Big Auto can’t stop belly-aching about the ‘burden’ of electric vehicles

Legacy automakers have been hyping a future where they'll finally electrify their fleet. Now, however, it appears they're a bit reluctant to do so. Volkswagen's CEO, Herbert Diess recently said (via Bloomberg), "The burden for our company, such as the cost of bringing to market electric cars, will be higher than expected... This is particularly so since some of our competitors have been making more progress.”


Above: Volkswagen e-golf and Tesla Model S charging (Image: Green Car Reports)

Looking at this paradox, Raphael Orlove wonders (via Jalopnik), "Hm! If electric cars are so expensive why do people build them in their garages with old batteries? Seems like a hole in their logic! I don’t know about you, but I don’t really trust 'Big ICE' on this one. And there’s no bigger player in this than VW, which is only pivoting to electric cars because it screwed up so bad in Dieselgate."

But it's not just Volkswagen. According to a report in Reuters, incessant whining that electric cars are "forcing carmakers to sell them at a bigger loss to meet emissions goals... is why, on this subject more than most, European carmakers talk from both sides of their mouths."

Above: Unlike Tesla, legacy automakers complain about emissions targets and the cost of electric vehicle production (Source: Reuters; Note: Adjust volume in footer of video)

When it comes to EVs, excuses are commonplace from Big Auto's top execs. "What everyone needs to realize is that clean mobility is like organic food – it’s more expensive,” says Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Peugeot, Citroen and Opel manufacturer PSA. He adds, "Either we accept paying more for clean mobility, or we put the European auto industry in jeopardy."

“Tesla is now ramping up their volumes, and it’s putting pressure on that market segment,” Bernhard Kuhnt, CEO of BMW North America told Bloomberg. And BMW Group CEO Harald Krueger remains hesitant on the idea of reducing emissions. Krueger told Automotive News Europe, "Hoping to reduce CO2 emission by 45 percent by 2030 is dreaming... we would need 70 percent of European sales being battery-powered vehicles, and the power infrastructure simply would not be able to handle it."

Above: Tesla remains the only automaker that's built out a robust, worldwide network of Superchargers (Image: Teslarati)

On that note, Richard Truett reports (via Automotive News), "let's give credit to CEO Elon Musk for establishing a nationwide network of charging stations. That was a brilliant move that no one has yet duplicated. It removes a layer of doubt and uncertainty that will hover over every other brand of EV." Simon Patel, the Jaguar Land Rover engineer in charge of battery and electric propulsion systems development admits to Truett, "Charging has been a really big challenge for us."

Okay... so maybe it's different with Japan's top automakers? More excuses? With Toyota, it's more like evasion. Orlove reports that instead of electric cars, Toyota has committed to hydrogen fuel cells. Orlove says, "I’ve heard that hydrogen cars are just around the corner since the first term of Bush Jr. You mean to tell me that Toyota has been dumping all of its EV budget into hydrogen cars for nearly two decades now? I find that hard to believe."

Above: A look at Toyota's Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (Image: Autoblog)

Even if hydrogen is another stall tactic, Orlove says, "Toyota has the cred to make an eco car like an EV, and it has the reputation, and it’s had the time, too.... [yet] at the moment, Toyota says that it’s working on solid state batteries, looking to leapfrog current lithium-ion battery-electric vehicles. Great! I can’t wait for these things to go on sale... whenever that may be."