Friday, December 5, 2008

Why electric cars have stalled

Facing technical challenges and a weak market, many of Silicon Valley's electric-car startups are changing direction.

1 of 4Wrightspeed's 180-degree turn

Full story: Why electric cars have stalled

The Wrightspeed X1, a sports car whose three-second acceleration from 0 to 60 makes it one of the fastest autos in the world, is also super-clean: It's powered by an electric motor and gets about 170 mpg. Ian Wright, the Burlingame, Calif., entrepreneur who created the X1 several years ago, had planned on ramping up production on a line of similar electric cars in 2009. But over the summer, he changed his mind.
"It's one thing to build electric cars, but it's another to go out and get some kind of respectable market size and funding," Wright says. "At this stage of the game, when oil is cheap and batteries still expensive, spending two to three -times the price on an electric car doesn't really make sense."

In a 180-degree turn from where his company, Wrightspeed, was a year ago, Wright has completely abandoned the concept of bringing an electric car to market. Instead, while he waits for the electric vehicle market to mature, Wright is focusing on a more lucrative venture: Wrightspeed will make and sell electric powertrains - the battery pack, software, and other components that generate power to a vehicle - to existing car and truck manufacturer.

"We're not looking at GM or Tesla Motors," Wright says. "Electric vehicles for the mass-market - that's at least 20 years away."

By Maggie Overfelt
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