The Right Timing for Electric Cars – Is Now

June 21, 2011

“The success of a rain dance is a matter of timing.” With that quote from a Native-American Chief, former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) opened his remarks at the green energy seminar entitled Innovations towards Zero held at House of Sweden on June 9th, 2011.

Over 100 years have passed since the first electric car was built but now the right time has come for them again, Senator Dorgan continued in his inspiring address.

The seminar focused on vehicle safety and electrification and was jointly organized by Volvo Car Corporation and the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce of Washington DC. The title of the seminar refers to Volvo’s two important goals for the near future: zero emission cars and zero fatalities in new Volvo cars introduced on the roads worldwide.

An impressive list of speakers and participants were assembled to discuss the development and challenges of electric cars and car safety.

SACC Washington DC is very proud to arrange this seminar. That is why we exist, to be a platform for business connections and discussions, said Bradley J. Olson, Chairman of SACC Washington DC in his welcoming remarks. He went on to thank Ambassador Hafström for hosting a dinner at his residence in conjunction with the event and introduced the moderator for the day, Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, Principal, The Chertoff Group and former National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator.

Mr. Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of Volvo Cars, described the many innovative technological solutions that will help the company reach their “zero-goals.” The new C30 Electric, which was on display in House of Sweden is one of them. The V60 diesel plug-in hybrid is another vehicle where the driver can electively switch between three modes; hybrid, pure electric or pure power (diesel).  Mr. Jacoby confirmed that a gasoline plug-in hybrid version of the V60 will be launched on the U.S. market in 2013-2014. The C30 Electric will be tested in the U.S. on a very small scale to start in 2011.  Mr. Jacoby also showed the various safety innovations that Volvo is developing, proving that the carmaker is still the world leader in safety, putting the human in center of its operations.

Mr. Jacoby also pointed to some challenges that need to be met; cost of ownership, cost of electrification technology batteries, government incentives, and infrastructure.

Mr. Jacoby stated that “[w]e have to be realistic, but there is no doubt that electric cars will be the main auto market in a few years. Until then we have the hybrid car as an overlap.”

The battery in the C30 Electric is developed by Enerdel, a highly specialized battery development company based in the state of Indiana.

- Just as Volvo, we have safety as our leading value, which is why we are such a great match, said Charles Gassenheimer, CEO and Chairman of Ener1, Inc. 

Mr. Gassenheimer stated that the whole auto market will change with the battery-operated car and that new business models might emerge with it. Since the price of a battery amounts to a big part of the value of the car and the life cycle for a battery in a car will be 8-9 years, his prediction is that the consumer will lease rather than own the battery. The battery will then be sold and used in a new aftermarket; as it still has 80% of its power left and is therefore good enough for many other commercial and residential uses.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made it clear that they are investing heavily in pushing the development of electric cars forward according to President Obama’s strategic plan.

There are lots of incentives are in place, but we still need higher demand from the consumers to start building the infrastructure needed and kick-start the sales of electric cars, said  Patrick Davies of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Or, maybe higher taxes on gas, suggested a person in the audience…

For more information about this event, please contact Maja Persson at

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