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Electric cars may be coming, but they will come much more slowly than you might expect from all the publicity. The price is one problem. It's the batteries. To get an e-car with more range, you need more batteries.

The battery companies don't hand out the price list to me, and the carmakers keep it a secret, too. But we're taking about lithium ion batteries of some type, and from what I've heard, the batteries needed to give a car a 40-mile range cost around US$10,000. Batteries for a 100-mile range may run US$25,000 or more.

There's the legend that with mass production the cost will go down. Maybe, but that's bunk when it comes to certain materials. Take oil. Production is way up from the old days, and so is the price -- I remember US$3 a barrel, but now it's around US$70 today. Indeed, OPEC might be a model for LIEC, a lithium ion producers' cartel, when they realize how important it is.


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