10 May 2012

Baby You Can Drive My (Electric) Car - EVS26

Electric vehicles have come a long way since the days for the botched EV-1 experiment of the 1990s. 

Fisker Karma
Formerly considered tin cans without much oomph or sex appeal, EVs took a back seat to the more trendy hybrids (Prius) and powerful SUVs.

Yet, if this year's EVS26 at the Los Angeles Convention Center proves one thing to me it's that electric vehicles range from the sexy sports cars (Fisker Karma and Tesla S) to a rather sedate sedan from Coda Automotive.

In between are new arrivals, such as Lexus and Lotus, and major players like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

Trucks and motorcycles, too, including the improbable, gorgeous Siemens Smart Chopper, were well represented, along with personal mobility devices such a GM's EN-V and a proliferation of electric bicycles.

There was not much in the way of fleet vehicles at this year's EVS, certainly not compared to when the show was in Shenzen, China, according to some. But we know from talking to several at the show that partnerships with FedEx, UPS, and companies like PepsiCo loom large in the sector.

Charging technologies were heavily represented, including a few wireless options.

The trouble with electric vehicles, however, is their reputation as de-featured, boring, and even unexciting. What gets lost, according to acolytes, is that these cars are fun to drive.

Drive a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Volt, and I have to agree: they are boring. Why? Because they drive just like a regular car, a little quicker pick up at acceleration perhaps, but essentially you're driving a comparable internal combustion engine vehicle made by Nissan or Chevy.
Siemens Smart Chopper

Okay, there is an on/off button like the one on your computer, but it's not very different from their other offerings.

The Tesla and Fisker and Remy, as well as the Qualcomm-Halo-sponsored racing car, however; now, you're talking something that will give your heart a little race.

A few take-aways from the show:

1.) We've got a loooong way to go before mass adoption of these vehicles will happen.
2.) There are more entrepreneurial charging methods/technologies out there than will likely survive, and
3.) The "cool factor"/fun to drive conundrum must be addressed if we're ever going to get the public to switch to EVs.

Finally, things like range anxiety, cost, and perceived risk are still all very real obstacles to widespread public adoption.

But make them fun to drive and we will drive.