Nuke power need for electric cars

2013-05-13 13:38

WASHINGTON, USA – Lay-offs, financial woes and low demand... the road ahead looks bumpy for electric cars.

An automotive analyst echoes what we at Wheels24 have been saying for years about electric cars: there's inadequate infrastructure to provide for electric cars, not to mention the strain they would take on local power grids.

You would, need to build extra nuclear powerplants to cater for recharging should electric cars reach levels of demand comparible with conventional fossil-fueled rides.

Coda Automotive, one of what was a promising crop of electric automakers, filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2013 and said it would focus on the electric storage market.

Electric automaker Fisker Automotive, which has had financial woe for months, is laying off 75% of its workers, raising the prospect of defaulting on US government loans.


Electric cars are still heading for sale from luxury maker Tesla and from major automakers such as General Motors and Nissan. Analysts are divided on the outlook but few believe US president Barack Obama's goal of a million electric cars on US roads by 2015 will be scored.

Rebecca Lindland, analyst with Rebel Three Media and member of a National Academy of Sciences committee studying barriers to electric cars, said: "It's not like people are clamouring for these vehicles. Americans just don't see how an electric car can fit into their lifestyle. We continue to be risk-averse in investing in new technology in our cars."

Mike van Nieuwkuyk of JD Power said more people were aware of electric cars "but there’s still a low number who say they would buy an electric car".

A report by Power and partner LMC Automotive found battery-powered vehicles' share of US auto sales was only 0.08% in 2012 and predicted it would reach only 0.47% by 2015. Only about 3% in the survey said their next vehicle would likely have a battery-electric powertrain.

Nieuwkuyk said consumers were held back by a lack of plug-in charging stations, concerns about vehicle range and especially the high cost.

At the same time, the analyst said, petrol-powered cars "are improving enough to meet the needs of the consumer" without the price of electric cars.


Jason Kavanagh, engineering editor at the research firm edmunds.com said recent surveys suggested battery-only electric vehicles were unlikely to get past 1% of the US market, even by 2040. The lack of range and long recharging times were key factors.

Kavanagh said: "Sitting around for eight hours waiting for your (Nissan) Leaf to charge up is not exactly a selling point. EV's have a sitting-on-your-ass factor that conventional cars do not."

More important, said Kavanagh, was that the US power grid could not support large numbers of electric vehicles which need constant charging.

He said: "You would need a multitude of small nuclear power stations to support that recharging."

Chevrolet cut production of its Volt in 2012 because of low demand and was reported to be working on a less-expensive version. Toyota and Honda also scaled back plans for all-electric vehicles for the US market and Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne said recently the company stood to lose the rand equivalent of R91 500 on every battery-powered Fiat 500 it sold in California.

There were a few bright spots, however. Tesla Motors posted its first quarterly profit, of R100-million in the first quarter, as revenues rose 83% from the prior quarter. The company is banking on its Model S, which sells for upwards of R548 000, by offering special loan and leasing deals with a guaranteed resale price.

Nissan has boosted sales of its all-electric Leaf to more than 5000 in the first quarter, overtaking the Chevrolet Volt, which had seen sales sputter.


Brett Smith, analyst at the University of Michigan's Centr for Automotive Research, said he was not surprised by the slow progress in the electric car market. "There was an enormous electric vehicle hype. In a way that was good because it helped push the technology."

Smith said it was clear that battery-powered cars "are not a near-term mainstream product" but he still believed in the value of the technology. "There is a pretty good chance something positive will come out of this. Whether or not we get a cost-competitive electric vehicle in the next 10 years, the good news is there is lot of development which crosses over to other vehicles."

Kavanagh said the beneficiary of the trend would likely be hybrids - petrol and battery power - that charged while moving.

"We're going to see a big jump in hybrids which can take advantage of the infrastructure we have," he said.

Kavanagh said he expected hybrids to become more attractive in coming years "because they will become more capable in range and more cost-effective".


  • Boyd Bryson - 2013-05-13 14:32

    Battery powered vehicles simply do not make sense. Hydrogen fuel cells on the other hand make a lot of sense, but productions costs will take a while to come down. But batteries and the production thereof is not exactly "clean", neither is the production of power to recharge these batteries.

      Bafana Ndlovu - 2013-05-13 15:28

      This is grave news. With our terrible drivers, having nuclear bombs for engines would be devastating

      Omge Klits - 2013-05-13 15:58

      @Boyd - How can the production of sun power not be clean ?

      Mike Bundy - 2013-05-13 16:36

      Extracting hydrogen seems to take more energy than the hydrogen provides so it isn't very efficient. With proper maintenance batteries can last a long time and be mostly recycled. The various forms of solar power are probably the cleanest of all, on average, and last the longest without replacement. Bafana, I think you misunderstood. Not nuclear bombs in individual cars but nuclear power stations to generate the additional electricity.

      Alan Woollgar - 2013-05-13 17:11

      Bafana you crack me up every time

      Vaughan Lund - 2013-05-13 17:47

      I do find that the funniest thing. All these "green" people riding around in their hybrids "saving" the environment where the production of hybrids are more harmful to the environment than a lifetime of a normal car.

  • Vernon Scott - 2013-05-13 14:37

    Build the reactor damit

  • Daniel J Méssem - 2013-05-13 16:06

    Think this is a little narrow minded. Sure electric cars are not the norm, but the situation is a far cry from what this sensationalized article would have one believe. Tesla's share price has doubled in the past month, they posted their 1st profit, and expect to sell 21 000 electric cars this year. The cars are not cheap, but there is a growing market, shown by the 3 year waiting list for some of the models. Electricity consumption in the US is dropping by around 5% per year. A persons consumption increases by 30% if they add an electric car. So no, there is not enough electricity available for everyone to drive an electric car today, but with the current decline in consumption it is only 6 years away. So along with the increase in green energy production, I do not see this being a problem, even given a edge care scenario of 50% penetration in a decade. Although hard for any petrol head to admit, there are many practical advantages; fewer moving parts and insane torque...

  • Neiall Mullery - 2013-05-13 20:13

    It's about time auto manufacturers had some financial incentive for making TriBrid cars..a.fossil free.fuel choice.is.far.from impossible and.yet they're still.selling conventional DINOFUEL.cars.and marketing them as ECO???? Plenty of.sustainable.fuels.available and.bearing in mind that there are.a.billion existing vehicles globally, the.alternative fuel networks.need the.same level of priority as EV AND HYDROGEN grids. transision to clean transport needs a. Wider eyeball as existing fossil cars,.vans trucks.may last another ten or twenty years EVEN IF NO MORE DINOFUELLED ENGINES ARE BUILT.

  • Andy Le May - 2013-05-24 17:43

    Nuclear More Nuclear power stations.. really... where do you get your info from. Solar power, smart grids and electric cars are complementary technologies and hold the key to our power and transport future. They offer us a clean, abundant and cheap future. GM cut volt production Shock horror they've stopped producing the volt. No they havent.. you are misleading people .e.g Sure GM cut production for a month or two for retooling a plant and to match demand but they didn't cut it completely as your article would lead one to believe. Volt sales are good and growing. 8 hour recharge Well actually lot of the manufacturers have 20-30 minute recharge systems too, though expensive at the moment. But there is new tech coming that will offer 1-5 minute charging. However 80-90% of recharging occurs at night, when you're sleeping. Electrics have more than enough range for most people's commute and make a great choice as a second car and as a commuter vehicle right now. Tesla model S 300-500kms. Sure you will want a hybrid for those long journey's with the family but for 90% of our driving the all electric is just fine. Health Because of air pollution in South Africa, every year over 4 million people suffer from low grade illnesses, over 70,000 get serious illnesses and over 7500 die. Vehicles emissions contribute significantly to this. Criticism is good, when balanced, but let's look at making this new technology work for all our sakes.

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