Electric Vehicles: Progress in Spite of Rough Ride

October 24, 2011

Apologies for the advertisements halfway thru. Good, warts and all update on electric vehicle development. It’s not about environmentalism or climate – it’s about economics and national security.  This is a half hour film, so if time is short, skip to the very  interesting discussion of lithium air batteries at 20:00.

Meanwhile, even as the IBM expert in the video above asserts, “most people in the world want to own a car..” –  there is evidence that the traditional auto-dependent lifestyle is losing its appeal. The personal auto as the primary means of transportation is sunsetting.

Have We Reached Peak Car?: 

Experts say our love affair with the automobile is ending, and that could change much more than how we get around – it presents both an opportunity and an imperative to rethink how we build cities, how governments budget and even the contours of the political landscape.

The most detailed picture of the trend comes from the United States, where the distance driven by Americans per capita each year flatlined at the turn of the century and has been dropping for six years. By last spring, Americans were driving the same distance as they had in 1998.

The rebound in urban-centre residential growth over the past 20 years has reduced the need to drive, as many people have moved back within reach of city transit systems or even within walking distance from their jobs. Meanwhile, telecommuting, social media and online shopping have all cut back on the need for people to go anywhere outside the house at all.

Demographics also have an important impact. The two largest current cohorts are aging baby boomers and their young-adult children, known as Generation Y. The youngest of these Millennials are currently in their mid-teens, just the age when they should be getting their driver’s licences.

But U.S. transportation data show that many of them are putting off that long-cherished rite of passage well into their 20s.

In fact, they’re more likely than any previous generation in the automotive age never to learn to drive at all. It’s a choice that may feed into their elders’ suspicion that this is a group that stubbornly holds on to its adolescence rather than accommodate itself to adulthood, but is also just a mark of when they came of age. To them, cars are “an older-generation technology,” says Tara Mahoney, 28, of Burnaby, B.C.

“Cars are not as interesting as they used to be. They’re an outdated ethos,” says Ms. Mahoney, who owns a Subaru all-wheel-drive but finds it much less stressful to use a combination of Vancouver’s SkyTrain and a bicycle to get to her new-media company’s office downtown. “I think Generation Y might think of themselves as beyond that, as the generation that can do better.”


5 Responses to “Electric Vehicles: Progress in Spite of Rough Ride”

  1. wvhybrid Says:

    The claim that Chevy Volts are not meeting sales expectations does not hold water. GM rolled out the Volt at a very slow pace, and have only in the past 30 days started to sell at a rate that anywhere approaches demand.

    In summary, Chevy has sold every Volt they’ve built. Total Volts builds in 2011 were projected over a year ago by GM to be 10,000 units. That is all they will build and every unit built to date has been sold either to the public or to dealers for demo. (About 1500 Volts went to dealers as demos, and will be sold as used cars after 6 months.) Also note that dealers days of inventory have been running about 3 days, which is just about long enough to unload the truck and prep the car for delivery.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      agreed. I posted the video even tho I disagreed with that statement.
      Generally, if you roll out a new product, sell every single one you make, and have a waiting list for more, that’s considered pretty successful.

  2. sinchiroca Says:

    The phrase “peak car” is appropriate only in the most literal sense. I agree that the rising price of gasoline has finally started to have an effect on American behavior, but American residential layouts prevent any wholesale abandonment of the car. The suburbs are just too big, and too low density, to support any kind of mass transit. I expect that we’ll be keeping cars, but they’ll be smaller and electric.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      right. future growth patterns will be affected, more and more, by the layout of light rail and other transit lines – and planner’s greater awareness of the advantages of well thought out high density development.

  3. […] Fleet size peaked at 250 million cars in 2008 just as the number of cars being scrapped eclipsed sales of new cars. Aside from economic conditions, car sales are down because many young people today are much less automobile-oriented than their parents. […]

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