Making Electric Cars Is Really Hard

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Apparently the New York Times "Automobiles" section got infected with engineer recently as they've hit on a breathtaking piece of knowledge we already knew — making useful electric cars is really, really hard.

The myriad challenges to building a mass market electric vehicle have been long known to us, and to the OEMs, and to most serious EV enthusiasts (why do you think they just build their own?) but since talking about electric cars seems to be in vogue, the New York Times decided to jump on board. Obviously the actual motors aren't the problem, dipole electromagnetic motors have been around since the 1800's and we've gotten pretty good at building them powerful and efficient. What we aren't so great at yet is batteries. At least, not batteries that can provide high power draws with a 100% duty cycle in extreme environmental situations without catching on fire and blowing up without warning — that's what the engineering and scientific community is feverishly working on right now.

From a technological perspective the only barrier between now and an EV future is a battery that's cheap, reliable, able to charge quickly and last a very long time in environments ranging from the humid Central American jungles to the frozen tundras of Canada. That's the real trouble with EV's, not trivialities cited in the NYTimes like the standard plug used for all cars or how to meter power, those are problems for international SAE committees to deal with (some of which are complete).


As much as we bellyache sometimes about electric cars and the "green revolution," it's mostly rooted in a knee-jerk reaction to lots of talk with little substance. If you've ever driven a full-on electric car you know the powertrain is hugely entertaining, providing better power delivery thanl gasoline or diesel competitors. Electricity is not the problem. What we take issue with are PR campaigns masquerading as electric vehicle programs. Greenwashing has somehow managed to become the new horsepower wars, and with marketing ruling the day over product, the consumer ultimately loses.

If and when the time comes that an electric product presents a better value, performance, and quality proposition than its direct competitors, you can bet we'll be here trumpeting its virtues. Until then, consider us skeptics, no matter how many times we raid the Detroit Auto Show with our own GEM electric car. [NYTimes]