Did luxury hybrids make hybrids cheaper?
Only the rich can afford to be early adopters of most emerging technologies, so goes conventional wisdom. Thus, plug-in fans should thank Tesla buyers and upcoming Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid buyers for taking the first step toward cheap plug-in vehicles.
Yet, after a few million hybrid sales – of mostly cheaper hybrid cars – were luxury hybrids ever the key to mainstreaming hybrid adoption?
Since scale is typically the key to cost-effectiveness, it seems obvious that luxury hybrid vehicles helped bring down the costs of hybrid technology. Yet, if scale is key, it also seems obvious the cheapest hybrids, particularly the Toyota Prius, were the most important hybrids in the scaling process.
Are plug-ins drastically different?
Obviously, with a 100 mile EV battery pack costing as much as $30,000 per vehicle, we're already pretty much in the luxury sector in terms of price. So, there is some logic in the assumption that plug-in vehicles could be more dependent upon luxury sales to achieve critical scale compared to conventional hybrids
Then again, are plug-ins being approached logically?
Aside from the consumer surveys that indicate considerable concern for range anxiety and against extra upfront cost, for instance, the battery studies also suggest that most of today's plug-ins – conceptual and real – simply are not an efficient utilization of today's battery technologies. Instead, the studies claim, small battery plug-in hybrid vehicles offer the most bang for the buck and the most efficient utilization of supplies.
Consequently, since the move to plug-ins is essentially driven by and for efficiency, shouldn't the roll out of plug-in vehicles also be driven by efficiency? Besides, wouldn't a $25,000 small battery plug-in vehicle sell far better than a $35,000 EV with only 100 miles of range? Moreover, wouldn't putting 7 or 8 times as many small battery plug-in hybrids on the road versus 100 mile EVs with the same amount of battery material offer greater impact on reducing CO2 emissions and oil consumption?