Image courtesy of Fisker Automotive
It's easy to get caught up with the glamour and hype associated with the latest high-wattage EV rollout - heck, just take a look at some of our own breathless coverage (though, to be fair, we've also been skeptical of some of their loftier claims); yet, when it comes time to crunch the numbers and view them in perspective, it becomes much more difficult to see a viable, long-term future for many of these new start-ups. Few articles that we've seen have laid it out in such stark contrast as this recent LAT piece by Ken Bensinger. For a slight taste of what's to come, you need only read the following:
"What he [Elon Musk] didn't mention was that Tesla's Roadster had arrived months behind schedule with an improvised transmission that reduced acceleration by 40%. Or that the San Carlos, Calif.-based company's visionary co-founder had been abruptly ousted months before. Or that Tesla plans to make fewer than 1,000 of the cars this year -- and sell them for $100,000 apiece."
Though the article centers on the fate of California-based startups Tesla and Fisker Automotive, Bensinger explains some of the headaches in store for all the recent automotive newbies: lack of financial and technical know-how, leadership deficiencies, competition from their larger (and much better capitalized) competitors and market potential. Indeed, as much as we like to gush about these sleek cars, how many of us will really be willing - and able - to lay down the cold, hard cash (roughly $100,000) to get them?
As with most start-ups, there is always the worry of under-delivering - the perfect example of this being Zap, which Wired recently took to task for consistently overhyping products that failed to materialize. Even as companies like Tesla begin production of their first vehicles, one has to wonder how they will be able to quickly streamline the manufacturing process, fulfill their requests and broaden the vehicles' appeal to the mainstream. CARB's decision to cut the number of zero emission vehicles it will require automakers to sell in the coming years certainly won't help either.
That's not to say that they won't manage to quiet the critics and eventually establish a foothold in the eco-enthusiast market. With Tesla recently announcing its plans to bring the Roadster to the European market, in an effort to capitalize on the weak dollar, time will only tell how successful their long-term operations will be.