Electric Car Profitability Remains Elusive – Here’s Why

The UK’s Nice Car Company has just gone into administration. Nice, which stands for No Internal Combusion Engine was a distributor for the electric version of the Aixam (a really small basic car, if you haven’t seen one) known as the Mega City.

Nice also had plans for more electric vehicles but have stumbled up against a time-honoured problem with EVs, as they are known – their limitations.

According to The Times, electric vehicle sales have plummeted this year – dropping from 374 in the first 10 months of 2007 to just 156 in the first ten months of 2008.

My opinion is that the reason for this is that electric vehicles aren’t suitable for most one-vehicle households. After all, owning an EV costs you a similar amount to owning an engine-powered vehicle. However, your EV comes with one critical limitation – ‘refuelling’ – or charging – requirements.

Even if your EV can do motorway speeds and has a range of 100 miles or more, you can’t generally refuel it while travelling. That means, that to be safe, you can only use it for short trips that get you back to your charging base each night. Otherwise, you run a high risk of being stranded somewhere without charge or motive power.

In other words, it can’t satisfy all of the average car user’s requirements – only a subset of them, that of short-range use, typically urban.

This restriction is exactly why I think the concept of the Chevrolet Volt might work well. It’s an all-electric vehicle with an on-board petrol engine that can be used to charge the batteries, as and when needed (in addition to mains-powered charging when possible).

To me, that’s all the difference in the world. A proper car must be able to go as far as I need it to and only require readily available, universal fuel – petrol or diesel.