General Question

bhec10's avatar

What are the major challenges facing the automotive vehicle manufacturers and product industry with the introduction of electric vehicles into the consumer market?

Asked by bhec10 (6457points) May 11th, 2011

Well, I think the question is pretty straightforward. What do you think will happen and what are the challenges for the automotive industry? Is it positive or negative? Why?

Just wondering what your opinion on this subject might be.

Thanks in advance!

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16 Answers

bob_'s avatar

It’s creative destruction, as applied by Schumpeter.

The automotive industry is huge. There are thousands of companies the average consumer knows nothing about, but that play a vital role in the design and manufacture of a car. Some of these companies would have to either adapt themselves or disappear, since the parts needed for an electric car are quite different from the ones used in a conventional car. For instance, some of the equipment (in some cases entire plants) used would be rendered obsolote.

Evidently, it will be negative for the companies that cease to exist, but the overall effect would be positive. Innovation is good, particularly if it benefits the environment.

WasCy's avatar

I would modify @bob_‘s generally good answer as follows:

The introduction of electric vehicles to the already huge worldwide automotive fleet will barely register at first. The small number of electric (and hybrid) vehicles to be produced at first will be little more than a sideline business for existing end user and business-to-business parts suppliers. (By ‘business-to-business’ I mean industries such as raw materials suppliers, tool and die manufacturers whose products consumers never even see or even imagine, more often than not and chassis-level suppliers.) For a few new start-ups and designers it will be a niche business where they can get a foothold and start to become larger. (But supplying parts to the auto industry is nearly as difficult as earning government certification. Companies have to have a pretty robust infrastructure in place, with suitable backup production and supply alternatives in case of hiccups in their supply chain, before the major auto manufacturers will rely on them for production runs. No auto manufacturer can afford to stock all of the parts that they use to build cars, so their supply lines have to run flawlessly on just-in-time production and delivery, and it takes a real – expensive – commitment to quality to enable that.)

It will be quite some time, and after a majority change to “mostly electric” vehicle production before plants will start to become obsolete.

Finally (and most importantly) innovation is good if it benefits consumers. (Presumably consumers will also benefit from improvements in the environment, but if that’s the sole criterion for measurement, then we wouldn’t be driving at all.) After all, it’s consumers who will have to pay for the changes to make them effective. No consumers = No changes. This is another way of saying that innovation has to be cost-effective. (You can say “of course”, but a lot of folks seem to forget that.)

LuckyGuy's avatar

Battery production, and recycling of strategic materials. .

tedd's avatar

-Battery efficiency, longevity, and production.

-Selling the cars to a people who see them as feeble and delicate, not to mention the portion of the populace who see’s them as a political attack because they believe in more oil drilling.

-Replacing fuel infrastructure like gas stations with equatable electricity counterparts.

-Retraining an army of mechanics and engineers on how cars work, since electric cars share only a few operational components with their fuel counterparts.

mattbrowne's avatar

Lithium supply.

gorillapaws's avatar

Among the many solid answers above I would add the point that dealers make a large chunck of their revenue from maintenance, service and repair (not to mention the warranties they sell). Pure electric vehicles have much less that can go wrong, and that means the dealers either have to charge more upfront, or make less money over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Cruiser's avatar

Oil industry lobbyists.

thecaretaker's avatar

Well, I foresee a huge demand being put on the electrical grid, which is generated from a large percentage of coal, unless solar and wind power become serious replacements I dont see the advantage of running electric cars.

tedd's avatar

@thecaretaker The advantage is its far cheaper to refine oil to the oil used to make electricity, than it is to make gasoline… and also while it still effects the environment, its a lot better than a few hundred million combustion engines.

cloudvertigo's avatar

@thecaretaker even though we aren’t all exactly on the same schedule cars will be plugged in at night. . . because most folks will use their car in the daytime and, as industry dictates, off-peak energy is much cheaper. That part is actually quite convenient, no?

cloudvertigo's avatar

@worriedguy Yes! It seems like that’s going to be the lynchpin. Prospectively, just as when you replace an alternator, one can get a few tens of dollars off for recycling the core from their old one. One might anticipate a full recycling of the batteries on electric cars as well. (which mostly break down from their electrodes wearing out—less than the fluids and materials no longer being able to store electricity)

Overall, even with giant tax breaks, incentive from fuel costs, incentive from local governments and better battery technology coming down the line, the biggest thing will be this: we already own combustion cars and for a while it will be a luxury to have it any other way.

I actually get to see it where I’m living—in a fairly affluent mountain town. There are a few brave souls that drive their fully electric vehicles 365 days a year but the incline of the mountains and the torque/tractionable weight required to make completely get away from combustion doesn’t seem quite feasible up here—not in this decade.

For the most part fully-electric cars are made to be light and compact. They are Neighborhood Electric Vehicles that are made to top out around 35mph. (And contrary to how we all drive ‘Speed Limit’ is the highest speed we are expected to drive on any given road.) This is the key factor in a transition. A lot of these things can be parked on a sidewalk and just as one doesn’t use a butcher-knife to open a plastic bag, just as it’s smart to have two cars anyway, just as it would be crazy to depend on current infrastructure for charging or a sudden, gung-ho abandonment of all things petroleum, who’s to say it won’t be possible to make the transition by having both a petroleum vehicle and an electric car and to use them in relation to one’s distance from work and the grocery store.

Unless, every oil-producing country explodes tomorrow and we aren’t able to muster the coal and electric power to keep good manners and food going there shouldn’t be a problem for any amount of transition time. The cheapest (non-homemade) model I’ve found comes out of China at a doable $6000 but as little more than a golf-cart. On average the new bubble cars are coming out at $15,000 plus. Still, homemade conversion kits are $2500 plus the cost of the car you wish to adapt.

State laws are going to be a big problem – so are the intellectual gaps in service, insurance, and regular charging. That was the major win with creating a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle class. Even though some of the little units out there have the machinery to hit the highway or a two-lane road, there is a pile of safety technology which is required to be on the highway—for your safety and the liability one is likely to become in the current phase of all-electric vehicles. Also, have you ever had a 40 year old dude knock on your door and ask for a drink from the spigot in the front yard? It’s going to be slightly awkward when somebody knocks on the door with an extension cord. That’s kind of the cool part though – a ‘fueling station’ is just that—an extension cord. . . and who remembers the rechargeable batteries from the 80s . . . put that in perspective of how long it takes to charge your cell-phone today.

It’s definitely possible – this generation of electric cars goes over 50 miles per charge, 120 miles with a Coda—up to 220 miles with the $$Tesla$$ roadster. It’s definitely cost-effective @ 8.5 cents per kilawatt hour—even for an eight hour charge!

anartist's avatar

places to plug in—equivalent of service stations

thecaretaker's avatar

There is no free lunch, energy is needed to create horsepower, doesnt matter if its electrical or mechanical, point is you still need to consume just as much energy to propel an electric vehicle as you do an internal compustion driven vehicle, all this is is clever marketing, they are trying to reinvent the automobile by making you believe your reducing emissions, Ford was going to go electrical but it was more convenient to use gasoline, Porsche actually built one but went with an internal combustion engine for his car for the same reason; theres no advantage.

gorillapaws's avatar

@thecaretaker the point is that you can power vehicles without burning fossil fuels. The energy to do so may be increasingly derived from clean sources, and it also has the benefit of not going to subsidize the explosives budget for the assholes in the middle east that want to kill us. That is a major advantage in my book.

Automotive_Challeng_2011's avatar

Nice try. If any of these answers are found to be entered into the competition you will be reported for plagarism unless your answer is referenced to this website and hence we are made aware it is not fully your answer.

Automotive Challenge 2011
To remind you of the awesome prize that’s up for grabs visit

bhec10's avatar

@Automotive_Challeng_2011 I’m not entering the competition, I was just trying to get various answers from various people and as you can see, it worked out quite well.

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