Gas2 Week in Review, April 23: EV Technology Entices Some, Scares Others

EV technology in a variety of forms inspired many Gas2 readers this week to share their comments, compliments, and concerns. A new J.D. power study indicates that Baby Boomers are more doubtful of self-driving vehicle technology than ever, and, in a similar way, EV sales in China are slumping, as consumers there don’t seem to trust the new technology’s reliability and cost. In other news, Kelley Blue Book has revealed its top five electric vehicles under $40,000, Tesla is narrowing its Model S selection to make way for the upcoming Model 3, and Protean is researching a wheel motor that will create more interior space but add unsprung weight to the corner of a car. Here are those stories and more on our Gas2 Week in Review.

EV technology

More People Skeptical of Autonomous Cars, New Study Shows

In the third year of a study by J.D. Power, self driving technology skepticism is on the rise among Baby Boomers. 81 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed said they “definitely” or “probably” would not trust self-driving technology, up from 77 percent in 2016. Another 23 percent in that age group said they “probably would not” trust the technology.  As technology begins to intersect with reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance usually increase. Yet, with autonomous vehicles, a pattern is emerging in which the level of trust is declining. J.D. Power said 40 percent of Baby Boomers see no benefit from self driving vehicles, while nearly half listed their largest concern as “possible technology failures/errors.”

SUV Sales Soar, EV Sales Slump In China

Despite generous cash subsidies to encourage people to buy so called “new energy” vehicles, SUV sales in China have surged 21% to 2.4 million units in the first quarter of 2017. In the same period, EV sales have increased just 4% to 55,929. EV sales in China are dismal because Chinese customers don’t care for the prevalent sedans available. However, China’s crowded cities pose a problem for the potential car buyer, as it is impossible to register a car without first proving there is a space available to park it. A subsequent registration lottery process, which can take up to five years, takes place, with car, tax, and insurance payments accruing before the new car can even be driven. Chinese drivers also state they are wary of EVs’ unfamiliar technology’s reliability and cost, which the Sierra Club blames on manufacturers and dealers who poorly explain EV technology to potential customers.

The Best Electric Cars under $40,000 You Can Buy Now

The Nissan LEAF, the Kia Soul, the Volkswagen Gold, the Hyundai Ioniq, and the Chevy Bolt has been rated by the editors of Kelley Blue Book as the five best electric cars under $40,000. The criteria for ranking included range, comfort, and performance.

  • #5: The Nissan LEAF, which maintains its original styling from 2011, offers roominess and plenty of cargo space. The LEAF is the best selling electric car of all time with over 250,000 now on the road worldwide;
  • #4: The Kia Soul is a fun and fresh alternative for all ages. The innovative happy hamster ad campaign that introduced the Kia Soul to America helped establish it as a favorite. Among electric cars, which tend to be mostly boring sedans, the Kia Soul EV is definitely the Plan B alternative.
  • #3: The Volkswagen e-Golf gets the advantage of attention to detail with smart styling and a larger battery for 2017 that gives it significantly more range. The e-Golf is sold only in California and the other U.S. states that adhere to the emissions regulations promulgated by the California Air Resources Board.
  • #2: The Hyundai Ioniq 5 door hatchback sedan, available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or fully electric form, is one of the newest electric cars. Less battery in a lighter, slipperier package helps keep the price of the Ioniq Electric low.
  • #1: The Chevy Bolt is a five door hatchback design. KBB says, “Simply put, the new Chevy Bolt EV is the most compelling pure electric vehicle produced to date. With its 238-mile EPA range, an impressive feature set, solid driving dynamics, and an affordable price point, it really can take the place of a conventional alternative for many buyers.”


Tesla Model S Price Cut; Model 3 Production News

No longer can the least expensive Tesla Model S 60 be ordered. Available with a software limited 75 kWh battery, the Tesla Model S 60 was able to be upgraded to 75 kWh capacity for an extra fee that ranged from $2,000 – $9,000. The movement toward upgrading kWh has real significance beyond the Model S 60. Once Tesla is able to reach the ideal $100 per kWh level through its Nevada Gigafactory production, the company will be able to state unequivocally that it maintains a significant lead on competing EVs. The company is currently weighing all its options and pricing, battery kWh included, as it starts to squeak out space in its lineup for the Model 3. Interesting, the latest rumor from a reliable source on the Tesla Motors Club forum is that Tesla is moving away from taking custom orders for every car it builds and is moving toward building large groups of cars with identical option packages. Cookie-cutter Teslas? Oh, no!

In Wheel Motors Coming from Protean Partnership with VIE

Protean has formed a partnership with Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology Company (VIE) to develop its ProteanDrive 16.″ This wheel motor, which will have a broad range of automotive and light truck applications, will eliminate all the transmissions, driveshafts, axles, differentials, and clutches that have been part of conventional cars with internal combustion engine cars for a century. It will increase interior room and permit designers to devise new crash structure architecture that does a better job of protecting people in the event of a collision. The ProteanDRIVE 16 does add 60 pounds of unsprung weight to the corner of a car, which is the enemy of handling.

Photo credit: Dean Hochman via / CC BY


Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+