for two vehicles, but we don’t need a second, full-bore car. We need a light-duty, 65 MPH max, minimal frills hauler, really just a roll-cage with direct-drive electric motors and maybe a little heat. If I need to go somewhere far, we’ll take the gas car. Otherwise, an electric would be great. (Hell, we could even live with 55-ish MPH max.) 100 miles is way more than enough per charge. And no, some of these new golf carts that max at 30 MPH just won’t cut it. Speed is also a safety feature.

    Here’s the kicker, though: The thing needs to be CHEAPER than a gas car. If I can still buy the new Nissan stripped-down Versa for a little over $10 grand, I ain’t ever gonna buy a $40,000 Chevy Volt. That’s insanity.

  2. ol' e cross
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I trust that our new city council is being proactive in seeing if there’s a good Ypsi location for A123 Systems? I mean, it seems to me that if I were a company supporting the development of green technology, reusing/redeveloping existing sites, as opposed to greenfield development, would be a nice way to make a statement…

  3. Jiggs
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Which battery would you want in your car?

    http://john1701a.com/prius/presentations/Prius_BatteryPack01.jpg

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/Volt-Battery-Pack.jpg

    http://blog.mlive.com/business_impact/2009/01/medium_battery.jpg

    …if you’ve ever seen “Who Killed the Electric Car” then you, like me, would not discount GM’s motives w/these images (who wants THAT HUGE THING in their car?!).

  4. Paw
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Carl Levin is looking for $1 billion to go toward advanced battery research.

  5. mark
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another possibility for the Visteon plant… GM announced today that they would be building a new battery facility in Michigan. According to the Washington Post, it’ll probably be in Hamtramck, as that’s where the Volt production line will be, but it’s worth asking.

  6. mark
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    The man leading Michigan’s economic development effort, the head of the MEDC, just announced that he’d be leaving to manage a dentist’s office… or something like that.

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