Why the Electric Car Is Doomed to Fail

Why the Electric Car Is Doomed to Fail

With gasoline prices on the rise, it is no surprise that consumers are looking for ways to save on gas.

But for many Americans the answer currently does not mean buying an electric car. These automobiles cost at least $30,000 due to their batteries, which typically account for half the cost of the car. On top of that, there is also the factor of “range anxiety,” or not knowing if your car will get you to your destination, not knowing if there will be a place to charge the battery once you arrive at the destination, says Ron Adner who is a professor of strategy at Dartmouth University.

Many of those issues are currently being addressed but consumers still are not buying electric cars in droves.

In February, sales of electric and hybrid cars were mixed. GM sold 70% more Chevy Volts from January to February and the same goes for Toyota and its Prius Hybrid. While Volt sales are still below the December 2011 all-time highs, forecasts do project GM will sell nearly 10,000 of the electric vehicles by year-end, or roughly 30% more than last year. Meanwhile, sales of the Nissan Leaf have ticked down for more than five months in a row. February was the worst monthly sales report for the Japanese company in almost a year.

While the sales of some electric cars are up month-over-month, the number of electric cars sold is tiny in comparison to the rest of the auto market. It will likely remain that way unless changes are made fast says Adner, who is also the author of the new book, The Wide Lens: A Strategy for Innovation.

“I’m rooting for the electric car…. I think it is a great idea and I think we need it,” he says. “But the current approach to the electric car is doomed to fail in the mass market” and it is “not because these cars aren’t great” but because two key factors which plague the electric car market.

#1: Fix the Resale Market

“For most Americans a car is an investment and when you think about what car you want to buy the resale value matters a lot,” says Adner. “The resale value for an electric car is dramatically different than for a regular car and it all comes from the battery,” which is half the cost of the car.

As is typical of batteries, they get used up after a certain amount of use. They have a finite lifespan, which leaves you with “depreciation on the most expensive part of your car,” Adner says.

But battery technology is constantly improving. “That is great news for everyone who has not yet bought a car,” he notes. But “[if] You buy a 2012 (Nissan) Leaf and you try to sell it back to the market in 2016 and [guess] what you find?”

You’ll find that the technology is outdated and much better in newer vehicles. “Suddenly selling your car back to the market is like selling a used computer,” which, like all technology, tends not to hold value upon resale.

Adner does have a solution. “You have to decouple the purchase of the car and the purchase of the battery…using a model that looks just like the cell phone providers who also give you a really expensive piece of hardware [but] take the depreciation out of your hands by putting you on a multi-year contract.” In the accompanying interview, he tells Aaron that one company called Better Place is already doing this.

#2 Create a Smart Grid

“The electric car as a construct itself suffers from the problem that its own success brings about its failure,” Adner says. “As long as only three of us are driving an electric car it is not a problem, but if half of New York City drove electric cars and plugged it in when they got to work in the morning the power grid would collapse.”

This is very intuitive. As more electric cars come on line, the bigger the problem for energy suppliers. Adner says if the electric car is to have a chance, America needs a smart grid, a proposition the country has been mulling for the last 20 plus years.

If the resale and smart grid issues are addressed, “the electric car can be a success,” he says. “But unless they are crossed the electric car cannot win.”

特斯拉的死穴:靠集成舶来的技术不是真创新

http://auto.sina.com.cn 2013年11月14日 08:09 中国青年报

  位于北京的特斯拉在华首个展厅客如云集,店内工作人员已经开始向预订者“发号”,最早预付25万元订金的客户有望在明年第一季度提车。有人推算了一下特斯拉在中国的售价,大概在100万~150万元。中国人买东西爱排队,土豪在特斯拉店里也没有特权,不过自家车库巨大的意向购买者们并不着急,因为买特斯拉更多是为了尝鲜和耍酷。

  经过国内媒体的大肆渲染,特斯拉摇身一变为破坏力巨大的哥斯拉,从美国风靡到中国,并勾起了很多人的“国宝”心态,以至于在五周内发生三次起火都被拥趸们视为品质过硬的佐证。特斯拉公司掌门人艾伦·马斯克因其个人魅力成为继苹果已故CEO乔布斯之后的新偶像,国内一些车企的老总因对特斯拉提出异议,而被信徒们挂在了耻辱柱上,前有比亚迪的王传福,后有吉利的李书福,都是因为说了对特斯拉“大不敬”的话,随即被口水吞没。

  不过,最先惊醒的还是美国人。经过三次起火事故后,特斯拉Model S已成为监管部门的重点关注对象。甚至有美国股民将特斯拉公司诉至法院,指控特斯拉发布错误和误导性陈述,对产品存在的安全隐患有所隐瞒,涉嫌证券欺诈。马斯克所说“驾驶传统汽油车遭遇起火的概率要5倍于驾驶特斯拉,电池车绝对比一辆装着高度易燃油箱的汽车更安全”的论调,也因为特斯拉事故比例占销量基数过大,而令人无法信服。

  因为美国的IT产业强大到“令人发指”,很多人对在电动车上玩弄IT概念的马斯克持有严重的强迫幻想症。靠卖碳排放指标反哺电动车的马斯克举着“亿万富豪”的牌子出街,就可以让一些人顶礼膜拜。相比之下,年薪只有200万元,有钱就往自主品牌上砸的李书福,身上就没有那么多的光环了。

  事实上,李书福这次说的还是大实话。他说:“从技术本身来讲,特斯拉就是集成的。只要特斯拉能在世界上被普遍接受,那吉利生产出跟特斯拉差不多的产品还不容易吗?”他还说:“电池技术能不能突破?这是根本问题,其他的都不是问题。一是现在一块电池装的电太少了;二是安全,怎么避免危险?这个检验是实践的检验,不是在办公室的检验。”

  李书福的第一句话,讲的是特斯拉的纯外包模式。马斯克的集成创新其实是李书福玩剩下的。从核心技术上讲,特斯拉的绝大多数技术都是别人承包的。和苹果崇尚的技术至上不同,特斯拉身上披着IT的外衣,干的是比中国一些车企还没有技术含量的活。吉利、比亚迪等自主品牌创业时好歹也是逆向开发,现在很多已经过渡到正向开发了,从基础研究到后续创新都已做足功课。而特斯拉从诞生起就是全外包的,有点儿像国内一些不思进取却身家阔绰的车企,尽管一身名牌,却没有一样是自己的。

  李书福的第二句话,讲的是特斯拉的技术缺陷。表面上续驶里程惊人的特斯拉,其实是用最笨的办法解决了电池难题。特斯拉Model S采用6831节松下18650钴酸锂电池,可提供85千瓦时的电量,足以支持2.1吨重的Model S最高达480公里的续驶里程。人们对马斯克的崇拜,是因为其把网络控制领域用程序控制上万台服务器的模式,搬到了特斯拉电池系统控制领域,用分层次管理的办法控制了这6831节小电池。

  特斯拉是一个IT光环下的产物,也让电动车这一前沿产品换上了全球流行的IT包装。但“科幻商人”马斯克的外包技术再强,对汽车这一匹配能力和安全保障要求最严格的产品,也未必有十足把握。出身电池工程师的王传福,曾对主流电池路线进行对比,就因热稳定性缺陷而避开特斯拉的钴酸锂电池路线,选择了磷酸铁锂电池。

  据介绍,钴酸锂电池因其热稳定性差,广泛应用于手机电池和笔记本电池等用电量较小的产品。马斯克用笔记本电池做出了特斯拉,曾一度被冠以“天才”的头衔。可惜玩外包玩到手软的他永远达不到乔布斯的技术境界,甚至还比不上甘愿做阿甘的王传福和李书福。

  在“集成创新”概念被国内汽车界神化之后,酷爱自己动手丰衣足食的王传福和在电动车领域一步一个脚印的李书福,一度被人耻笑。那些认为中国人造不出特斯拉的人,更应该理解我们的自主品牌,因为他们不想再走曾经走过的老路。有一天,特斯拉的倒掉一定会给人们以启示。