In yet another blow to the electric car movement, Crain’s Detroit Business says the Center for Automotive Research is ending its electric-vehicle event, “The Business of Plugging In,” after a three-year run. Brett Smith, co-director of the research organization’s manufacturing, engineering and technology department and co-director of the conference, said manufacturers and suppliers in the field wanted to end the conference to concentrate on developing technologies.
These days, even as manufacturers rush to introduce new models, the phrase an increasing number of industry-watchers are using to describe electric vehicles is “not ready for prime time.” Sales worldwide show the market for the state-of-the-art electrics is tiny, even with generous subsidies. Even hybrids are fighting headwinds; other than Toyota, most manufacturers are seeing declines in sales of hybrids that have been on the market for more than a year.
The siren song of sales through battery power is claiming new victims. In March alone, Bright Automotive closed its doors after failing to secure a federal loan; Azure Dynamics filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving Ford looking for a warranty service provider for its converted Transit Connect vans, and A123 Systems has had serious problems with defective batteries that could hamper its efforts to raise money for future operations.
“We see the hype and the activity, but there continues to be no real business case,” said Brett Smith, co-director of the research organization’s manufacturing, engineering and technology department and co-director of the conference. “If it’s going to work, there has to be a way to develop a valid business case, and that hasn’t happened.”
“The goal of BPI is to highlight the challenges and opportunities of creating a viable (electric vehicle) business model — a challenge that continues to create problems” for many startups and early products, he said in an emailed statement to media. “CAR sees this challenge — and yes, even opportunity — continuing and is actively researching the topic.”
The Center says it will continue to discuss and research advanced powertrain trends, but only as part of its larger conferences, such as its annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.