Why the Car of the Future Will Be Powered by … Gasoline

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The consensus among auto insiders is that hybrid cars that run on battery and gas have a much brighter future than vehicles powered by electricity alone. And hotter still in the decade or so ahead? Cars that just use plain old gas.

The advisory company KPMG surveyed 200 car industry executives from around the world, including 22 in North America, and compiled the findings in the latest edition of an annual report revealing where auto insiders think the industry is going.

The results show that few anticipate a major impact in the near future from purely battery-powered plug-in vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Honda Fit EV. “Just one in 10 of all survey participants think that battery electrified vehicles will be the next big thing,” the report states. On the other hand, 85% of those surveyed said that downsizing and innovating the traditional gas-powered internal combustion engine offers automakers the best chance of boosting fuel efficiency and lowering vehicle emissions.

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What’s more, “in the 12 months since the last KPMG automotive survey, the optimism over electric cars has dampened considerably among automakers,” the report states. When asked about which electric vehicle technology would attract the most customer attention over the next 5 to 15 years, 16% pointed to battery-powered plug-ins in the 2012 study, compared to 11% this year.

At the same time, enthusiasm for plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt—powered by electricity and, whenever the need arises, gasoline—is on the rise. In last year’s survey, 21% indicated that this breed of vehicle would draw the most attention from drivers in the near future. For the 2013 survey, the figure jumped to 36%.

It’s no mystery why many are falling out of love with the near-term promise of cars that run solely on electricity. The hefty sticky price of gas-electric hybrids have hurt sales, yet cars powered strictly by battery have faced a steeper uphill battle to attract buyers not only because of high initial prices but their limited driving range as well. In a nutshell, this is why Nissan Leaf sales have shrunk this year, while the Volt, with its 500+-mile driving range, has fared better.

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Things have gotten to the point that automotive writers who dreamed for decades about the possibility of electric cars are now admitting that the “honeymoon is over.” That’s how Drew Winter from Wards Auto put it. Sitting behind the wheel of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf for the first time were “among my most memorable in more than 30 years of automotive journalism,” Winter wrote. And yet, in terms of purely battery-powered cars:

Their shortcomings are impossible to ignore. The electric-only ranges are too short and the charging routine is annoying.

I tried to tell myself we should not judge vehicles by the size of their battery or “fuel tank.”

But if we evaluated a gasoline car with a tank that held only two gallons, took 3 to 20 hours to refill, and had an unreliable fuel gauge, it would be savaged.

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Nissan recently announced it would soon be selling a cheaper version of the Leaf, made in the U.S. no less. It’s supposed to have a longer driving range as well, which the Leaf desperately needs. The current model has a 73-mile range. For the Leaf to transcend it status as a niche product and attract consumers in the mainstream, that figure will need to be doubled, or perhaps tripled, while the sticker price must shrink or at least stay flat. It would help the cause if gas prices rose too.

14 comments
PatrickHughes
PatrickHughes

Ya...it really doesn't sound like you're remotely familiar with the direction of battery research. New battery concepts are suggesting that we can achieve many times the battery capacity at lower costs than current designs within a few years. The battery issue is a huge bottleneck, therefor creates a huge economic incentive to solve, as gasoline prices continue to rise. Couple this with the fact that solar panel prices are plummeting, with the major bottleneck for inexpensive durable home systems once again being a battery bottleneck, and you have a large amount of funding being poured into battery research, and many promising solutions resulting.  These solutions largely incorporate nanomaterials, which don't necessarily add significant expenses.


"The new batteries -- which could be used in anything from cell phones to hybrid cars -- hold three times as much energy as comparable graphite-based designs and recharge within 10 minutes. The design, currently under a provisional patent, could be commercially available within two to three years."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212112023.htm

"The result is a graphene anode material that can be charged or discharged 10 times faster than conventional graphite anodes used in today's lithium (Li)-ion batteries."


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120822181236.htm

DavidHall
DavidHall

The "hefty sticky price"? Try STICKER price.

LancePickup
LancePickup

In related stories, 200 tobacco industry executives predict a strong increase in cigarette demand in 2013.  200 beer industry executives say the next big thing in the malt beverage market is more rice-based, low-calorie, zero-taste American Pale Lager.

As for Drew Winter's expert commentary, I don't understand the annoying part of the charging routine.  You get home.  You plug it in.  The next morning it is fully charged.  If anything is annoying it's making a special trip to the gas station to get the best price on gas (which fluctuates daily so you have to try to time it right), get out, stand in the cold while you wait several minutes for the tank to fill, only to have it splash out when the tank is full.

Anyone that drives an EV regularly knows exactly what it's limits are.  I know how far it will get me (and back) in various types of weather.  Sure, the first time he attempts a winter trip to work and suspects he may not have the range, it would be wise to have a backup plan just in case (maybe this includes a stop at a charging station or back roads so he can drive slower).  But once he successfully does it, no more worries.

DanDobson
DanDobson

Misleading title.  I agree the future will probably see more Plug-In EV Hybrids than 100% EVs but just because the car has a gas tank doesn't mean "it will be powered by... gasoline".  100% gas powered vehicles as everyday cars will soon be a thing of the past.  

 I'm a proud owner of a Chevy Volt and love the lack of "range anxiety" the tank gives me, but I am still powered by electricity 95% of the time (as would be the majority of drivers out there). 

BruceMorganWilliams
BruceMorganWilliams

Very disingenous title.   The major findings of the study that is reviewed are that the executives believe hybrids will make the market,  with the sentiment increasing by 75% increase in one year.   That should be the title.

"In last year’s survey, 21% indicated that this breed of vehicle (hybrids) would draw the most attention from drivers in the near future. For the 2013 survey, the figure jumped to 36%."

What is the author's intent in  highlighting only a small decrease in sentiment for pure EVs?

Robert.Boston
Robert.Boston

Two points:

First, it's astounding to write a piece of journalism with you sole source being a survey of industry executives. What product do these executives manufacture and market? Gasoline-powered cars. Hardly surprising, then, when they tell you that what *they* currently sell is the next big thing.

Second, how can you write an article about electrics vs. hybrids vs. gasoline without once mentioning Tesla Motors? With its Model S mopping up the awards this year, seriously out-classing the best of the best?  Tesla is selling cars as fast as it can make them; faster, actually, as it appears that the reservation rate exceeds the manufacturing rate. It's not that people don't want to buy electric cars, but rather that people don't want to buy low-quality or short-range EVs. 

ostrichalpha
ostrichalpha

The one percenters love Tesla.  Why not, they can buy the vehicle for 80% of what it costs to produce: and, as long as they ignore the energy wasted in mining and refining the lithium, cobalt, nickel, aluminum, copper and other compounds excessively used in EVs, they can delude themselves that they are "saving the planet." 

AbContador
AbContador

volt all the way - I have never wanted to buy a Chevy until this car

QuietStormX
QuietStormX

Come on here people with fairytale dreams. EV automobiles who don't have the extended range are useless period. Pure EV's are only good for Metro areas and cities and areas not that cold. Face the Facts!

joeberman334
joeberman334

@QuietStormX How much range did the first generation of internal combustion engines have?  Patience is a virtue.

QuietStormX
QuietStormX

I wasen't born then.... Battery tech has to greatly improve. Fast charging has to be in the mix also. But the fools who but the pure EV's can't be used as a gasoline engine with no worries about range. And the ASIAN EV's look toyish to me. I think trhe New Cadillac on the way is going to be a very hot seller.

fredtherabbit
fredtherabbit

i love it when sensationalists & pessimists are proved wrong, as you surely will be in a few years.

JosephMateus
JosephMateus like.author.displayName 1 Like

Mr. Brad Tuttle, your sensationalism doesn't cut it. You don't know what you are writing about here. The Chevy Volt is not a electric-gasoline hybrid. It is a totally run electric car that runs with an electric motor only, and always on electricity; However it has an additional  gasoline powered generator that feeds the batteries after you drive 70 km's (40 miles). With this kind of system you have an autonomy range of about 500 kilometres. All you need is keep gasoline in the rear tank and Chevy Volt will run forever. With the Chevy Volt you get a truly electric only car but with the same autonomy range as a gasoline engine powered car, so you can drive from los Angeles to New York to visit your mother in law.

And because it takes ten times less gasoline to power a generator as compared to powering a gasoline engine, this ensures that your gasoline costs will be cut to a minimum. And this is exactly the reason why there is much higher demand for this Chevy Volt than for other electric only powered cars like the Nissan Leaf that do not have this gasoline generator technology and must stop every 120 kilometers to recharge the batteries for 4 or 8 hours at a power outlet. Consumers are not stupid and you should get on the ball and smarten up.