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Posted by Ari [Email] (more from Ari) on Thu, 17 Sep 2009 08:02:12 Share Post by Email
In Reply to: Wouldn't a pure electric be cheap to build?, EricG, Tue, 15 Sep 2009 08:35:32
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If all you wanted was a car that could go 50 miles, and then sit for 4-8 hour to recharge, it wouldn't be too expensive. But saying "batteries aside" is like saying, "getting to the moon is easy, aside from getting into orbit." Batteries are very expensive. For a pure electric, you're pulling LOTS of power out of the batteries in a short period of time - that causes heat. So to get batteries that can produce that kind of power means expensive batteries, and expensive cooling systems to keep them from overheating (both charging and discharging.)
Add in some other stuff - heat and AC all have to be electrical. Again, not too expensive, but special.

And 'special' is where it gets interesting. Cars are relatively inexpensive due to economies of scale. It costs a lot to design all the parts; once designed, you can amortize the cost over lots and lots and lots of cars. But for a pure electric, you need a lot of special parts (electric heaters and AC, pure electric power steering, etc.) Today you can get a parts jobber to modify an existing AC compressor design for a new car, and it costs a lot but is reasonable. Make it entirely different, and the cost goes way up.

So for the tinkerer, building an electric car is 'reasonable.' But for a large manufacturer to tool up for such a car costs a lot, so they'd have to sell lots and lots of them.

However, the market for a car that could run 50 miles, and then need to sit for 8 hours to be recharged, is pretty small. Not to mention, no infrastructure for recharging - you can't drive to Home Depot and get recharged while you're shopping for paint. To be cheap, they'd need to sell lots of them.

Small market. Expensive batteries. Something about a global recession making it hard to sell cars, much less ones that no one is sure they want.

Yes, the Tesla is a niche market, one reason why it costs $100K. They'll sell dozens of them.

How's this for a case in point? The Bugatti Veyron costs ~$1.5 million. But with development, it's costing VW (who owns Bugatti) about $5 million each to make. Not a great business plan.

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