The Osborne Legacy, GM's 200 mile electric car, and electric car adoption
In 1981 the first luggable computer, the Osborne 1, went on sale to become very popular. All was well for Osborne Computer Company until Adam Osborne, in 1983, announced details of the next generation Osborne computers. The resulting sales falloff and eventual demise of OCC created the myth of the Osborne Effect, which is when a company announces a future product and the customers stop buying the current product. What does this have to do with automotive news? Consider thursday's news that GM's CEO Dan Akerson is again talking about the electric car with a 200 mile driving range that GM could be building in the next two-to-four years.
It's plausible that news of someone like GM's CEO claiming an electric car with a 200 mile driving range is just around the corner, would make potential electric car buyers go "hmm.. maybe I'll wait a couple years."
This effect may already be happening for the Nissan Leaf. Sales of the Leaf are much lower than in 2011, and there are a pair of attributes of the 2013 model which may be affecting current Leaf sales. One is that the 2013 Leaf will have an option to buy a 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger, which would give the Leaf a better effective driving range. The second is that Nissan is building a new factory in Smyrna TN, that's slated to increase Nissan Leaf production volume to over 100,000 units a year. The scuttlebutt is that by building the Leaf in the U.S., the domestic MSRP would be lower than currently.
In the case of GM, Akerson first talked of a 140+ mile driving range electric car in March, shortly after Envia Systems demonstrated the company's technology at an ARPA-E conference. That company is targeting a dramatic jump in lithium ion energy density, with a dramatic drop in cost, and if the final result turns out as projected it would be a game changer in the electric car industry.
In March, Akerson did not explicitly name Envia Systems. This week an AP report repeated statements made by Akerson to a GM employees meeting, which the AP reporter somehow was allowed to hear, where he explicitly named Envia Systems and a potential 200 mile driving range electric car in two-to-four years.