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Good read that helps to see the bigger picture to the current state of the EV world from Car & Driver:

And Why Established Automakers Haven't Done It

Every automaker, it seems, claims to be bringing a "Tesla-beater" to market in the next couple years. By this, they mostly mean an electric vehicle that will compete with battery-powered product from the California company on range, price, performance, or some combination thereof.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf, next-gen Volkswagen e-Golf, Chevy Bolt, Audi R8 E-Tron sportscar and Q6 E-Tron SUV, an un-named Ford, Aston Martin DBX, and Porsche Pajun (we could go on) are held up as examples. But, can the traditional car companies really do it? And if so, what's been taking them so long.

The Tesla formula is really simple. Take the cheapest and most energy-dense lithium battery cells available, build a thin, rectangular pack and place it in the floor of the passenger cabin. To get around the low-power output ability of these individual cells, use a lot of them. Then, stick the electric motor, inverter, and gear reduction unit between the rear wheels. Immediately, this creates a vehicle with the lowest possible center of gravity and maximum amount of rotational inertia – the two most important fundamental elements for creating a great-handling car.

Just as important, this set-up also allows the vehicle to offer the most amount of range for the least amount of dollars, with ancillary benefits like a flat floor in the passenger compartment and extra storage space up in the "frunk" (front trunk.) And, since its minimal drivetrain doesn't intrude far vertically, basic function never gets in the way of form, leaving body designers lots of latitude for shaping and styling.

Finally, top off this ultimate EV package with a one-hour-or-less "supercharging" network that owners can freely access (in every sense of the word) for those occasions when they want to roam farther than an overnight, at-home charge can take them. Make the installations (eventually) all solar-powered and close to amenities for hungry travellers. Extend that umbrella by partnering with destination locations, such as hotels, and installing convenient high-speed charge stations in their parking lots.

So, what's kept the established automakers from using this same recipe? In a word, commitment. They haven't yet gone "all in" on electric vehicles. And why would they? Sure, they've dabbled in electric drive vehicles over the decades with high-tech halo concepts and, more recently, compliance cars, but when internal combustion drivetrains are paying the bills quite nicely, why invest heavily in a technology that promises no near-term profit potential? In a business environment where increased shareholder value is demanded every quarter, risking a substantial amount of money on a technological outlier is indeed a difficult sell.

If they had of exercised foresight, however, they might have spent the many millions necessary to build an EV-specific platform (yes, the BMW i3 is a recent exception, and we'll get to that in a bit.) Instead, they've brought us electric models that are basically conversions of established gasoline ones. Even the Nissan Leaf, whose maker is one of the biggest and earliest proponents of lithium battery electric vehicles, is built on the bones of the Versa platform. (Although many sources claim the Leaf is built on the B0 platform that lies beneath the Versa, Nissan has always stated that the Leaf sits on a unique architecture.)

Using this so-called "flexible" approach, compromises have begat compromises. With less real estate for battery packs, automakers have opted to use a pouch cell with a higher C rate – that is, a cell that puts out more power but is less energy dense than the 18650-format cylindrical cells in Tesla packs. This, as well as the much higher cost-per-kilowatt hour (kWh) of these cells, has led to packs that tend to be in the 24-kWh neighborhood and offer only about a third of the range of a Tesla Model S.

Besides limiting the size of the battery pack, this chassis borrowing has also led to placing the electric motor up front where it powers the front wheels (ugh) – the originally rear-engined Mitsubishi i-MiEV and, again, the BMW i3 being exceptions. There, underhood, it conspires with the inverter, DC-to-DC converter and other bits and bobs, to further negate the packaging possibilities of a pure EV platform. Lift the lid of a Fiat 500e or a Ford Focus EV, and you'll find it stuffed with components, rather than an extra convenient storage space, as in the Tesla's nose.

With all the new electric-model noises noted above, it certainly appears as though the industry is turning a corner and attempting to bring product to market as compelling as that from the technological leader. While this all looks promising on the surface, I'm not totally convinced of their conviction just yet. Let's take a quick look at a few of these efforts.
First, BMW. Sure, the i3 follows the Tesla path in that it's a ground-up design with rear-wheel-drive, and even surpasses it with respect to its carbon composite chassis. Its reliance on an optional gas engine for driving past its official 81-mile electric range instead of employing a longer-range battery, though, belies the company's commitment to truly get past gas. It's a great early effort, but with future models in the i sub-brand following the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) formula, the Bavarians aren't exactly knocking loudly at the all-electric gate.

Ok, how about Nissan, then. Its Leaf has been the go-to car for early adopters of lesser means or needs, with about 172,000 units moved worldwide. Its next iteration will quite possibly boast a 200-mile-or-more range, making it competitive with the future $35,000 Tesla Model 3 in at least one respect. Since both cars are still mostly mysteries, it's hard to make a real comparison, but there are several reasons I suspect I'd rather have the 3 in my garage.

Putting aside pricing, styling and driving dynamics, the big difference here is refueling infrastructure. Sure, Nissan has put a good deal of effort into the CHAdeMO network, but these level 2 stations only refuel at a rate of 62.5 kW at most, and usually less. Furthermore, a good many of these stations are located at dealerships on the West coast (with a few Eastern city exceptions), and not always accessible 24 hours a day. With this new bigger battery comes a need for even more charging speed, and this is where Tesla's 135-kW monster connection excels. I can deal with a 30-45 minute stop every few hours, but make that a two-or-more-hour stay and I'm less amenable to the prospect.

It is this whole package – styling, price, performance, technology, recharging network – that other automakers can't yet compete with. Yes, an electric Porsche Pajun might be an awesome challenger to the Model X, and we look forward to hearing more details, but unless the Stuttgart company makes a deal with Tesla – an option CEO Elon Musk has said it is open to – it's unlikely to be supported by a charging network with the coverage and convenience of the Supercharger.

Likewise, the Chevy Bolt is expected to be priced lower than the 3. At least, it will be cheaper if buyers can take advantage of the $7,500 Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit and Model 3 customers can't (and who can say how that will turn out, for sure). But again, the SAE Combo charging network that the Bolt will use is, at this point at least, practically nonexistent, slower than the Supercharger at a maximum 90 kWs, and not free. The Chevy is also unlikely to have a larger battery option, or the level of software sophistication that the Tesla 3 is expected to have.

Still, technology is a moving target and it's impossible to predict how long Tesla can hold its edge.
The automaking industry has faced many challenges in the past and has, mostly, overcome them. And it's not just an entrenched establishment that Tesla has to worry about, either. We shouldn't forget that there are companies out there with far greater financial resources that could come up with a product (hello, Google and Apple cars) that surprises everybody and takes the market by storm. Ten years ago, who heard of Tesla Motors?

Right now, more than ever, the automotive landscape is in flux, and as we see electrification silently slice an increasingly larger swath of territory formerly dominated by internal combustion, Tesla remains the outfit to beat, despite missteps. Now that it has shown there's actually money to be made in this new alternative sector, the rush is officially on. If you're placing bets on winners and losers in this battery-powered future, the things to watch out for are ground-up designs, battery performance/price innovation, and recharging infrastructure. Or, in a word, commitment.
 

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But who says building a true Tesla competitor is the goal? Because last time I checked the EV that was turning over the most units and generating the most profits doesn't wear a Tesla badge but a Nissan one...
 

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Prove it Roth, Because I check the data every month and the Tesla has never left the leaf behind LOL. LEaf sales are slowing slightly yes, but thats in anticipation of the 2016 which will double range.

Look, are you guys really prepared to believe that a company like Toyota couldn't bury Tesla with their mountains of cash and barracks of brilliant japanese engineers?
 

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Great read, thanks for sharing.

GM really should focus on such a vehicle as a halo product for Cadillac.

The half-baked ELR effort doesn't count...
 

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Good read that helps to see the bigger picture to the current state of the EV world from Car & Driver:
Good read that helps to see the bigger picture to the current state of the EV world from Car & Driver:
A blast from the past
GM has built other competitors
Corvair vs Volkswagen
Corvette vs Ferrari
C8 vs World
To my mind GM engineering rules
Bolt Ev is ultimate example of advanced alien technology
What is name of other vehicle of which is mentioned.
 

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Tesla is building high tech fast luxury cars. That makes EVs look cool and desirable, but doesn't solve mass adoption.

The Bolt has great range and price, but it's still a small hatchback.

We don't need someone to make a Tesla killer, we need an ICE killer. That's a 3 row SUV and a medium crossover, with almost 300 mile range and 100-150 charging rate, that costs around $30k. Then used ones have to hit the market with plenty of service life remaining for $15k.

/Jmo

Oops, totally necroed this post.
 

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We don't need someone to make a Tesla killer, we need an ICE killer. That's a 3 row SUV
We don't need technology to kill SUVs, we need a responsible electorate, willing to demand they be banned.

This is where some of you chime in that our real problem is too few babies.

And, of course, if we had a responsible citizenry, SUV's wouldn't exist in the first place. :)
 

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Tesla is building high tech fast luxury cars. That makes EVs look cool and desirable, but doesn't solve mass adoption.

The Bolt has great range and price, but it's still a small hatchback.

We don't need someone to make a Tesla killer, we need an ICE killer. That's a 3 row SUV and a medium crossover, with almost 300 mile range and 100-150 charging rate, that costs around $30k. Then used ones have to hit the market with plenty of service life remaining for $15k.

/Jmo

Oops, totally necroed this post.
You didn't necro this post... It's restarted so let's get to it.

I agree with you on the vehicle segment and the price for faster adoption. Faster charging is generally better than slower charging. But there needs to be some reeducation on range. Range for EVs simply cost too much to make it a requirement for purchase.

I think that manufacturers are going to need to use branding to differentiate range. GM for example should put lower range EVs under the Chevy brand and higher range ones under the Cadillac brand. Let those folks with range anxiety, or special range requirements, make the payments necessary to get the range that they want or need. With everyone else, lower the price by $10-15k and explain that the real cost of marginal range is a small bit of inconvenience on the occasional road trip. Lower prices will sell more EVs than more range once the range has reached a certain point. Every EV should have small (150 mile range), regular (200-225 miles range), and large (300-350 mile range) battery packs, with $5-$7k difference in each tier. Once folks realize they need to pay for that extra range, I believe that many will choose the lower range options and be OK with it.

ga2500ev
 

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It was interesting to read that blurb from 2015. 4 years later, there is lots of talk of commitment, but we have yet to see real fruits. GM and VW stand out today. And look at the state of the CCS network 4 years later. "Thanks" to VW's dieselgate scandal, EA has propped up a network that actually starts to rival Tesla's. It costs money, sure, but so does gasoline. In my experience, EA costs less to fuel my Bolt than gas for a comparable vehicle (no, the Prius is not comparable - more like a GTI). We shouldn't expect free charging forever - that is simply unsustainable.

I do agree with the sentiment that "we don't need a Tesla killer, we need an ICE killer". I have hope that we will get multiple good ones in the next 4 years.
 

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Missed this thread when it came out, but it was interesting to read after some time has gone by. There were a few inaccuracies that pointed out the author was not technically-minded. Pouch cells don't have a higher C-rate. That is determined by chemistry, not packaging. They also aren't necessarily less energy dense, as cylindrical cells have a lot of void space and packaging... and rotational inertia is never a good thing when it comes to handling.

The article did briefly explain why other auto manufacturers haven't succeeded over Tesla in EV sales; and that's because it's new technology, and they are an established brand that needs to play conservatively. It completely missed the most important reason though; that EVs aren't profitable, and Tesla still struggles to remain viable.

The author wants "commitment" but commitment without probability of success is called foolishness. We don't need commitment, we need batteries that suck less than they currently do. They are much worse in every measurable way than fuel tanks with the exception of being a little cheaper per mile for "fuel", and being better for the environment.

It ended with this incorrect summary:

"we see electrification silently slice an increasingly larger swath of territory formerly dominated by internal combustion "

EVs sales aren't even covering the increase in annual vehicle sales, so the ICE market is still expanding despite EV sales.



 

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To this point, EV and PV investment/sales are predicated on the fantasy that we will be able to continue increasing our consumption of resources, with a few adjustments. One internet advocate refers to batteries and PV panels as "magic rocks." The only magic is that we pretend they are somehow sustainable.
 

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to make a true tesla competitor I'd start by making parts hard to get, putting a big dorky screen in the middle of the dashboard and engineering them so the catch on fire for no reason.
You’re missing a key ingredient here. Hint: it’s the title of a fairly recent movie that starred Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. ;)
 

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Every EV should have small (150 mile range), regular (200-225 miles range), and large (300-350 mile range) battery packs, with $5-$7k difference in each tier.

ga2500ev
I agree and like this idea. I personally wouldn't have paid extra for the LR tier, but the MR where the bolt lies is perfect.
 

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You’re missing a key ingredient here. Hint: it’s the title of a fairly recent movie that starred Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. ;)
Love that movie! and I will say lots of Tesla folks I meet seem to be obsessed with Musk. I'll concede he is a visionary and has some incredible ideas. I'm just not sure he is the one to make them happen. Some days he is Tesla's biggest asset other days not so much. I am jealous of the charging infrastructure and speed for long trips, but day to day I love my bolt
 
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