The advantages of electric vehicle cars over their gasoline and diesel-engine brethren (quick-snap acceleration, sleepy quiet riding, and Market Basket-cheap operating costs), haven’t been enough to win over consumers. Automakers have taken notice, and may decrease development significantly.
Weak sales from highly-touted and once-promising electric cars such from Tesla and Renault are making industry leaders such as Volkswagen (the largest carmaker in Europe) rethink their business strategies. Renault is considered the market leader, but its executive vice president of sales and marketing Jerome Stall isn’t happy about the size of the market. The company has only sold 15,000 vehicles so far this year.
In response, Volkswagen instead intends to focus more on plug-in hybrids and their ability to travel short distances on battery power alone, and then transition to gasoline or diesel fuel for longer trips. But because of they need to lug around two separate motors, batteries and gas, they’re heavier, eliminating some of its efficiency gains. Smaller gasoline engines (like one that VW is currently working on) should help increase efficiency.
A plug-in hybrid Golf is planned for 2014.
The internal combustion engine shall exist for a time to come, it seems.
How bad is it for electric cars? Nissan is actually buying back some of its Leaf models. Arizona’s scorching heat has a history of destroying starter batteries in standard cars, and that heat has turned its melting power towards electric batteries.
In response to a decrease in battery capacity in two of its Leafs, Nissan is repurchasing these two faulty cars from customers in a gesture of goodwill. It was stressed that these buybacks were not because of defects in the Leaf; the combination of extreme heat, high speed and mileage, and charging method and frequency can help to shorten the battery life.
Nissan has only sold 450 Leafs in Arizona (out of 14,000 in the U.S. and 38,000 globally), so if this “buyback” becomes a full-on recall, the electric vehicle industry will have another obstacle to overcome.