The big car companies spend about 50 – 100 billion $ per year on R&D.
Over the last 50 years, whats the total of that? 1000 billion $? 2000 billion $? 3000 billion $?

In the 90s, faced with California’s ZEV mandate, the major manufacturers developed practical electric cars. The fought California in court and played a bunch of dirty pool to get the mandate canceled. Once it was they abandoned electric cars.

GM trumpeted how they spent 1 billion $ developing the EV1. A car that if available today would be very competitive with the new offerings. The final version with NiMh batteries had a 160 mile range, and a 6.3 second 0-60. Why they destroyed them all is one of the great mysteries of the car business.

Toyota developed the RAV4-EV, a 125 mile range compact SUV. Toyota did not collect and destroy them, and all that made it into private hands are valuable vehicles now. I couldnt find any data, but it seems reasonable that Toyota spent a similar amount of money developing the RAV4 EV.

Ford built the Ranger EV, a not near as capable vehicle as the other 2. If they squandered a billion dollars building that thing, I would be very suprised.

Tesla has developed the Tesla Roadster for an investment on the order of 100 million dollars.
It’s an expensive 2 seater with a 244 mile range and 3.9 second 0-60.

Before 2006 when Tesla shocked the world with the Roadster none of the major manufacturers showed any evidence of developing battery electric vehicles since abandoning them at the end of the 90s.

Total spending on developing electric cars technology up til 2006? 3 billion $? A couple tenths of a percent? They probably regret abandoning those projects now.

Since then Nissan has shown the Leaf electric car and Ford the BEV Focus, GM the Volt. GM claims they’ve spent 1 billion $ developing the Volt over several years. So a billion from each? 2% of their budgets? 5%?

What will electric car technology look like in 10 years with real sustained R&D efforts from every major manufacturer?


One response to “Cars

  1. It seems to me that one of the big questions isn’t just “why did these companies waste all that money and then drop the projects?” (which is an important question in its own right), but why are we taxpayers loaning money to a company like GM that spent 10x the amount Tesla did, in spite of already having a fully-staffed R&D department, and yet which dropped the car from their product line without coming close to recouping their costs. It shouldn’t have cost nearly $1B for the EV1, and for GM to just throw that money away on top of that is plain reckless.

    In other words, if a company wants to be stupid with their money, that’s fine with me. But that company ought to be allowed to just fail on its own when the effects of that stupidity manifest themselves.

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