Ian Wright, Founder & CEO of Wrightspeed, and co-founder of Tesla Motors doesn’t really believe in the short term prospects for success in building an affordable passenger electric cars, which he didn’t hide even when it comes to his Tesla roots.
Tesla Co-Founder Ian Wright Questions What We Should Really Be Asking About EVs
Mark Kane, Inside EVs.com, July 8, 2016
Of course, the fact he is now in the business of building electric hybrid powertrains for large commercial vehicles (which we still definitely approve of) may have something to do with that stance.
By way of 2016 World Economic Forum, where Wrightspeed was named a Technology Pioneer, Mr. Wright penned an interesting article on the questions that we should really be asking about electric cars? Or rather, the greater benefits of focusing on converting the ‘work-horses’ of transportation industry of today first.
Ian Wright notes that EVs are very efficient, but they only hold 0.5% of market share (although the “new norm”going forward is quite likely the ~1% level that was hit in the US in June), and the reason is a lack of scalability.
The answer for that – at least for heavy duty trucks and buses targeted by Wrightspeed – are turbine generators or range extenders. Calculations shown in the article show that switching class 8 trucks to range extended electric vehicle (REV) would benefit from a short payback period and huge savings – something that can’t be found today (or in the near future) for small electric vehicles.
“The question we should really be asking about electric cars”
“So, why do plug-in vehicles only make up half a percent of the total market? Scalability.
Case in point: a Nissan Versa costs about $14k and uses about 350 gallons of fuel per year, which is about $1,225 at $3.50/gallon. The same car with electric drive – a Nissan Leaf – costs double and, if driven the same 12,000 miles, uses the equivalent of 106 gallons per year, which is about $371; saving the driver $854. But the Leaf driver invested $16k more than the Versa driver, so the payback for the Leaf takes almost 19 years.
When thinking about scaling electric vehicles, it’s almost as if we asked the wrong question. If you ask, “How can we make more efficient cars?” to a roomful of engineers, you will immediately get back “What’s the most efficient car we make? And how can we make it better?” And you will get a Nissan Leaf.
If instead you ask, “How can we save the most fuel, per vehicle per year, to get the shortest payback?”
You will immediately get asked, “Which vehicles burn the most fuel per year, in the hardest drive cycle?” The answer: trucks. Big, smelly, noisy garbage trucks. Driving 130 miles per day at 2.8 MPG is about 12,000 gallons of fuel per year. At $3.75 per gallon, that’s $45k on fuel alone, not even including maintenance. If we get the same proportional gain as in the Leaf case, we would save 8,366 gallons per year, or $31,372. Plus about $20k per year goes on maintenance, mostly for the brakes. That’s $51k saved per truck, per year.