Are Electric-Car Enthusiasts a Little Too Enthusiastic?

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Nissan Europe / Associated Press

Some electric vehicle owners have over-the-top praise for their cars’ performance and practicality. Does that mean the vast majority of drivers on the road are stupid for not being EV early adopters?

Check out this article in the Washington Post, written by a columnist who says “I can’t drive my Mercedes-Benz any more” after owning an electric-powered $60,000 Tesla Model S for a month. Here’s a snippet of the breathless review, appropriately titled “Confessions of a Tesla Fanboy”:

When you step on the pedal in the Model S you skip a few heartbeats. The car literally seems to fly. It is frighteningly quiet and picks up acceleration like a spaceship shifting into warp speed. I’ve raced Formula Fords at Skip Barber Racing School and have driven Porches and Ferraris owned by my friends. They feel like super-charged lawn mowers when compared with the Tesla.

(MORE: It’s Not About the Range: How the Tesla-NY Times Controversy Misses the Point About Electric Cars)

A San Francisco Chronicle story quotes an EV enthusiast named Forrest North, who just so happens to run an app that helps locate EV charging stations, saying, “Plug-in vehicles have crossed over the point of being an economic no-brainer in the last few months.” North had this to say about owning a Nissan Leaf for two years, and driving it about 1,000 miles per month:

“I have not taken it in for a single service in those two years,” he said. “You can fit the entire cost of ownership, lease, service and fuel into the fuel bill of any other normal car.”

Now, if you swallow everything that EV owners like these say, it seems almost idiotic to still be driving around in a vehicle powered by a traditional internal-combustion engine and dropping money at gas stations on a regular basis.

So, are we all just dumb for not hopping aboard the Plug-in Express? Of course not. The truth is that there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical about the costs and practicality of EV ownership. It also seems like there’s good reason to be skeptical about what comes out of the mouths of EV owners.

Is plug-in ownership really “an economic no-brainer”? Jeff Alson, a senior engineer for the EPA, told the Detroit Free Press that he expects by 2025, plug-ins such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt will constitute a mere 2% of the marketplace. Even that estimate, deemed quite optimistic in certain circles, would represent huge growth compared to its current tiny, sub-1% status.

What about the claim that the entire cost of owning a Nissan Leaf is cheaper than what the owner of a standard car pays for gas? Ridiculous. Two years ago, Leafs were being leased for $300 to $350 per month. Figure around $4,000 per year, not including a down payment. Do you spend anywhere near that much on gas? That amount was roughly the same as the average gas bill for an entire American household in 2011. We’re talking about households with more than one car, of course. What’s more, insurance and electricity expenses for EVs aren’t even factored into the cost-of-ownership equation yet. (State and federal rebates for EVs aren’t factored in either.)

(MORE: At Under $19K for a Nissan Leaf, Does the Math on Electric Cars Finally Add Up?)

And how about the review comparing the Tesla’s takeoff to that a spaceship? Presumably, the author of the piece isn’t an astronaut. So perhaps this is hyperbole. He’s allowed to be of the opinion that the car blows the doors off Ferraris and Porsches, mere “lawn mowers” compared to the Model S. Then again, readers are allowed to take that in and think: hogwash. Here’s a guy who seems to be a little too in love with his new toy. After all, he admits that his heart skips a beat when he steps on the gas.

Why would plug-in owners exaggerate how amazingly awesome and surprisingly affordable their vehicles are? Why do they seem to view those who haven’t bought into the new technology with a certain level of disdain, perhaps even pity?

Any honest early adopter will admit that one of the motivations for jumping on new, untested technology is simple bragging rights. The decision is at least partly driven by egotistical, not economic considerations—because we all know that prices for new tech will inevitably drop. (See: the new Nissan Leaf model.) And whether it’s a brand-new EV, Apple product, 3-D TV, or even a fancy ride-on lawn mower, there’s a tendency among all proud new owners to want to show them off and justify the purchase price.

It’s wonderful that plug-in owners love their cars so much. Good for them. But that shouldn’t stop them from being honest about how expensive the vehicles are, and how they’re more limited than gas-powered cars in terms of driving range.

(MORE: The Early Adopter: Trendsetter or Sucker?)

Edmunds.com’s John O’Dell, who covers the green-car marketplace and who has loved owning his Nissan Leaf going on two years, admitted to me that EVs have a long way to go before appealing to the masses. “I like these vehicles. They’re neat,” he said. “But from a purely economic outlook, there are tremendous obstacles in the way of these cars going mainstream.”

So what about the early adopters who consider EV ownership an absolute “no-brainer”? Their infatuation with the new technology, and perhaps with their own status as trendsetters, may be skewing their assessments. “The bulk of plug-in owners are people who have at least sipped the Kool-Aid,” said O’Dell.

84 comments
JayDonnaway
JayDonnaway

Brad's columns frequently mention math yet make minimal use of it, preferring words like 'maybe' and 'probably' alongside his biased  narrative.  I'm no early adopter, having purchased my first Apple product in over 20 years just last year, and my EV replaced a 350 kilomile 1992 Civic after it was declared a total loss for the second time!  Yet this diminutive Mitsubishi silently outruns anything with an engine from the red lights, 'fuel costs' legitimately total out at 2.4 cents per mile, and it's torquey maneuverability makes every trip a joyride.  But what about that 62-mile limited range?  Enough for over 31,000 miles in the first 23 months.  Go try an EV, Brad.  You'll realize that the majority of drivers actually are being stupid, but hey, that just means I was able to get a better deal on my car.  

alutz3
alutz3

This is typical of any disruptive technology. The author is either feeling guilty for not wanting to change his lifestyle, or he is frightened of new technology and change in general.

Disruptive events bring out the haters.

I purchased a used, 2011 Nissan Leaf and have been keeping a diary of the experience. If you're EV curious, follow along! Http://EVearlyAdopter.Blogspot.com

goatea
goatea

I'd like to propose a new term for this type of article: troll journalism. Like the New York Times smear piece, it aims to fire up EV owners and gas drivers alike with their righteous indignation. 

JohnHansen
JohnHansen

The drawbacks of my Chevy Volt...

- I don't care for the radio controls, they could be more intuitive.

- No fifth seat, although this hasn't affected me yet.

- Poor rear visibility (thankfully it has a backup camera).

The benefits...

- Accelerates so smoothly.

- It's so quiet.

- I can actually use all of the power it has available because it doesn't sound or feel like it's going to throw a rod when I put the hammer down.

- Surprisingly good sound system (maybe due to quiet cabin).

- Not going to gas stations is really convenient.

- Being a hatchback, it's really practical. I put a Christmas tree in mine with the hatch closed. I'll never go back to a sedan.

Don't be offended, but it's a really good car.

DavidLaur
DavidLaur

since I have had my LEAF over 25 months, I am one of the ones paying $400 a month lease so no it does not cover the cost of gas in my Prius but after fed tax credit and sales tax waiver for WA State, the total price was LESS than the Prius so I did not have to save on fuel to bring home a lower TCO since it was lower from day one. 

but there is so many reasons why EVs are better and not going to the gas station 2-3 times a month or more is just one of them. the quietness, the smooth acceleration all have value. 

case in point; I use voice to text feature on my droid EXTENSIVELY. if the radio is on in the LEAF, my phone will frequently pick up words from the announcer.  In  the Prius, it never happens and guessing its due to a much higher background ambient noise level.  so is it a pain to turn off the radio everytime I use the speech to text function?  yes it is and its an inconvenience I am more than willing to live with. 

anthonywilliams123
anthonywilliams123

Certainly, I'm a self confessed EV advocate, and for good measure. They do most things that the average consumer needs quite well. Even direct cost analysis of virtually identical cars, like the Toyota Rav4 EV and the V6 oil burning version still compare in favor of the electric version in most categories:

Here’s my $50k Rav4 EV to $30k Rav4 oil burner comparison. At 100,000 miles driven divided by 25 mpg equals 4000 gallons of oil product (gasoline) multiplied by $4 gallon = $16,000 for fuel. I suspect that gas might be more than $4 in the time that the average person might drive 100,000 miles.

For a non-solar electrical costs, I used a generic 12 cents per kWh (USA average), and an economy of 2.5 miles per kWh (from the wall including charger inefficiencies) makes 40,000 kWh consumed in 100,000 miles multiplied by 12 cents equals $4,800 in total electrical energy cost.

Assuming both cars are worth ZERO at the end of 100,000 miles, and oil doesn’t go up, and making no concessions for oil changes or other expensive maintenance costs to the oil burner:

——–Rav4 V6—–Rav4 EV

Cost- $30k ——— $50k

Fuel- $16k ——— $ 4.8k

Fed tax credit — ($7.5k)

California rebate ($2.5k) note: some states have up to $7500

Sub- $46k ——— $44.8k

Obviously, it’s somewhat easy to pay less for electricity with a sub-meter assigned only to EV (I pay 7.7 cents per kWh between midnight and 5 am). If oil prices are high, the electric Rav4 will have a very high resale value that the oil burner won’t. I’m betting on electric!!!

ToddRLockwood
ToddRLockwood

Why is it that some gas powered car owners feel that electric vehicles are a personal affront aimed directly at them? Get over it. If electric cars catch on, it will be because economics made it so, not because of political correctness. When people see their neighbor filling an EV with $10 of electricity, while they're filling their gas powered car with $100 of gasoline, that's when the pendulum will really begin to swing. And it's already beginning to happen.

guzmanchinky
guzmanchinky

Has anyone considered that many (most) people can't even plug them in? I live in an apartment (my guess is a lot of others do too) and I park on the street.

Now what?

Even everyone I know with assigned parking don't have a plug near their space, and those who do don't have the plug assigned to their electric bill. Electric cars are silly until they come up with a way to quick charge them in 5 minutes or less at a Filling/Charging station with a large amp plug, and I'm sure that will happen soon.

DanielFichana
DanielFichana

Well this did convince me that the focus EV is more viable than the regular focus, even if both are leased

Lets see leases

Focus EV - 199/month + 50 for electricity

Focus - 256/month + 130 for gas

Ok- so the EV is almost $150 LESS per month as a commuter car.

Even if you are average and take 5 road trips a year and rent a car for $100, you still make out ahead with an EV.

DavidPaulRose
DavidPaulRose

I have a Renault Fluence ZE from Better Place in Israel. I received my car in April 2012. Since receiving the car my wife and I have driven a combined distance of 22,369 miles. "Some electric vehicle owners have over-the-top praise for their cars’ performance and practicality. Does that mean the vast majority of drivers on the road are stupid for not being EV early adopters?" Yes!



tom.moloughney
tom.moloughney

Wow, what a smear job! C'mon Brad you teach journalism and really put something like this out there with your name on it? Why would you suppose EV owners are so enthusiastic about their cars? Do they have a financial incentive to shill for the technology? No. Will convincing others that EV's are great help them in any way? No. Maybe they are enthusiastic because they love their cars so much and they feel the need to counter balance smear jobs by people that have no experience with EV's and write things about them that are far from the truth. Electric drive is still in it's infancy and already the cars out there provide a better driving experience than gas cars. There are still hurdles to overcome but we are just at the beginning of the evolution to electrics. Overcoming the inertia of the status quo is always a difficult task but better technologies prevail, and electric drive is a better technology. You can continue to fill your car up with foreign oil and send your dollars overseas all you want. I'll be driving on domestic energy and solar electric from my home array from now on. Have fun at the pumps!

PaulScott
PaulScott

You ask the question, "Are EV enthusiasts too enthusiastic?"

The future is clear, oil is finite, and as we use up the easy oil, the rest is harder, read "more expensive") to get. In addition, we in CA recently adopted a carbon cap & trade program. I'm more a fan of "tax and dividend", where you tax carbon and send everyone an equal portion of it. That way, the more efficient you are, the more money you make. But this cap & trade is what we have.

Essentially, they auction some "right to pollute credits". If you are a big polluter, you have to maintain, or reduce, your level of pollution over the years. Most of the credits are given away at first, although quite a bit of money was still made on the auction. The second round of auctions just took place, and the price jumped from $10/ton to $16. This is very small potatoes so far, but it's a start that will slowly expand. You can't shock the system too hard, but you gotta start recovering the enormous costs of oil at some point. The military costs alone, exclusive of war, are $80 billion per year! Let's just recover that over the next year. It's about 50 cents per gallon. We increase the federal gas tax tens cents per gallon every quarter till we get there.

The technology involved in making these cars is pretty simple. They're already the most efficient cars by about 400%. Essentially, the next big thing is to lightweight the car more and get the coefficient of drag as low as possible. The costs are dropping fast and sales are doubling every year. If you're a fan of numbers, you'll take note of that.

Is it too enthusiastic to know that you have the answer to some of the most intractable problems we face, and you drive that car every day, generating its energy from sunlight falling on your roof. The alternative is to not make these cars and remain 99% reliant on oil for your transportation. No matter what the oil companies do, you have to pay them their prices. You see it today, gas prices have gone up nearly 50 cents in a month. WTF??

I, and a lot of my friends, bought EVs over ten years ago. About 35% of us also installed solar to generate cleanpower to run our homes and cars. For over a decade, we've done just that. We've watched the price of gas rise and lower likes tides in a bay. Knowing that the money represented by these machinations of the market, some $800 billion cash flow(!), was easily retained by those who generated their own energy, this engendered a certain "enthusiasm". A little over two years ago, there were about 3,000, EVs in the U.S. Today, there are over 80,000. We are doubling every year. The press treats it as a blip, a niche that will never catch on, but when you look at the consumer response from the likes of JD Power and Consumer Reports, the plug in cars are far and away the most popular based on would they buy the same car again. 

When the alternative is to continue throwing money down the drain, polluting the environment, and giving money to my enemies, you bet I'm going to be enthusiastic! 

All you have to do is drive the dang cars. The technology sells itself. They drive like quick and quiet BMWs, only quicker off the line. They handle like sports cars, even the LEAF, becuase of weight distribution. The charging network is everywher, and growing fast. Many charge stations are free. FREE energy! Where you going to find free gas? No where.

The sooner you make the switch, the sooner you start making money. We now have used LEAFs for under $20K. We even have a new LEAF for $20K. 

jpwhitehome
jpwhitehome

You say " Two years ago, Leafs were being leased for $300 to $350 per month."

That is absolutely accurate.

TODAY they lease for as little as $199/month. Clearly the cost tide has turned in favor of the EV.

I purchased my LEAF outright and am on-track to break even somewhere during year 5 of ownership. Basically a break even deal. However if gas jumps up I win big time. It's hard to lose money on an EV, and one stands to gain some if not a lot.

It's rather insulting for you insinuate that I as an EV owner am untruthful when talking about my EV purchase. I did a lot of study and factored in everything I could think of. Read it for yourself Mr Doubting Thomas. http://wp.me/p1sK3k-i


scratchy
scratchy

If Motor Trend's raving over the Tesla Model S as the first time they can ever rembember that every single judge voted for it as Car of the Year , maybe you can rad what Road and Track wrote today.

"Beautiful, well-crafted, cool, and seriously fast, the Model S isn't just the most important car of the year. It's the most important car America has made in an entire lifetime."


Read the rest of their gushing here: http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-reviews/road-tests/road-test-2013-tesla-model-s

MichaelThwaite
MichaelThwaite

You just have to drive one - On my driveway I have a fancy BMW loaner 335xiquattrosuppermegaturbo, a Tesla Roadster, a gap where the BMW ActiveE goes - it's in for service and a diminutive, lowly Mitsubishi i-MiEV. I just took the i-MiEV to pick up my son - it's a riot to drive, a comedy on wheels that makes me chuckle every time I drive it. I don't laugh at it, I laugh with it. It has, on paper, dreadful specifications compared to the other cars but, it was the goto car tonight - just too much fun to pass up. The polar opposite of the BMW 335 - why? I don't know, you have to try new things to discover new things I guess. Just wish I could get the ActiveE back to displace the dullard, the BMW335whatevvverrrr.

J.MarvinCampbell
J.MarvinCampbell

Instead of bagging on something about which you obviously know nothing, how about driving one- if you're really interested in why all of those other people became such huge fans after driving one. Modern wars are fought for oil, and knowing that I can do all my driving without sending more money to OPEC via the oil companies makes my heart sing. Every day. Fueling my cars with something that falls for free out of the sky is just icing on the cake.

Robert.Boston
Robert.Boston

@bradtuttle: I'm driving out to Northampton in two weeks in my Model S.  If you want to know why its owners love the car, I'm happy to swing up to UMass and you can experience it for yourself.

ForbesBlack
ForbesBlack

Last month, the Chevrolet Volt received, for the second year in a row, the highest owner satisfaction rating of all cars surveyed by Consumer Reports.  The Nissan Leaf and Toyota Plug-In Prius were also near the top of the list, as were all the hybrid models from Toyota and Ford.  Are electric vehicles perfect in every respect?  Probably not, but the people who drive them surely do think they are the best vehicles on the road, hands down.

JohnBarton
JohnBarton

Haha, very funny.  Intentionally write a review using heavy handed language, but extremely soft points, so that other EV supporters can tear it to shreds.  I don't think I've ever seen someone try this hard to turn himself into a strawman.

Why not point out that EV users aren't paying any road tax, and in that way EV's are actually subsidized?

Or that the Leaf owners have reported a whopping 40% loss in battery capacity after a mere 20,000 miles driven?

JohnR
JohnR

@JohnHansen Thank you. I don't own a Volt, probably never will - I'm a senior citizen car nut, now seldom drive. As a gear head for more than 55 years, I'm dismayed that the world isn't flocking to the Volt and Ampera. Perhaps the $5K price reduction will help, though many articles say the dealers were already giving ~$5K discounts to move the cars.

The Volt is a superb piece of engineering - from GM (wow!) It will be interesting to see how the $60K+ Cadillac ELR does.

anthonywilliams123
anthonywilliams123

I purposely left off that Toyota is currently offering $10,000 off the price of the Rav4 EV in addition to whatever discount the dealer may offer (typically $2000-$4000 off MSRP). Sold only at 55 dealers in California.

Advantage EV.

oldhappygamer
oldhappygamer

Your defensiveness does you no credit, sir.

First: Some EV owners are condescending when it comes to their purchase. Once they bought their EV car, anybody who doesn't own one are cretins who don't care about the environment or other drivers hate them. They are either smug or paranoid and neither stance wins hearts and minds.

Second: EV isn't new. Not including the decades of electric cars that came and went without so much as a whimper, the EV1 rolled off the line almost 18 years ago and lasted for 4 before being seized and scrapped.

Third; EV isn't cheap. Toyota Pirus MSRP:$24,200. Dodge Dart MSRP:$15,999. The Dart filled with premium costs $1,900/year, hardly breaking the bank. EV enthusiasts cite leases as a defense, a moot point at best.

Fourth: EV enthusiasts cite the Telsa as a point. All one has to do is scroll the comments here to see that. That's like using the LaFerrari as a defense for gasoline powered cars. Absurd and pointless to the average consumer.

Fifth: EV is mired in political corectness.Were U.S. consumers behind Honda when they released a $6,500 car in the U.S. that got 40MPG city and 50MPG highway? Was the environment less of a concern back then? Was petroleum? Not at $1.24/gallon.

goatea
goatea

@DanielFichana where are you getting a focus EV for $199? As much as I support EV, I don't think those numbers are correct

YuPninit2
YuPninit2

@DavidPaulRose I second. My kids fight over who will take the electric versus taking the Chevy Impala (an excellent vehicle as far as gas cars go). My gas bill has disappeared, whereas my better place bill had already been paid by simply not using the gas car

frahmr65
frahmr65

@JohnBarton When you say "the Leaf owners," you are implying that it is a widespread problem.  If it were the case that drivers were loosing nearly half of the battery capacity after a year-and-a-half of driving were true; then Nissan would immediately cease production of these cars as Nissan is offering battery replacements during the first 60,000 miles if the battery were to suffer from the loss of capacity that you have described.

Why not point out that EV users are not supporting the four-dollar-a-gallon habit and the reason that we have sunk trillions of dollars into an endless war in the middle east? Looking beyond the money, we have sent many thousands of young men and women to their deaths; these people will not be brought back to their families for any amount of money.

At some point, I do agree that, if EV's become more widespread, then we should revisit the road tax issue.  For now, we should recognize that every technological innovation that the human race has achieved came at the cost of capital and resources.  

Subsidies are what makes it possible for some to enjoy (education, transportation, good nutrition, health care, and housing) at the cost of many.

ToddRLockwood
ToddRLockwood

@oldhappygamer I can't speak for all EV owners, but for many of them the primary motivation in owning one is to save money, even though as you pointed out, the purchase cost of an EV is more than the cost of a gas version of the same car. But EV maintenance and fuel costs are so much lower, the overall cost of ownership is cheaper with an EV after a few years of driving.

EVs actually have come a long way since the days of the EV1 thanks to vast improvements in battery technology. And those improvements are continuing. Tesla has pushed the EV's range beyond 250 miles, while the closest competitor is 100 miles. Sure, the Tesla is a luxury-priced automobile, but all groundbreaking technologies are expensive when they first appear... digital watches, digital cameras, and flat screen TVs all went through a high-price early adoption phase. A flat screen TV that was $15,000 when introduced now sells for $500. The same will happen with EVs. Tesla already has plans for a sedan with a $30K base price. The current base price of their Model S is $52,400.

You are correct that the Honda Insight was a tough sell when first introduced because gas prices were not very high at the time and because global warming had not yet become part of the national conversation. With gas approaching $5/gal people will be forced to consider alternatives.

JohnBarton
JohnBarton

@frahmr65 @JohnBarton OK, so I wasn't looking closely enough at my numbers, try these on for size: "One prominent Nissan executive is frequently quoted saying that the LEAF should have 80% capacity in 5 years, and 70% capacity in 10 years, and in fact, he specifically states during a Nissan produced YouTube video that those figures are considered “gradual” loss of capacity"

http://insideevs.com/all-the-results-from-the-largest-independent-test-of-nissan-leafs-with-lost-capacity-not-instrument-failure/

Couple that with the fact that the full advertised range of 100 miles is based on a fully charged battery, but that Nissan specifically states that fully charging the battery could damage it, and you should only charge it to 80%.  Well, now it's only got a range of 80 miles, and in 5 years that will be down to 64 miles.  Sounds fine if you live in the city, I guess.

As for the wars in the Middle East.  Well gas was $1.00/gallon when we went to war in the middle east, and it didn't start going up until about 4 years later.  We WANTED to ensure that gas prices would be stable, but it sure looks like the wars caused the high gas prices, not the other way around.

Even if the gas price was the cause of the war, that doesn't mean that my car killed those people.  Politicians killed those people, because they thought I'd rather have cheaper gas than peace and stability in the middle east.  They were wrong, and that's not my fault.

Subsidies for new technologies help them get adopted, yes.  EV's already have federal, and in many instances state subsidies.  Significant ones.  There's a reason I didn't call it a gas tax, it's not a tax to prevent people from using gas.  It's not like the cigarette tax.  It's the road tax, it's meant to make people who use the roads pay for them.  Do you still have to pay on toll roads driving an EV? Then why don't you have to pay the road tax?  It's the same tax, with a different payment method.

JohnR
JohnR

@oldhappygamer Here is my second set of three references, an addition to my first comment here. These are big picture costs and emission levels. So far, oldhappygamer, you haven't mentioned emissions. Curious.

(1) "State of CHARGE - Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings across the United States", by the Union of Concerned Scientists, June 2012, at 

http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

has an Executive Summary, a Full Report, and extensive data in Technical Appendices. This study covers political and social aspects of battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoption in addition to emission and cost/savings data.

(2) "Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles", by the US Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, at

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php

allows one to enter a ZIP Code to see a breakdown of the electricity sources used, and compare the “well-to-wheels” annual emissions generated from vehicles using electricity from the grid – BEV's; gasoline – ICEV's and Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV's); or a combination of the two – plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV's). The US as a whole is also shown.

Well-to-wheel emissions include all emissions related to fuel production, processing, distribution, and use. In the case of gasoline, emissions are produced while extracting petroleum from the earth, refining it, distributing the fuel to stations, and burning it in vehicles. In the case of electricity, most electric power plants produce emissions, and there are additional emissions associated with the extraction, processing, and distribution of the primary energy sources they use for electricity production.

Overall US power production has, for several years, been getting cleaner as coal-fired power plants get cleaner, and more natural gas-fired power plants and renewable energy sources come on-line. Right now, a little less than 50% of US power comes from coal. Using the current values for the entire US, I calculated that BEV's give an ~(13-8)/13 = ~38.5% overall average reduction in CO2 over ICEV's. In my ZIP Code, 98104, the reduction in CO2 is ~(13-4.9)/13 = ~62.3%. Following this, it is noted that, on average in the US, BEV's incur 1/4 the cost to run ICEV's.

Recap: US average, r/e ICEV's: BEV's produce ~40% less pollution, cost 1/4 to run.

(3) "Renault Fluence and Fluence ZE Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) - Comparison of LCA's for Gas, Diesel, and Battery-Electric Versions of the Same Car", October, 2011, at

http://www.renault.com/fr/lists/archivesdocuments/fluence-acv-2011.pdf

Renault produces the Fluence, a mid-sized sedan, with both gas and diesel engines, and the Fluence ZE, the same car in BEV form. Producing these three versions of the same car gave Renault a great opportunity for comparison of TOTAL emissions, including production and dismantling/recycling the car.

The 116-page report documents an incredibly complex, comprehensive study. Page 91 has a terrific summary diagram, "Figure 22: Environmental impacts of Fluence all along life cycle for diesel 1,5l dCi, petrol 1,6l 16v engines and 5AGen1 electric motor (EU geographic context for fuel and electricity production)". Forget the tortuous title: The main study result appears here in a nice, simple graph that tells an interesting story.

JohnR
JohnR

@oldhappygamer I'm a senior citizen gear head, don't own an EV or hybrid, and probably never will. I've read all of your comments as of today, 10/5/13, and, IMHO, everything you say is correct and defensible. For me, having owned, fixed, modified, and appreciated a few decent internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV's), I paid little attention to EV's and hybrids, except for noticing in passing the fine technical achievement of the Volt/Ampera.

Then came the Tesla Model S, and everything, for me, changed. Many auto journalists think the car represents a paradigm shift. Don't know, but like lots of others, I'm sure something big is up, and hope Tesla succeeds. Ya' gotta' admire their nearly faultless execution so far in a brutal field, and the creation of a tip top car right out of the box - new, radical, superb design; new manufacturing plant; new company. They say to drive one is to be sold. Each Model S owner sells by word of mouth, on average, two more cars. And so on.

The Tesla Motors and overall Elon Musk stories are, IMHO, really compelling, especially as modern American successes in innovation. So, I'm hooked, too. I just don't talk about it much.

I've found that EV's yield notably lower cost than comparable (ICEV's). And compared to comparable German luxobarges, the Tesla pencils out fine.

As a friendly gesture, for you, and others, I offer three references to help us all toe an objective, factual line. (I have three more big picture references that don't fit here space wise, will try to add them in another comment.)

The following are the three best vehicle-by-vehicle cost calculators that I've found to date:

(1) "Vehicle Cost Calculator", US Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, at

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/calc/

Here you can compare total costs of ownership for up to eight vehicles. Just for fun, I threw some ballpark numbers in, and found out that I will indeed reach a break-even between my 1998 Ford Aerostar minivan and a fairly loaded new Tesla Model S. In twenty-four years or so.

(2) "AfterOil EV", at

http://www.afteroilev.com/

This is compact, and appears to me to be very well done. It gives fast answers on a few questions about both costs and emissions.

(3) "COMPARING ELECTRIC CARS TO GAS CARS", by Zachary Shahan, EV Obsession, December 7, 2012, at

http://evobsession.com/comparing-electric-cars-to-gas-cars/

This website gives you an introduction to Mr. Shahan's rationale and assumptions in creating a spreadsheet that compares a Ford Focus Electric with its gas-powered variant, the Focus ST. The idea here is that you can plug in values for the cars you wish to compare, and/or otherwise modify the spreadsheet. This imparts a flexibility to customize or "tweak" the calculations that is not found in the other websites. There are links on Mr. Shahan's website to his spreadsheet at

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsDzwXJeEr1pdDVxT245YWlMLXBPWFF2enB4NjFEeHc#gid=0

plus a link to a website with a similar spreadsheet r/e the Nissan Leaf by its owner at

http://jpwhitenissanleaf.com/2011/03/28/nissan-leaf-scrunching-the-numbers/

goatea
goatea

@oldhappygamer even if you're not 'politically correct' as you put it (though, 'environmentally correct would be a better term'), the numbers add up in favor of EV.  Do the math with long term ownership, lack of gas purchase, low maintenance cost and I think you'll be surprised. Plus, as more people adopt the technology, the prices will come down. You mention Tesla. Have you heard of a Leaf? A Ford Focus EV? Those are much more reasonable and their prices have reduces since their inception. It's very typical that a high end market drives demand. This was true when personal computers were first used. Should we have stopped innovating in 1983 because my God a 10 MB hard drive cost $3000? Only for those dirty rich people! By your logic, we will not innovate at all. Plus, you're forgetting the envrionmental aspect. I think breathing clean air is a tremendous factor in considering an EV car. Lastly, you might want to drive one of these things, you honestly won't want to go back to gas. 

oldhappygamer
oldhappygamer

You're talking long term in a economy that struggles with the day to day. When a family of three is living off of 30-50k, the Prius isn't in reach.

Yes, the EV has come along way just like the EV1 came a long way from it's predecessors. It's was a niche market then and, 18 years later, it still is. Telsa is the EV people use to try to show how 'epic' the EV can be. It's always brought up when articles like this are made. My point still stands, The Telsa S, with a base price of $52k is an absurd point to the average household. And it would be just as absurd if gas powered car owners used the Cayman as a point of reference. What the price of the Telsa may be in the far flung future is immaterial to the here and now.

The car i was referring to is the Honda CRX. Frankly, i'm not surprised that this wasn't the first Honda you thought of, and just solidifies my point about political correctness being at least part of the reason why people buy EV in the first place. The CRX got 50MPG highway back in 1983....and the US consumer didn't care. And why would they? gas was only $1.25/gallon back then.

EV friendly and low emission cars existed way before the EV market finally started getting attention. The people who didn't give a damn back then are pretending to care now. It's the same old story.

PatBahn
PatBahn

@JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 large central generators are easier to clean up.  They tend to run more efficiently then small motors and as a large source can be attached to scrubbers

JohnBarton
JohnBarton

@solarcharge_it @JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 I think you push your point to hyperbole saying that cars are "horribly environmentally destructive", but that aside, why are you insisting that I produce a magical transportation method?  I'm not saying that there's a way to have your cake and eat it too, I'm just pointing out that a lot of EV supporters imply that they get to, because EV's are blameless and perfect.

My point is that it's a choice and like every other choice we make it is a tradeoff.  It doesn't use gasoline, but it does use grid power, which is primarily coal.  The power doesn't cost much, but it doesn't have the range you'd like (and that range starts decreasing from the day you drive it off the lot).  No, it doesn't put hydrocarbons into the environment just by running it, but it does have hazardous waste disposal issues that other cars don't.

Whether these tradeoffs are worth it or not isn't my point, only that there IS  a tradeoff, and that there are still issues.

solarcharge_it
solarcharge_it

@JohnBarton @solarcharge_it @PaulScott @frahmr65 So, then -- what's your perfect, 100 percent no-environmental impact solution? My point is that all human products create environmental problems, that there's a continuum going from horribly environmentally destructive (that's where I put gasoline cars) to electric vehicles fueled by renewable generated electricity (far better than gasoline cars) to bicycles (which still require raw materials) to walking (which still requires shoes, etc.). 

I see it so often where someone disses, say, EVs, or some product, doesn't matter what, on the grounds that it still creates environmental pollution, then, they don't offer any other solution. And, I'm not saying this is you, but 90% of these folks don't give a damn about the environment. They're just trying to, in very unpersuasive and unsophisticated fashion yell, "Hypocrite -- look, you're still polluting with your carbon fiber bicycle", and here comes the HUGE leap in logic (if you can call 'logic'), THEREFORE, because your carbon-fiber bike requires raw materials be mined, energy used when it's made, etc. it's just as bad as my Hummer!

Yup, that's exactly how the argument is made. I've seen it a thousand times. And it is a totally unsophisticated and completely unpersuasive argument, as it fails to take into account the fundamental reality of gradations of human impact on the environment. Not saying that's you -- but that's sure how you came across in the reply to which I originally replied.

JohnBarton
JohnBarton

@solarcharge_it @JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 Did you read ANY of the rest of my discussion?  I have no problem with EV's themselves, I just think they should pay a road tax.  I'm not saying they pollute MORE than fossile fuels, just that they have batteries that will wear out, and both manufacture and disposal create hazardous waste.

I'm not saying EV's are useless, merely that they're not perfect.

It's easy to say that Lithium Ion batteries are a great, clean technology, when the only people who suffer for it are the Chinese mine workers and the Indian workers who will have to deal with reprocessing them, generally with little or no safety equipment.

What a sophisticated and logical arguement -- and oh, so persuasive. Not!

solarcharge_it
solarcharge_it

@JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 Typical status quo cynic: If the alternative isn't "perfect", e.g. building solar panels produces some pollution (which, clearly, should be cleaned up), requires some raw materials, etc. then, "obviously" we have to stay with the fossil fuel status quo. No matter that the fossil fuel status quo is far more polluting, far more damaging to human health than a solar-charged EV (would you rather sit in a tunnel with 90 diesel trucks or 90 solar-charged EVs John!), there is no continuum -- it's an "either/or" choice. Either we get to the point where we have no negative environmental impact OR we stick with the horribly polluting status quo. Wow, what a sophisticated, logical argument -- and oh, so persuasive. Not!

JohnBarton
JohnBarton

@PaulScott @JohnBarton @frahmr65 You're not understanding the SOURCE of the military cost.  When we went to war the government didn't say "this is about oil, and if you want to gas your car up you're going to have to pay for this war".  You can't retroactively apply a tax NOW based on what we did 10 years ago.  If they had suggested that we levy a tax on gas at the pump to pay for the war, we wouldn't have gone, because no one wants that.

I didn't read your rand study, but I did search for it Iraq, war, military and gulf (as in Persian gulf) and I got absolutely no reference to the Iraq war on any of those.  In fact, the word Iraq doesn't appear in that article.  So I'm not sure where your numbers are ACTUALLY coming from, but they don't seem to come from that article.

My source actually states, on page 8, that 70% of our petroleum consumption goes to the transportation sector, which was surprising to me, I thought it was much less than that:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40187.pdf

As for the health impacts of gasoline, where do you think the electricity for your car comes from?  Unless you have wind, solar or hydro at your house then it comes from the grid, which is 42.2% coal and 24.8% natural gas, so you're far from being without blame on health effects.

If you do have solar, then maybe you should think about the health and environmental effects of mining and refining the rare earth metals that are used in your solar panels.

guythall
guythall

@JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 It's more complex than that. EV drivers pay tax on the electricity they use. A city planner told me the tax from EV drivers is 5 times higher than what they get from gas sales.

PaulScott
PaulScott

@JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 You aren't understanding the costs properly. I'm in agreement that all cars should pay for road maintenance. Currently, the federal tax for that is way too small to cover all the costs. You, and all other car drivers, are not currently paying enough in taxes to maintain the roads.

The military costs are a completely separate issue. The RAND study I referenced, http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP320.html, was very specific that the $80 billion in military costs protecting our access to oil was exclusive of the Iraq war. Personal transportation uses about 40% of total oil use. So, it is fair to allocate 40% of that $80 billion in taxes on the price at the pump. Of course, we've been spending this $80 billion, or some percentage of it, for decades, so if we were really fair, we'd tax gasoline and diesel even more to make up for the lost revenue, but I'd be happy if we just started recovering the immediate expenditures.

There are quite large costs of oil having to do with health and environmental damage, but they are hard to quantify accurately. It would be fair, however, to at least throw another 25 cents/gallon toward that as well.

frahmr65
frahmr65

@JohnBarton @PaulScott @frahmr65 This is being made out to be more complicated than it really is.  The bottom line is that certain tradeoffs are made when you buy an EV.  It requires planning if you need to venture farther in one day than the battery can supply.  


In exchange, you are receiving a vehicle that should require substantially less maintenance, is a lot cheaper to power, and switches to a domestic source of energy.  If you are happy with what you have and don't care about where your fuel comes from or the uncertain future of oil, then you are wasting your time here.

JohnBarton
JohnBarton

@PaulScott @JohnBarton @frahmr65 I do want cars to pay for THEIR OWN external costs.  They already pay a road tax for that.

What you're saying is that the choice of our politicians to go to war over should be paid for by people who drive cars.

The difference is that users of all cars directly effect the wear on the roads, and they all benefit directly from use of the roads.  On the other hand wars are only indirectly related to the use of gasoline powered cars.  If I had to personally go kill someone to get gasoline for my car, then I'd say "sure, tax me on the use", or even if the wars were unanimously supported.

Besides, large industry is a much larger market for crude oil.  When you consider the residential and commercial uses you find that personal transportation is far from the majority of crude oil usage.  Singling out passenger cars for their role is really not the best way to deal with the issue.

PaulScott
PaulScott

@JohnBarton @frahmr65 Your convoluted explanation aside, you seem to be implying that the military costs are not associated with oil. According to RAND, we are spending $80 billion per year on military protection for oil EXCLUSIVE OF WAR. Most people agree that oil had a lot to do with why we went to war in Iraq. We've spent $1.5 trillion from our treasury and lost thousands of dead and tens of thousands of wounded soldiers. 

When you buy gas, you pay for none of that.

This is the purest and easiet to quantify of all the massive external costs of oil. If you want to make EVs pay a road tax, seems you would want gas cars to pay for their external costs, too. If not, why not?