JAMES B. TREECE

In EVs, practicality be damned

Automotive News | March 28, 2012 - 2:34 pm EST

DETROIT -- Azure Dynamics has followed Bright Automotive into bankruptcy. Yet Tesla Motors’ stock trades near its record high on Wall Street.

The stock market is supposedly rational. Keep telling yourself that.

Azure and Bright both handled electric delivery van conversions. It should have been a good business.

Delivery vans are prime candidates for electrification. Many delivery vans drive a set, limited-mileage route each day. Fleet operators can calculate whether charging overnight will save money vs. filling up at a gasoline or diesel pump. They don’t have to worry that the battery won’t allow a spur-of-the-moment trip to the lakeside cabin over the weekend.

Azure was converting the Ford Transit Connect. It didn’t have to worry about marketing or setting up a service network -- Ford Motor did that.

It still wasn’t enough.

Tesla, meanwhile, makes -- let’s face it -- high-priced toys for the 1 percent. Its Tesla Model S was supposed to be an affordable family car, but has morphed into a $57,400 sedan whose distinguishing feature is an instrument panel that looks like an oversized iPad.

As I said, a high-priced toy.

Tesla’s stock price closed Tuesday at $37.94, a record high.

EV critics say the battery-powered cars and trucks aren’t practical. This week’s lesson is the opposite. To be successful in the EV business, a company should be as impractical as possible.

James B. Treece is industry editor at Automotive News.James B. Treece is industry editor at Automotive News.

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