Business Proposal: Rent your E Car–and manufacture it here

The business plan is simpler than its implementation. 

* Background. Electric cars are too expensive for most non-Romney’s to afford. 

* Electric cars need charging stations just the way that gasoline and diesel vehicles do. Putting such a network of stations into play is probably an easier problem to solve than it was for gas/petrol stations simply because the latter already exist (as do powerlines and railways and other interregional conduits).

* The technology is changing fast (but not fast enough) yet remains stuck at the point just before economies of (vast) scale would make a signal difference in price. 

* Ancillary issues, such as the disposal of vast quantities of lead-acid batteries, or even Lithium-based ones, seem to me to be unexamined or unsolved. 

 

Proposal:

Large scale rentals for electric cars and other vehicles. These would be rented to subscribers on the model of Zip, Auto Share and the like. The fleet of rental e-cars would necessarily be large and accommodate the present and near-future wants of urban populations of a certain density, at least at first. 

Cost for rental would likely have to be higher than existing subcompact or compact rentals but there could be inducements. For instance, governments in many regions offer rebates for e-vehicles and other technologies that supposedly help the world meet carbon goals.

* Most rental vehicles don’t last long. They are brutally treated. I do not believe that is so with the car-sharing model, however. And in this case, a goal would be to inspire loyalty and the consideration of others by encouraging respectful treatment of the car. That said, turnover wil still be high, especially as the drive technology will be improving. But as the new cars are put into service, their cost will likely be going down, not only as the economy of scale’s effect is more clearly felt but also as the corollary of better technologies become available. 

There might also be the added good feature of shifting regional factories to the production of these kinds of vehicles. This has been tried before, as when the City of Berkeley, under Gus Newport (I think), back in the 80s tried to invest in and build a factory making electric vehicles. Too early.

* Locations: As mentioned, urban densities but I’d like to start with those here in Canada, such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and others. Cold weather might be an issue for batteries, but I’d like to think that by now that issue has been solved well enough, if only by using good insulation. (Which, along with hot chocolate, works for me.)

This is a serious proposal. I don’t think we are going to have a revolution in batteries nor a sudden drop in pricing for e-vehicles, at least not short of a commitment that will produce economies of scale. But with the low and lowering price of natural gas, that seems less and less likely. Yet natural gas’s extraction via fracking is anything but desired. So, there are limits to it–social and political ones.

There are limits too to the making of e-vehicles, such as the source of the power to drive them (some powerplant), the recycling or rubbishing of the used or broken batteries, among others.

But my vision is not myopic and focused on next quarter. I look to years. But we have to start now with establishing the infrastructure to get there–and that includes the political as well as entrepreneurial logistics.

As I wrote, this is a serious proposal. The primary cost would be in working with at least one e-car maker and setting up the charging stations. From the business development side, arranging the subscriber model and all its qualities would be needed too…. but none of this, really, is actually new or venturing into uncharted territory. It’s been done, albeit for internal combustion vehicles. 

As well, there is–yes indeed–there is government support in many polities precisely for this sort of thing: entrepreneurs and technology that go green in a big way and that further build the manufacturing capability of the nation.