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What Will It Take to Make the Electric Car Affordable?

Even as auto manufacturers roll out bigger, better technology for electric vehicles, high production costs – particularly from battery manufacturers – are keeping sales figures low, Tim Fernholz reports.
May 18, 2012, 6am PDT | Ryan Lue
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Last week, American and European automakers showcased a cutting-edge electric vehicle charging system – to be adopted as the new standard – that can top up the "tank" in under 20 minutes (that's up to ten times faster than existing systems).

"The initiative represents a step toward an electrified automotive future, akin to agreeing on standard-sized railroad tracks to extend rail networks across the country," writes Fernholz. "But there's still a major obstacle standing in the way of mass adoption of electric cars: battery technology, and the price that comes with it."

Slated for release this spring, Ford's fully-electric Focus retails at $32,450 after a hefty federal tax rebate – that's over 75% more than the $18,300 price tag on the standard model, enough to fill up the tank almost 300 times at $4/gallon.

While the company aims to lure the younger generation of drivers with hi-tech entertainment systems and a green ethos, that may not be enough to overcome the sticker shock. Mike Tinskey, director of global vehicle electrification at Ford, sees battery prices as the greatest roadblock to hitting the right price point for the market.

"While part of the problem is technological, Tinskey points to economics as the central challenge. 'In my opinion, it's scale-how do you prime the pump?' he says. 'You really need to get scale at these battery plant manufacturing facilities.'"

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Published on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in Good
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