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July 05, 2006



This is certainly a step in the right direction, if electric cars are to become a viable alternative. The recharge times are acceptible for longer range travel, too. Just double that range and put it in a car, and we'll have it.

Who killed the electric car? Seems alive and well to me.


Japan has Subaru. The US has Altairnano and Phoenix Motorcars.

Seen any Phoenix Motorcars dealers lately, or Phoenix Motorcars on the freeway?

I see Subarus daily, in fact they are becoming the smart alternative to SUVs. Right here in the US.

Which effort is serious and which one is an affort to shelve lithium ion nano battery technology for EVs?


DrX, do you know if anyone on either company’s board has some strong ties to anyone trying to kill EVs?

If they are targeting fleet sales (the big three's bread and butter), why would they need dealerships? I don't think Enterprise rent-a-car sends their buyers to the local Chevy dealer; they buy cars from a fleet sales office. And I would guess fleet sales are the fastest way to get your product out there without paying for prime-time TV ads where you compete with 6 other car adds per hour, allowing more money to stay on the R&D. Plus it is a way to target the car at customers looking for a specific kind of application. None of the customers mentioned would ever need to charge more than once per day and once at night, and don't demand that the car have any luxury accoutrements.

My guess is that there have been some very good marketing studies done that overwhelmingly indicate Americans won't by electric for their personal use until it offers comparable or better performance for the same price (one of the fundamentals of many economic theories I'd say, be it potatoes, cars, or internet service). I've talked to several people who feel that way; they don't want to buy an car that meets 98% of their needs and then have the hassle of renting or borrowing someone else’s car for the 2% of the time they want to drive 400+ miles in a day. While some of us might be willing to pay a premium in money or time to know we are doing our part; the majority don't see it that way. They feel the opportunity cost is too high. I've had to learn in recent years that assuming everyone else sees things or even thinks about issues the same way I do is foolish. It would be nice to see one of the larger US companies pursuing this, but I'll take what I can get at this point. And given the way small companies with big upside get gobbled up by large ones (see the dot-coms), if Phoenix is on to something they’ll get acquired and show up in that Chevy/Ford/Dodge/Toyota dealer anyway. Small steps people, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Stephen Boulet

patooker, great comment. It's possible that the general public will first have to be sold on plug-in hybrids before they will go for a pure electric vehicle.



patooker (and Stephen),

Your 98% / 2% idea is why I'm a big fan of hybrids over pure EVs. I like the idea of slowly working up to more powerful battery packs, adding plug in capability, and decreasing the size of the motor to that of a glorified (and more efficient) generator. The problem in the past was battery quality, but now that the hybrid cars/trucks are buying out capacity, there market demand for both quantity and improvement. As the batteries improve, we'll start to approximate a full EV.

At the same time, the "plug it in" part has really been funny. The GM EV-1 started with a 5+ hr recharge time. When the current generation of hybrids came out, they spent all their time shouting how they didn't need to be plugged in. Now people are wondering why they can't plug them in, and we're back to full electric vehicles. The hybrids I understand - they want cheaper fuel, and they don't need to be plugged in. The return to EVs, though, is probably because battery technology has advanced to reduce the charging time to something that most people would find reasonable (15 minutes in this article).

Overall, I'm glad to see that companies are experimenting with new EV cars and that the technology is progressing to let the vehicles evolve. These are good small steps - sooner or later the right mix will be as good as, or better than, straight gas vehicles on every front.



For the right niche, however, the underpowered-ness of an EV could be marketed as a plus. If the price was right, I could see a car incapable of going all that fast, or all that far, as desirable in a car purchased by parents for teenage children.


Japan: No oil. US: Huge multinational oil companies directing energy policy through lobbyists.

Japan: Subaru EV. US: Phoenix Motorcars EV.

Ever heard of Phoenix Motorcars (although it maybe a fine company)?

On the other hand many people would like to own a Subaru. And you can buy one anytime you want to.


I think it isn't.

Now if GM, Ford, or Chrysler were developing the Altairnano EV, that would be very different. I think this is an attempt to shelve the technology.

But I think the Subaru EV is an actual attempt to sell EVs. No conspiracy, just look where the GM EV-1 is now.

If a company like Phoenix Motorcars would have been awarded the contract for the jeep in WW 2, most GIs would never have seen one.

We are losing the battle against global warming and oil war and terrorism is spreading exponentially. Time for an electric "jeep" to be mass produced to win these battles. No time left to waste.

Michael Cain
I've talked to several people who feel that way; they don't want to buy an car that meets 98% of their needs and then have the hassle of renting or borrowing someone else’s car for the 2% of the time they want to drive 400+ miles in a day.

It will be interesting to see how well this attitude holds up over time. At 250 wH/mile and nine cents/kWh the fuel costs for an electric are 2.25 cents/mile. At $3/gal and 35 miles/gal, fuel costs for a gas car are 8.6 cents/mile. If you live in a state with time-of-day pricing and can charge at night for four cents/kWh, and gas goes to $5/gal, the comparison is between one cent/mile and 14.3 cents/mile. At some point, it may be that the gas car doesn't address the 98% very well any more.


Michael, indeed the cost of the energy inputs will certainly affect people's attitudes. A day will certainly come when the ROI is better for the PHEV or EV for many people. The questions we need answers for are when and what will most people do about it? Most people I ask still haven't wrapped their brain around the inevitability of change, and so they don't know what to do yet.

Again, DrX, do you know of any kind of connection between Phoenix Motorcars, Altair Nano, and Boshart Engineering with the oil companies, their lobbyists or any other large special interest in the energy business? The only connection we know of on this blog right now is that all those companies/agencies are in the United States. And in this country we have an economic system set up so that most of the time, the better products (based on how they address the consumers needs/wants/purchasing power/and gov't regs) win out. You may not like everything other people do with their time or money, or what they want the future to look like. But there are also people in this country who probably don't like what you do with some of your money and time. I can’t speak for the country and I don't know you or your lifestyle so I can't say for certain of course. In the end we all have to live on this rock flying through space together.

As for small companies starting out in industries: I work in semiconductors for the ultimate establishment, Big Blue, and we get beat by small companies in many markets. Heck we aren't the dominant computer company anymore because of some small startups in the 70s and 80s. Microsoft is the most obvious and was once small, but there are others. Apple computer was started in a garage and is doing just fine. Fairchild Semiconductor was eight men risking their future to form a new company raising money only on the strength of their ideas, and they made silicon valley what it is. Almost all companies started as small companies and the ones with good ideas and good marketing thrive, profit, and grow (or get acquired). McDonald's was one restaurant to start. Anybody else want to chime in with other examples? Sure the oil companies are powerful, and they currently have some friends in high places but they don't employ everyone, they don't directly control any other energy sources that I know of, and they don't control how each of us spend our time and money.

I agree that global warming, current federal energy policy, and the threat of continued terrorism are not good things, but one effect of those issues is to make companies like Phoenix Motorcars attractive to investors who see those risks as opportunities. There are entire industries built on mitigating risk and our very liquid and open financial system is very well suited to it.

ExxonMobil is currently the largest and most profitable company in the world according to Forbes. You can look at that many ways; I’ll list my two favorites. (1) They are evil, all-powerful, and dream of making us all their serfs. Of course I own some ExxonMobil in my mutual funds so does that mean I want to be my own slave? Or (2) there is a lot of money to be made knocking them off their perch. And all the electric power companies know they can get some of that money, and so do the battery companies, and so does ADM, and so do the contracting companies that build power plants, etc. All the car companies know it, even GM and Ford know it to be true, they just haven’t figured out a good plan to get their piece of the pie yet. Being the top dog isn't all peaches and cream. Everyone else wants a piece of what you have. I guess I believe in change above all else, followed equally by greed and innovation. I know that doesn’t sound particularly inspirational, but it’s how I look at things now.



I'm under the impression that many American families have more than one car. If that's the case, why not get an EV for shopping and commuting to work and save the Ford Excursion for summer holidays and long trips to aunt Lily..? A very easy way to circumvent the battery range problem.

In extreme cases where a family member is forced to use the EV for trips longer than the battery range, a 5-15 minute break at a gas/charging station must be endured...

I could live with that :-)


Yep Thomas, or rent a car for excursions. Or someday soon rent a backup fuel cell/microturbine generator that plugs into the truck.

Harvey D.


Have you seen many new car manufacturers in USA in the last 50 years? We all know that many have disappeared but new one (if any) have not managed to survive very long.

Will PHEVs and EVs be an opportunity for the birth of new sucessful car manufacturers? I would put my money on existing major manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Peugeot etc


You make an excellent point. I would buy my wife (she does most of the in-town driving) a PHEV tomorrow, if it was available. Short of that, I'll buy her a Prius or a Camry hybrid soon.


Thanks, Harvey :-)

My money is on PHEVs as well, because they have no range problem and keep the cost of batteries down. But with the recent magnificent strides in battery development I cannot help but think the gasoline engine and auxiliaries are just weighing down what could be a perfectly functional EV.

Still, a healthy PHEV market is probably what it takes to get battery costs down.

Hey, what do you guys think of this idea: Putting polymer solar cells on the hood and roof of your (PH)EV could probably give you 3m2, worth about 300 W charging power when left in the sun in your parking space at work. If left for 8 hours that gives you 10 miles worth of driving, using Michael Cain's values of 250 Wh/mile. That's gotta count for something. Plus you get 1.2 miles of free driving for every hour spent on the road ;-)

Installation cost should virtually vanish when installation is done at a highly automated car plant and there's no need for an alternator, so I guess it would not be too expensive. Jim suggested on June 22, 2006 that cost would be between 1-4 $/Wp, meaning $300-1000 for this add-on. For $500 it might be sell-able, at least for the eco-concerned early adopters..?


Mike, I think the small electric car - full sized gas minivan concept beats the hybrid concept in a number of areas.

One, we are investing a lot into alternative fuel technology. So the ICE won't be replaced by batteries, it will be fueled by biodiesel/cellulose ethanol.

Two, graph fuel economy vs weight for hybrids and you'll see their benefits are optimized with smaller platforms. A hybrid is NOT an ideal combination of electric and ICE tech - it is a compromise that gives part of the benefits of both, and some of the liabilities.

Given the typical family's breakdown between local and long distance driving, I would say we'd be better off with everyone owning moderate range electric cars for commuting, and then renting/owning ICE minivans for trips. Whether you rent or own depends on how much long distance driving you'll do. Most families don't do a lot until vacation time or visiting or whatever. We as a culture aren't used to renting vehicles for specific trips, but I did it for a year or so recently and it's not that big a deal.


"...Small steps people...." - am I hearing this right??

In light of the first car ever setting a speed record of 65 mpH (by Carl Jenatzy BEFORE the year 1900, driving a battery powered motorvehicle, - HOW SMALL WOULD YOU LIKE OUR STEPS TO BE???

Gotta laugh - but it really isn't funny anymore...


I understand "Zap-X" will have a EV that has 644 H.P. 0 to 60 in 4.8 sec. a top speed of 155 mph, goes 350 mi on a charge, 10 minute recharge, seats 5 touch screen controls on-board computer, etc. I not sure if this car will on the market on these shore as promised, but at 60K this car sound to good to be true.


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Priority thanks, tw graph fuel economy vs weight for hybrids and you'll see their benefits are optimized with smaller platforms. A hybrid is NOT an ideal combination of electric and ICE tech - it is a compromise,

We are waiting the subjects


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Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles