GM's Design Problems in a Nutshell

Despite years and hundreds of millions of dollars of effort on electric vehicles, competitors are coming out of the woodwork to beat it to market with an all-electric sedan -- and, from the specs, seem to be beating it on price and features as well.

Miles Electric has confirmed that it's working on a family sedan-sized all electric car for release in North America sometime next year. The car -- which will be released under a different, unknown brandname -- will be a first for the company, which specializes in neighborhood cars that only go up to about 25 miles per hour. The sedan will have a top speed of around 80 miles per hour, and a 100 mile range. It will also require 8-12 hours to fully recharge its dead lithium-ion battery. Miles is currently running the vehicle though crash tests, and expects to see about 300 of them on the road in California sometime next year. The going rate for one of these? About $45,000.

Radical shifts in technology often obsolete first mover and scale advantages.  The winners in the market for diesel electric locomotives (GM and GE) were totally different players from those who dominated the steam locomotive market (Alco, Baldwin, Lima and others).  It will be interesting to see if such a change occurs in the auto market.


  1. Xmas:

    One can only hope that a sea change is about to happen. It'll be amazing to see when it does.

  2. ratherbeatthelake:


    What is the cost per mile when you include the incremental (over equivalent small sedan) cost of the car, cost of replacement Lion batteries after a few hundred cycles, and the cost of electricity in the cap-and-trade future just ahead.. I'd hazard a guess that it's over a buck a mile.

    You'd have to be pretty committed to the "Prius" agenda to shell out that kind of money for a car.

  3. morganovich:


    i can't speak directly to the miles electric car, but i can tell you about a similar vehicle, the tesla roadster, as i have a friend who works there. the batteries in the tesla are about $25,000. they get you about 200 mile range and, like most L-Ion batteries get 100-150 charges before they degrade. assume you get 150 and drive the full 200 miles each time. that's 30,000 miles. at that point, you need new batteries. so $25k/30k miles = 83 cents per mile in battery amortization.

    this is outrageously expensive. assume any kind of reasonable car will get 25 miles per gallon. to reach an operating cost that high, gasoline would need to be $20/gallon and in my gas powered sedan, i can refuel in 5 minutes, not 8 hours.

    talk of "who killed the electric car" is laughable. the facts killed the electric car. on a cost of ownership basis and on a convenience basis, they simply are nowhere close to competitive.

  4. morganovich:

    the other way to look at is is if you assume gasoline at $2.50 a gallon, the battery amortization on the tesla is equivalent to getting 3 MPG.

    unless you drive a top fuel dragster to work, that should not be too difficult to beat...

  5. ElamBend:

    Of course the real irony is that all these cars essentially run on coal generated power.

  6. DrTorch:

    I don't get why people ridicule electric cars. The fact that these are private enterprises, w/ purchases being made by private citizens, should please libertarians.

    Why add scorn to this?

    The only way technology advances is by experimentation. You guys point out legitimate issues that exist. I applaud those who are investing their personal resources to do the experiments to solve those problems. If they solve them, then your CBA will be incorrect...which is uh, the point of all this. I hope they prosper for their courage.

  7. Earle Williams:


    Your points are valid enough regarding private investment and risk. Where the derision and scorn come in is when electric cars are touted as the next best thing when it comes to saving the environment, and when policy is made that mandates or at least subsidizes the inefficient use of resources in the name of eco-friendliness.

    Electric cars are wonderful at keeping the combustion emissions out of downtown. The little runabout cars probably even have a respectable cost per mile. Factor in battery replacement though and you have to wonder if the price you pay to keep the emissions at the coal power plant are worth it.

  8. epobirs:

    The long wait between charges is another dealbreaker for me. I go on long trips for my job fairly often. The amount of gear I need to take makes driving preferable to any other option, plus I have my car for the duration of my time in the region.

    The only way such a vehicle could work for me would be if there were stations where I could trade out the discharged batteries for fully charged one quickly, say half an hour at most. This would still add a lot of annoying delays to my travels but would be viable, possibly. It might also serve as a way to disconnect battery replacement from the consumers, although the cost of the trade-outs would likely be much more than my car consumes for gas on a similar trip. How else is the cost of the batteries going to be covered, otherwise?

  9. rxc:

    I don't think electric cars will become really mainstream till they have a range on the order of 250-300 miles, minimum on one charge, while driving in full summer heat (w a/c on) and in full winter snow (w full heat), and can recharge within 15 minutes. Anything outside these parameters means that people will need a second vehicle that DOES meet these parameters. Maybe a fair number of people will buy city cars with limited capability, like people here in France buy Smart cars, but they are still a niche.

    What I don't understand is why I can't buy a small diesel vehicle in the US, like the Peugeot 207 SW I have here. It gets 45 mpg average around town, and at 80 mph on French autoroutes, it still gets 41 mpg. Diesel here is currently running 0.93 euros/liter, which is about $4.70/gal.

  10. Rick:


    Do a little research into Tesla and you'll find that their business model is not really electric cars but large loans and subsidies from the Federal government.

  11. abaleh:


    I'm not sure about the economic viability of this, but there is a company in Israel working on such a model of battery replacement stations.

    According to a video on their website the actual battery replacement process takes a minute and 13 seconds.