Honda EV shows why upstarts struggle
Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor of Automotive News Europe.
After getting behind the wheel of a Honda Fit EV, I can easily understand why Norwegian electric vehicle upstart Think Global had to be rescued from bankruptcy last year.
The big boys just have too much r&d firepower.
The Fit's speed and agility make you forget you're driving a battery-powered car.
During a test drive last month at Honda's Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan, I didn't want to stop zipping around corners in the subcompact, and the power surge that came when pounding on the car's accelerator was instantly addictive.
The Think City minicar fell way short of offering that kind of excitement during a test drive in Turku, Finland, in early 2010.
Honda's plug-in hybrid Accord was even more impressive than the Fit EV.
The Fit EV, like the Nissan Leaf, will show that there is a place for electric cars in the market when it goes on sale in Japan and the United States later this year.
Another reason that EV upstarts have to worry about their future existence is because their deep-pocketed, well-connected rivals can close a technology gap faster than someone can say Chapter 11.
Think has been messing around with electric cars for 20 years, and variants of the City have been on the road since 1999.
Honda, meanwhile, announced in July 2010 that it would launch its EV and plug-in hybrid by 2012.
Sure, Honda and most of the other large, established brands have been toiling with EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel cells for years, but it is still surprising to experience for oneself the massive difference between products such as the Fit and the City.
At that moment, one can see that the upstarts have a long way to go.
The closure of U.S. EV maker Aptera Motors provides a clear indication that investors are no longer ready to pour a barrel of cash into an EV upstart.
This means that Fisker and Tesla had better buckle up for a bumpy ride as luxury EVs and plug-in hybrids start arriving soon from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at email@example.com.