TerraMoto CEO Reports From the Front Lines of the Electric Vehicle "EV" Wars

CEO Quentin Sponselee predicts market winners and losers, and opportunities for consumers
Dec 2, 2009 11:10 AM ET

TerraMoto Transportation CEO Quentin Sponselee foresees challenges ahead for producers of electrified vehicles like the Chevy Volt from GM and the Nissan Leaf as these autos move closer to the marketplace.  Consumer education, cost, and infrastructure are three of the keys to success says Sponselee, describing how automakers can deal with these.

Press Release

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) SAN DIEGO - December 2, 2009 – Electrified vehicles are poised to transform the automobile industry. As the CEO of Terramoto Transportation, Quentin Sponselee is more than just knowledgeable about innovations in the car industry. He has invaluable first-hand experience with these new vehicles and sees himself as a "Master Test Driver" on the front line of the electric car wars, an evaluator of new cars he deals with in his sustainability-oriented transportation business. 

Consumers in Southern California are getting a preview of what the EV wars will look like as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt both made recent tours around San Diego to build momentum for their 2010 launches. "Southern California has become a front-line market for the Leaf and Volt," says Sponselee. "San Diego will play an important role in how these new technology platforms are adopted around the country and it is my responsibility to do more than provide a better service than my competitors. It is also my job to educate the passenger". Sponselee predicts that as early as December 5th, 2009 General Motors Corp. will announce San Diego as a strategic test market and unveil major plans to recapture market share.
In its first year of business, TerraMoto completed 9,414 trips and has become the preferred transportation for San Diego County’s most prestigious hotel and technology companies. As the leading transportation service providing a more sustainable and high quality alternative, Terramoto stands to gain from a clear winner. CEO Sponselee warns though that there are many gaps in consumer education about new vehicles even as the Prius introduces its third generation vehicle prior to introducing plug-in hybrids. "One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our passengers about the Prius is 'Do you have to plug it in?' This is not just asked by San Diegans, but by executives being picked up at San Diego International who are from other parts of the country", says Sponselee.    
While a great deal of excitement has been generated about concept cars, Sponselee contends it's time to move beyond capturing our imagination to harnessing this excitement to sell cars to mainstream consumers. Detroit has struggled with this in the past and Nissan may lose ground as well as they attempt to manufacture electric vehicles in China, the world's largest car market today. "It's been reported that Nissan [the Japanese automaker and its Chinese partner Dongfeng Motor Co.] recently signed an agreement to promote electric vehicles in China and study the possibility of opening a production plant in Guangzhou. This is a will be a big mistake as the US leads in infrastructure investment and infrastructure will be built early in San Diego", says Sponselee . The Nissan Leaf is expected to reach China by 2011, but Nissan has already announced the earlier deployment of up to 1,000 Nissan battery electric vehicles in strategic markets in five US states: Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. 
"Nissan's attempt to penetrate the Chinese EV market will be difficult as the nation has few hybrid and EV owners", says Sponselee. California is world-renowned for early adoption of innovations like the Prius. A Chinese Economic website reports the US sold 13 million new vehicles last year, 313,486 or 2.4 percent of them hybrids. China, by comparison, sold 9.38 million vehicles last year, but only 2,617, or 2.8 out of 10,000, were hybrids. Sales of the Toyota-made Prius have exceeded 1.25 million globally, but only 3,500 of the sedans have been sold in China since they were introduced in the country three years ago.
Sponselee foresees the following challenges to growing the market for electric transportation.
1.        Massive consumer re-education about basic underlying electric propulsion technology and how this will alter their driving habits. “My business operates exclusively on a fleet of hybrid electric vehicles (Prius). While these vehicles have been in the marketplace for several years and I still get questions from passengers about whether they need to be plugged in. My business acts as a subliminal test drive for new technologies and I think car manufacturers would be shocked at the lack of understanding most of my consumers have about electric vehicles.”
2.        Cost – There are a lot of new entrants in the electric vehicle market including V-Vehicle, Aptera, and the Chinese company, BYD. “I don’t think GM is planning on the Volt being a loss leader. However, with a sticker price of $40k before rebates they will have more than Toyota and Nissan to contend with.
3.        Infrastructure – Based on the questions consumers have had at recent Southern CA green transportation events, concerns about charging technology remain at the forefront. “As an operator of a commercial transportation business, anything that adds additional barriers to adoption, such as having to stop to recharge, affects my ability to deliver superior customer service and ultimately my bottom line.”
Knowing that the stakes are high is creating intense competition between foreign and domestic manufacturers. Sponselee is looking forward to seeing how this plays out at this week’s LA Car show and wondering if automakers will make strategic partnerships with local companies, including executive-class transportation companies like TerraMoto. The EV Wars have begun and Terramoto Transportation, Inc. is well-positioned to help grow the market for electric vehicles in Southern California. "We are the key to introducing technology and educating the marketplace. Not to mention, we offer the best visibility for this technology in town," states Sponselee. Would this be a good fit for the Volt?  Would it be better for Nissan, Toyota, or BYD? Only time will tell.
About TerraMoto: TerraMoto Transportation serves San Diego using the most advanced fleet of environmentally friendly hybrid sedan limousines available. Specializing in airport, point-to-point, and chartered services they provide transportation services for executives, businesses, tourists, and many others. Their mission is to provide the highest quality sedan limousine San Diego airport transportation services using an exclusively ultra low emissions hybrid and CNG fleet. The company offers airport meet and greet and curbside pickup limo service from San Diego International Airport (SAN) as well as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport (SNA), and Long Beach Airport (LGB). 
Main Contact: Yeves Perez, (c) 619. 804.1720
Yeves Perez
TerraMoto Transportation
+1-619804ext. 1720