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Lengthy charge times and high sales prices have been a deterrent to consumers wishing to buy a ‘green’ car. (REBECCA COOK/Reuters)
Lengthy charge times and high sales prices have been a deterrent to consumers wishing to buy a ‘green’ car. (REBECCA COOK/Reuters)

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A fork in the road to the electric future Add to ...

How Ford will goose sales of its slow-selling Focus EV – built already in North America – is a more complicated matter. Automotive News reports that Ford has begun offering hefty lease discounts of more than $10,000 in the United States. However, for the time being, Ford of Canada has not gone this route and is only offering discounts worth up to $1,500 on the $41,199 Focus Electric hatchback.

Nissan and its Renault alliance partner, as The Detroit News recently noted, may in the short term be ruing the day CEO Carlos Ghosn publicly claimed that EVs would comprise 10 per cent of the whole market where they are sold by 2020 – and wondering if the $5-billion (U.S.) Nissan-Renault investment in EV technology and manufacturing has been well spent. But in the long term, those investments may pay big dividends in terms of advancing electric motors, lightweight materials, fancy computer controllers, aerodynamic designs, “green” manufacturing techniques and marketing intelligence.

Today’s EVs, weighed down by heavy batteries and limited by range and charging times, will get better. In the meantime, as Frost & Sullivan analyst Nicolas Meilhan told The Detroit News, the Chevrolet Volt has shown the way for EVs that want to be functional in the city but also not limited for driving outside city centres.

“The Volt is to PHEV [plug-in hybrid electric vehicle] what the Prius was to HEV [hybrid electric] 15 years ago – the first of its kind. And there’s plenty of room to improve it,” Meilhan told The News.

And, as indicated by these most recent announcements of alliances between global car companies, fuel-cell vehicles, which use electricity to power electric motors, might just be ready to return from the shadows and become mainstream EVs – that is if the technology issues can be addressed and hydrogen filling stations begin to pop up in number and places suitable to make fuel cell cars viable every day.

“We are convinced that fuel-cell vehicles will play a central role for zero-emission mobility in the future,” says Thomas Weber, the board member at Daimler AG in charge of research and development.

To borrow from Mark Twain, reports of the death of the EV are greatly exaggerated. We just don’t know precisely what the living EV will be by the end of the decade. Regardless, the smart money is on “electrified” vehicles being a major force by 2020.

 

 

2011

2012

% change

CANADA

5,019

14,011

179.2

Toyota

3,792

11,789

210.9

Prius

1,581

3,371

 

Prius Plug-in

-

63

 

Prius v

533

4,077

 

Lexus CT200H

1,350

1,640

 

Lexus HS

308

108

 

Honda

759

406

-46.5

Insight

242

168

 

CR-Z

517

238

 

Mitsubishi

23

196

752.2

i-MiEV

23

196

 

General Motors

275

1,225

345.5

Chevrolet Volt

275

1,225

 

Nissan

170

240

41.2

Leaf

170

240

 

Ford

-

155

n/a

C-Max

-

155

 

 

Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants

(Important note: No data is available for a number of other hybrid vehicles where A hybrid is simply an option of an existing model. Examples would include the Toyota 4Runner and Highlander and the BMW 5-Series. Including these would increase the totals. DesRosiers estimates that sales numbers pick up about half of total sales of these types of vehicles.)

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