ORLANDO, FL – With relentlessly gushing oil having
spread into the Gulf of Mexico for months, public discourse
has rightly ramped up about the need to reduce U.S. depen-
dence on oil, and attention is increasingly being paid to the
potential role that electric cars can play in solving related
serious economic and security challenges.
While hybrid vehicles that have both gasoline and electric
power engines, such as the Toyota Prius, have been avail-
able since 2001, fully electric vehicles are just reaching the
market. For example, the Nissan Leaf is due out this year
and the Chevy Volt is expected in 2011, with consumers
already lined up to reserve these vehicles.
And in late June of this year, California-based Tesla Motors,
which began making electric-powered roadsters in 2008 and
has reportedly sold some 1,100 vehicles worldwide, issued
an IPO that raised more than $24 million.
Scott Faris, founder and CEO of
Planar Energy, holds a cathode
layer for an advanced energy cell
created through the company’s
breakthrough SPEED materials
Viability of electric cars uncertain
However, the viability and likely market traction of plug-in electric cars is far from certain, as
success in the electric-vehicle market is inextricably tied to the state of power storage; that is,
In some cases, batteries are projected to account for a third or more of a vehicle’s costs depend-
ing on government subsidies. The cost, for example, of the 16kWh-capacity battery pack, using
traditional li-ion technology, planned for Chevrolet’s first generation “plug-in” hybrid-electric
Volt, is estimated to be $10,000-$15,000, depending on which research report you read.
The overall base vehicle retail price is expected to be around $40,000, prior to a $7,500 federal
tax credit, and will include an eight-year warranty to overcome the lack of consumer confi-
dence in battery lifetime. For mass market electric vehicles to be profitable for the automobile
industry, the battery cost needs to be less