VW on electric cars: “Please, lower your expectations”

March 13, 2009

Volkswagen’s U.S. chief ruffled some entrepreneurial feathers on Thursday when he told a group of business school students at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management that¬† it will be 35 years before electric cars make up a significant portion of the world’s auto market.

During his prepared remarks, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Stefan Jacoby outlined the German automaker’s view that fossil fuels and traditional combustion engines will be with us for many years to come. VW, however, is committed to making them vastly more fuel efficient. The company is also investing heavily in so-called clean diesel technology, which reduces tailpipe emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases while still giving cars their “fun-to-drive” pep.

“At Volkswagen we are taking a long-term and a short-term approach, and the short-term approach is not electric vehicles,” Jacoby said. “We can have cars on the road that have fuel consumption of 50, 60, 70 miles per gallon. That can happen in the next ten years.”

For electric cars to make economic sense now, gas prices would have to be about $10 a gallon, Jacoby said, attempting to underscore the high cost of electric vehicle technology.

“May I ask how many of you guys can afford a Tesla?” Jacoby asked, referring to the company behind the $109,000 electric Roadster sports car.

During the Q&A session, Jacoby was taken to task for his position on electric cars by some of the audience members, particularly a man who said he drives an EV that is partially powered by the sun.

Jacoby didn’t back down, but he did encourage the audience to take a longer view.

“I’m not saying that the final solution couldn’t be electric cars,” he said. “What I want to bring over to you guys is please, lower your expecations. There are a lot of improvements we can do with less money than putting all our available investment money into one solution.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser (Jacoby talks at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2008)


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electric cars beg the environmental question: they may produce no emissions, but the power plant providing the current does; also, how does one properly dispose of the batteries?

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

Both lithium and NiMH batteries are easily recyclable. People don’t bother with cellphone and laptop batteries, but an electric car’s battery would either be replaced & recycled by the dealer or by a salvage yard. A 50 gram battery is a tosser, a 50-500 kg battery is worth processing.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

I imagine that the power plants providing the power for electric cars are more strictly and efficiently regulated than cars will ever be. Here in Oklahoma you aren’t even required to have your car inspected. Your car can spew blue smoke all over the place and no one seems to care.

Posted by Thomas | Report as abusive

The difficulty with electric cars lies with the batteries, not the motors and controlers. Battery technology has not progressed very much in the last century as it hasn’t had too. The batteries being made were sufficient for the task. Until such time as the batteries are sufficient to the task, i.e. providing reasonable range and recharge time, we will have to make do with hybrids.
The pollution aspect is a dead horse once alternative poxer sources, such as solar, wind and hydroelectric, are used as the power source of recharging.

Posted by Roger | Report as abusive

Watch: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid= 5871495968130273402

Posted by Who Killed The Electric Car? | Report as abusive

The future is now not in 35 years.
Lets embrace it.

Posted by Fridrik Kjartansson | Report as abusive