Electric Vehicles Industry Analysis – Tesla Motors, Phoenix Motorcars, Th!nk Global, Aptera Motors

Floyd Associates, a privately held consulting firm is out with a research report on the future of electric cars (disclaimer: FA is involved with business development of Phoenix Motorcars) which isn’t all that detailed but provides a good primer on the technologies involved and some of the smaller players hoping to emerge as future leaders of the electric car industry (or sell their technologies to existing major auto companies).  Below is an outline of the report with a few of my comments thrown in.

The Motors

– DC Brushless: high top speed, slow acceleration, lower cost
– AC Induction: average top speed, quick acceleration
– Permanent Magnet: average top speed and acceleration
– Switched Reluctance: most cost effective, but complex software needed

The Batteries

– Nickel-metal hydride: smaller size and higher performance than a lead acid battery
– Lithium ion: the future of car batteries is most likely the lithium ion due to its long life cycle and high energy density


Electric vehicles will most likely be charged in 5-6 hrs using a standard 220V outlet but Phoenix Motorcars has an EV capable of being 95% charged in 10 minutes but required a charging station

Tax Credits

As part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (known to many as “the bailout bill”), the government will provide a base tax credit of $2500 plus an additional $417 per kWh for batteries greater than 4kWh with a tax credit cap set at $7500.  Some states are offering incentives as well in order to get electric vehicles on the road in a hurry.  California offers a $5000 rebate while Oregon offers a $5000 tax credit. 

Electric Vehicle Manufacturers

– Phoenix Motorcars: privately held and based in California; uses lithium ion batteries; first to introduce electric SUV in 2006; recharge in 10 minutes with 100 miles distance at highway speeds; uses AltairNano (ALTI) batteries but no longer exclusively; uses UQM Technologies (UQM) motor technology (edit: the original UQM motor has been discarded in favor of a custom designed model); its vehicles are expensive ($50K) and you don’t hear much about Phoenix anymore

– Tesla Motors: private and based in California; focused on high performance; sports car has a range of 220 miles, top speed of 125 mph and can accelerate from 0 – 60 in 4 seconds; release continues to be pushed back because of production issues

– Th!nk Global: private company based in Norway and manufacturers the Th!nk City electric car; world’s only crash tested and highway certified car with a range of 125 miles and top speed of 65 mph; one of most affordable electric cars which is expected to be offered to US customers at $15 – $17K with a battery leasing fee of $200; Ener1 (HEV) will supply battery packs

– Aptera Motors: privately held and also based in California; offers 3 wheeled electric and hybrid vehicles; the hybrid one most fuel efficient in the world at 340 mpg; driving range of 120 miles for electric vehicle

Of course there are the big players such as Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), General Motors (GM) and Ford (F), all of which will emerge on the scene with several models of electric vehicles within the next couple of years.  I can’t imagine the privately held companies mentioned above will exist on their own for too long.  The big auto manufacturers will have tremendous economies of scale advantages once they get going, not to mention government backing of the US manufacturers.  It will be mighty interesting to see how this industry develops over the next 4 years.

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