Dude, Where’s My Electric Car?

If 80’s Sci-Fi flicks had it right, I’d have come to work this morning via Jetpack and my lunch would have consisted of pellets that turn into a giant bowl of chicken when placed in the microwave; or perhaps, I would have driven to work in my electric powered car, courtesy of a forward-looking company like BYD or Tesla…Alas, it seems we’re just not there yet, or are we?

While Jetpacks and Insta-Chicken (copywrite-pending) may be a bit farfetched (maybe not), no one can blame me for thinking that we could at least get electric cars right by this point. That is not to say that we aren’t making progress on this front, with real-life Iron Man, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster already in production and selling for a whopping 100,000USD as well as the Chevrolet Volt, the most likely to succeed on this front seems to be a Shenzhen company that probably made the battery in your cell phone.

BYD (1211:HK) started off making batteries, eventually becoming the largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries in the world, supplying the majority of cell phone and other portable device makers. In 2003, after going IPO in Hong Kong the previous year, they bought a little-known car company and a few short years later, were selling their cars nation-wide and internationally. They’ve done so well, in fact that they even garnered the attention of Warren Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha, who bought 10% of the company, saying it had the potential to become the biggest car manufacturer in the World. In 2010 their F3 was the best-selling car in China and it looked like they were ready to surpass even their American counterparts to launch the first viable electric car on the market but was hampered by a lack of infrastructure to support the longer-distance travel with a fully electric vehicle and general product delays.

But that fear may have been a bit premature. This Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Shenzhen’s first electric taxies, of which I’m sure many of you have had the chance to ride in, they’re not bad. With Shenzhen also planning 5 power-up stations in the next year and another 10 by 2020, Shenzhen may well be the first city in the World to be fully EV capable. With BYD’s cars priced at well below their competitors, they may well still be in the running to capture a large portion of the market, how large that market will be and how quickly it develops, may well determine its own success.

What do you think? Would you be in the market for a new electric car? Or would you wait for some of your friends to get one first?

4 Comments for “Dude, Where’s My Electric Car?”

  1. Absolutely! I wish Tesla had an electric car in production for your average american – I’d own one already if they did. Sadly – though perhaps necessarily – they currently only have a solution for the more affluent early-adopters *sad face*. I’ll have to take a look at what BYD is offering in the Chinese market as well as get a better understanding of the existing infrastructure supporting these cars. Convenience is a non-negotiable requirement for my electric car solution. If I have to go out of my way to charge my car and my range is limited (150mi or less) I just can’t be bothered to deal with it!

  2. If an electric battery has to be charged (let’s say by your home power) and this power comes from burning coal or oil, what is the benefit of the electric car? Cleaner air in the city for sure, but I’m curious what the net effect of pollution is.

    • I spent all of 30 minutes digging into that more than a month ago – I conclude (gingerly) a couple things

      A. The overall impact is reduced, even in the worst case scenario (all power used to charge the car is non-green) as efficiency in electric cars is significantly better (dare I say 70%+ – I believe the Tesla gets better than 90%) vs gasoline engines (30-35% efficiency MAX – most energy is lost as heat). So basically 1000 units of energy is converted into 700 units of work (energy to wheel) vs 300-350 units of work in a gasoline powered scenario. Your being greener by being more efficient.

      B. It’s a step towards a greener solution – though the power source used to charge the car now may be mostly non-green as those sources get greener your individual impact benefits. You take no advantage of greener power sources reducing your impact (in your transportation impact department) if you have a gas powered vehicle.

      C. Having a car that makes virtually no noise when it’s operating (less road noise) makes for an excellent aloof tunnel-visioned e-biker and pedestrian murdering tool :) . Said differently – it delivers reduced cabin noise

      • Yep, and as batteries get better they will charge faster and last longer. Either way, you have to start somewhere.

        P.S. Tesla does have a sedan in the making but it’s going to cost too much. It’s going to be difficult to convince people to go electric when the car costs 30-40% more than your average sedan; again though, a step in the right direction.

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