Two interesting events took place last week in the electric vehicle industry: GM invited several journalists to take a ride in the Chevy Volt, and Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk appeared on David Letterman. Despite appearances, these two events are tied together. Why? Because as GM continues to tout the Volt’s ability to get 40 miles per charge and that a driver can go weeks without using gasoline, the Tesla Roadster gets more than 100 miles per charge and never uses a drop of gas.
What’s so great about 40 miles per charge? The Volt’s technology will be outdated before it even hits the market in 2010.
As a matter of fact, David Letterman asked that very same question to Musk who has been vocal about his dislike of plug-in hybrids like the Volt. “The Volt has a range of 40 miles….that’s ridiculous…Oh Boy, we have the electric car at 40 miles per charge. That’s crap,” said Letterman.
Musk stated that he thought the major autos would develop and market great electric car technology and he hoped that he wouldn’t have to do it himself — but he did. And it appears that if Americans are going to be offered cutting-edge electric technologies, then it looks like we’ll need more independent companies to follow in the footsteps of Tesla.
Here are three reasons why the current market favors independent auto companies.
1. The Big Three American auto companies are so out of touch with consumer trends by the time they bring new technologies to market, they have already lost market share. For example, Chevrolet didn’t bring the EV1 to market because they believed there was no market for the vehicle. Yet the Toyota Prius is about to hit the million mark in sales in the U.S. Slightly different technologies but same concept. Toyota and Honda own the market for hybrids.
2. The major auto companies work so slow that by the time they do bring new technologies to market, they are outdated. For example, the Tesla Roadster already out performs the Chevy Volt on miles per charge and the Volt has yet to be offered to consumers.
3. The Big Three autos have too much debt and not enough agility. The recently formed company Bright Automotive was able to bring The IDEA, a hybrid light truck to market in less than one year with more advanced technology. It takes the large American auto companies decades to develop and market new technologies.
As Letterman aluded to, our country can’t wait on The Big Three. I agree. The time is right for new, innovative auto companies to lead the way to better EV technologies.