Why Consumers Aren’t Buying Electric Cars

Yves here. Even though this article didn’t unpack it, the reservations about range and recharging time for electric cars are not trivial. What happens when you run out of juice? You are looking at being towed, as opposed to getting a friendly driver, a cop, or AAA to give you a gallon of gas so you can limp to the nearest gas station. On top of that, in winter, because electric vehicles don’t generate heat (at least the way combustion engines do), running the heater cuts into the range. Wired, for instance, reports this year that the range falls by about 20%….and on top of that, recommends not letting the battery charge fall below 20%.

Originally published at OilPrice

Enthusiasm among drivers is lacking about autonomous vehicles and even electric cars, J.D. Power’s latest Mobility Confidence Index has revealed.

The results of the survey would be surprising—and bordering on shocking–for the proponents of EVs and all the headline space these vehicles are getting, with analyst forecasts for their adoption overwhelmingly optimistic. Unlike them, consumers are not as optimistic about the future of plug-in cars and self-driving vehicles.

According to the survey, electric cars scored a mobility confidence index reading of 55 on a scale of 100. Self-driving cars scored even lower, at 36 points, which would hardly be a surprise since this technology has yet to mature, and developing trust in it would be a long process.

“Out of the box, these scores are not encouraging,” said J.D. Power’s executive director of Driver Interaction & Human Machine Interface Research. “As automakers head down the developmental road to self-driving vehicles and greater electrification, it’s important to know if consumers are on the same road—and headed in the same direction. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now. Manufacturers need to learn where consumers are in terms of comprehending and accepting new mobility technologies—and what needs to be done.”

Indeed, the results are worrying, especially for EVs which have been hailed as the drivers of a transport revolution. According to the survey, there are still a lot of people who wouldn’t buy an EV: just 39 percent said they would buy one. Even more people don’t believe EVs are as reliable as ICE cars: 51 percent. One thing the majority of respondents in the survey were positive about in EVswas their beneficial effect on the environment.

Among the top problems noted by respondents were the length of time it takes an EV to charge and the length of its range. According to the majority, the former needs to be shortened and the latter extended before they would consider buying an electric vehicle.

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174 comments

  1. Martin Cohen

    Yup. Refills and price. I recently replaced a dying 2006 PT Cruiser (I liked a lot about it) with a 3 year old 2015 Honda Fit. Cost $13,000. My motto: “Good enough is good enough.” Same reason I got a refurbished 2015 MacBook Air.

    Can get gas anywhere, fills in 5 minutes. When an EV can do it, I might consider it.

    Reply
    1. I. A.

      That day is today: a Tesla Model 3 on the new “v3” supercharger will recharge the first 100 miles in just 7 minutes, and 184 miles in 14.5 mins.

      But the article is missing several other points and facts as well:

      – Around 90% of the EV charging sessions happen at home, overnight, with cheap base-load electricity rates. An EV like a Model 3 is fully ‘filled up’ every morning – and charging at a charging station becomes the exception for long road-trips. The average U.S. car is used only 2 hours a day, so charging speed doesn’t matter if it’s plugged in either at home or at work during the other ~22 hours. An EV can be recharged from as little as a drier outlet.
      Consumer Reports found that the most satisfying car model among all cars in the U.S. is the Tesla Model 3, edging out BMW and Porsche. Over 80% of existing Tesla owners never want to buy a gascar again. They sure must know something, and they sure must be satisfied with their EV, right?
      Survey confirms that consumers are holding up car purchases as their interest for electric vehicles increases.
      – ICE manufacturers have officially entered recession in 2019, with Wall Street issuing a “Peak Car” warning, while EVs sales are growing double digit percentages.

      A modern EV is a significant upgrade over an ICE car – and this is visible both in surveys and rapid EV sales growth, combined with shrinking ICE car sales and dropping ICE OEM profits.

      Reply
      1. I. A.

        I forgot to address the ‘winter range’ concerns:

        – In Norway, whose population sure must know something about hard winters, EVs are the more popular winter cars, in part because their motors are a lot less sensitive to cold weather and are much more reliable to start when deep frozen. This is visible through sales stats as well: “Tesla becomes best-selling brand in Norway, pushing electric car market share to almost 50%”. (The other, bigger reason for EV popularity are economics: the significant emissions taxes that CO2 emitting gasoline cars have to pay.)
        – Range primarily decreases in the winter if the battery pack is allowed to get cold – which as Yves points out has to be warmed up again. What is not mentioned is the fact that many owners in Norway use heated garages or keep their EV plugged in overnight – and with a pre-heated battery pack the winter range loss is much less significant, as even EVs will generate some waste heat as they function.
        – If you park your EV on the street then they can be remote heated before you enter it. The heating of the passenger cabin and the battery pack is mostly a one time hit to range – the rest of the trip goes from the remaining range.
        – If you charge at home, as most EV owners do, then winter range is not a problem even if you park your car outside or in an unheated garage, because the heating of the battery pack is done from grid electricity – which is an order of magnitude cheaper in Norway than gasoline or diesel.

        So yes, Yves is correct that winter range can be lower, but it’s very straightforward to handle in most usage scenarios, and EVs are hugely popular in Scandinavian countries and in Canada as well due to their various cold weather advantages that gascars lack.

        Reply
        1. upstater

          Preheating the passenger cabin is fine if you’re traveling a short distance in under half an hour. But anything much longer in winter or high speed, the heat will be on constantly.

          I also find it difficult to imagine the creaky electric grid can support tens of millions of EVs without massive rate increases on every residential electrical consumer

          Reply
          1. Stephen A. Verchinski

            Do we have options for the ICESOV? Yes all hope the market for EVSOV matures but this is also a systems problem . Yes, you can build EV’s but I have yet to see asphalt substitutes for all our roadways. Yes, we can build EV’s but does the Energy Invested for Energy Returned make any sense? This also goes past the matter of transitioning and maturing a new industry to continued profitability to sustainably on a finite planet. One planet undergoing daily reporting of scientific studies of collapsing ecosystems.

            Sadly looking to our government and media to raise public awareness and helping to build consensus has been lacking.

            Then staying the same course and hoping no one notices that peak oil 2 has arrived.

            There is a huge day of reckoning postponed by the unsustainable fracking in the USA. A few recent views of the profitability of the industry indicated that none, none of the top 25 companies were profitable.

            I do not know how this squares with an industry that projects to have another million wells in the USA in 20 years. New data shows they also consume water (ground and surface freshwater as well as brackish) now up to and past 10 million gallons a well. That, is a significant loss of terrestial resources just to produce sudsidized oil.

            We are Furred.

            Reply
          2. Anon

            My local community college (CA) has placed solar PV panels above the parking areas of the West Campus. They provide charging power to staff EV vehicles below. This Fall they will provide power for (multi-passenger) student vehicles. I’m looking to buy a VW Buzz (EV) in2022.

            Reply
        2. bob

          In Norway, most people live in more moderate climates, next to the ocean, where temps aren’t that extreme.

          Norway also has an completely different electricity infrastructure than anywhere else, as well as huge subsidies to push people toward using natural gas generated electricity.

          The comparison of a nation of 5 million, with huge hydro carbon reserves, to the US, with over 300 million isn’t even in the same ballpark.

          Norway has made the decision to export the more easily exported liquid fuels and to burn the less transportable natural gas for electric generation. Is that green?

          Reply
          1. a different chris

            >The comparison of a nation of 5 million, with hu

            Weird thing to say on a website that spends a lot of time pointing out how different segments of the US are. Like, I dunno, almost different countries!

            Reply
          2. Pelham

            Plus Norway is a geographically tiny country and most people live near work. In the US we need cars that are capable of short commutes, quite lengthy commutes and driving vast distances.

            Few US households these days can afford one car for short drives and another for longer trips. That’s even more the case if the short-trip car costs north of $30,000 at a time when the average household can’t afford to buy even one average ICE car.

            Also, how long do the batteries last? What happens to thousands of pounds of these toxic batteries (per car) when they can no longer hold a charge?

            Reply
            1. Anon

              The battery lifetime is a function of the charge/discharge cycle. It’s longer than just a few years (I.A. probably knows more.). EV’s haven’t been around long enough to generate a large recycling operation, but one is likely to occur as EV’s proliferate.

              Personally, I can’t understand the reticence toward EV’s. We need to make DRASTIC reductions in CO2 (if not, lifestyle changes) or we’ll all be dead soon.
              EV’s and more fast mass transit are part of the solution to an existential problem.

              Reply
              1. LyonNightroad

                Transportation is only 2% of global energy use and private transportation is a trivial fraction of that

                Reply
                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Making things up is against out written site Policies. Do this again and you will be blacklisted.

                  From the EIA:

                  About 28% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2018 was for transporting people and goods from one place to another.

                  https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_transportation

                  And

                  The Energy Information Administration has released data showing that the transportation of people and goods accounts for about 25 percent of all energy consumption in the world and that passenger transportation, in particular light-duty vehicles, accounts for most transportation energy consumption. Light-duty vehicles alone consume more than all freight modes of transportation, such as heavy trucks, marine and rail.

                  https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/transport-uses-25-percent-of-world-energy

                  That does not include the energy used to transport goods to and from the US by sea.

                  Reply
          3. PlutoniumKun

            Norway has zero gas powered electricity generation apart from a few small scale co-generators. Its electricity supply is almost 100% hydro with a bit of wind.

            Its also news I’m sure to Norwegians that they live in a moderate climate. Its well below zero, day and night, for pretty much the entire winter, interspersed with powerful Atlantic storms. A few south-western facing fjords benefit from warmer winds and currents, but that’s a very localised effect. The north of Norway is the location many European car makers choose for extreme weather testing of their new model cars for a reason.

            Reply
          4. Winston S

            Here’s my two cents, speaking as a Norwegian working in the oil industry and owning an EV (Tesla Model 3) with a 100% range of ~500km during the summer, dropping to ~400km during winter.

            Norway’s electricity consumption is met by nearly 100% renewable power, of which hydroelectric is more than 99%, the rest being wind turbines. That’s pretty green, at least in terms of co2 emissions (nature degradation by building dams and putting rivers in pipes is a separate discussion, but not unproblematic). The only place where any natural gas is burned is on the older offshore oil platforms to power operations. We do however also export and import power from EU, which may or may not be green.

            Since 2011, practically all new offshore oil&gas developments have been required to install huge power cables from shore, to be powered with onshore renewable power. We’re even looking into deploying offshore wind turbines to replace/supplement natural gas turbines on older oil&gas platforms.

            Our annual natural gas (clever marketing) production (100-120 BCM) is in its entirety exported to Europe through one of the worlds most extensive pipeline system, covering about 20% of the whole EU annual gas demand.

            Wrgt EVs, they have been heavily incentivised in Norway, helping to achieve an almost 50% market share of new sales so far in 2019. If you’ve said that 7 years ago when market share where in the low single digits, people would have ridiculed you. Exempt from toll charges, free ferries (means a lot in the country with among the longest coast line in the world!) free public parking, allowed to drive in the bus lane, no VAT (which for gas cars is 25%). No VAT and other taxes means that the up front sticker price for EV is competitive or even cheaper than comparable gas cars – and that’s before factoring in operational cost. An EV typically has 20-50 moving parts, whereas a gas car has ~2.000. Meaning maintenance cost is drastically lower (1/10-1/3 depending on car quality). As is fuel cost, about 1/10 here in Norway (admittedly somewhat helped by relatively low power prices and relatively high taxes on gas/diesel).

            Those incentives will not last forever however, indeed some of the benefits has begun to roll back already as the car fleet is rapidly electrifying. The conservative (!) government has a target of 100% EV sales by 2025 – it remains to be seen if it will be achieved but it tells you something. Most people charge at home (I have an 11kw home charging station, which means my Model 3 use approx 4 hours from 20-80% – the typical charging scenario). I plug it in when I come home and schedule charging at night when power prices and grid load are much lower. The charging infrastructure (both public, private and Tesla’s proprietary Superchargers) is also expanding quickly, and range anxiety has been replaced by “queue anxiety” as it is not expanding quickly enough.

            The case of Norway is to me illustrating how fast the EV transition might go when people are educated properly, there’s proper infrastructure and incentives in place, a wide selection of cars to choose from, and up front cost is competitive (it already is in many countries on a lifetime basis).

            Reply
              1. Winston S

                Ha ha.. Have to admit I don’t know much about Alberta, but it doesn’t sound good when you put it that way..

                Reply
        3. d

          Course not noted,in winter gas and oil powered cars also impacted by winter, its basic chemistry, low Temps impact both.

          Reply
        4. Math is Your Friend

          “EVs are hugely popular in Scandinavian countries and in Canada as well due to their various cold weather advantages that gascars lack.”

          How odd.

          No one I know is a fan of electric cars. No one I know owns one. Most of the people I know are highly educated technical professionals*, who are quite adept at analyzing the suitability of a proposed product for actual use.

          (*And yes, one of them is an actual, real life Rocket Scientist, to drag in a largely irrelevant but amusing stereotype.)

          From here it looks like EVs are for people with limited use cases who enjoy virtue signalling and taking government money.

          When they stop spending my money to help someone buy a second or third car for virtue signalling, sales of EVs have a distinct tendency to drop toward zero.

          And no one I know would even consider driving an EV on a significant trip during the winter.

          So, yes, they may be hugely popular in a small echo chamber of subsidy seeking virtue signallers, but that’s about it.

          The model S standard range starts at a little over $100,000, and goes up to a bit over $117,000.

          The former government, thankfully now gone, would hand out $14,000 to people who wanted to burnish their ‘green credentials’ by buying top end Teslas.

          After a certain amount of screaming by an outraged populace, they restricted the maximum price of subsidized cars to no more than $75,000.

          As a comparison, I can buy a brand new Accord, Camry, or Sonata for about $26,000 to $28,000 MSRP. $50,000 will buy a lot of gasoline, and replacing a battery in these cars is $100, not more like $10,000.

          And I can have these cars maintained and repaired, and get parts the same day, in most of the non-wilderness part of the country, not just in a few large cities.

          I dug up figures from 2017, before the provincial government’s giveaway program ended, and found there were 9,838 battery EVs sold in Canada. About 80% of those were in Ontario and Quebec, which have much warmer weather than most of the country, and had, at the time, large provincial subsidies.

          That year sales of passenger vehicles were 639,823 units (down 3.4%) for cars and 1,398,975 units (up 8.7%) for SUVs and light trucks – fast becoming the preferred passenger vehicles.

          That would put battery EV sales at 9,838 / (639,823 + 1,398,975) = .0048 of all passenger vehicles.

          If a bit less than half of one percent, when bolstered by numerous preferential policies and large subsidies, is your definition of ‘hugely popular’, we may be working from different dictionaries.

          Those policies? For example, some airports decided to move handicapped parking so they could put dedicated Tesla parking in the best spots. One suspects money changed hands, but I don’t know the details. These perqs become meaningless if EVs become even a fifth as common as the EV fanbois claim they will.

          If I had a short commute, and if I wanted to buy a second car, I could use an EV… but it would be a second car, and I sure wouldn’t buy it. I’d lease, and let someone else worry about replacing a dead battery pack and the uncertain resale value… but the government better give me a good payoff to do so. I’d keep an IC vehicle for significant trips or busy days. I’d probably change my existing car to a largish SUV, for the added capacity and better winter emergency potential. Is that a win for the environment? Somehow I doubt it.

          And the impact on the electrical grid has yet to be demonstrated. I ran a few estimates on recharging needs on the Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal corridor based on observed refueling activity in service centres, service centre spacing, observed existing traffic, recharging times, recharging power levels for Tesla chargers, battery behaviour in recharging and in cold weather, typical local winter weather observed travelling that corridor, and ran up a few numbers.

          I don’t want to type out all the detailed calculations right now, but with quite conservative estimates for traffic volume (I think they may be somewhere between 1 and 3 binary orders of magnitude low, but will have to do more data diving to be sure – but my best estimate is that no battery EV should try that trip in the winter time unless the ‘range’ is at least 300 km, to give a good chance of reaching the next service centre to recharge.

          Taking things into account, it looks like every 100 km of road would need the equivalent of about 15% of a nuclear reactor’s generating capacity to drive the required charging stations… (guessing variability of +/- 2.5%).

          Trip time would approximately double assuming chargers were immediately available on arrival. Since IC cars line up for 20 or so pumps at each station, refilling at least 300 km worth in about five minutes, that’s an optimistic estimate unless there are an enormous number of chargers available for an 80% charge in 30-40 minutes.

          The full math includes calculations on recharging time, vehicle numbers, variation of recharging rates due to temperature and current battery charge, available power levels for chargers, intervals of service centres, effects of weather and temperature on EV range, choices of contingent reserves for unexpected events like road closures and detours, availability of charging overnight other than at service centres, and so on.

          The longer you look at it the more complicated it becomes, and very few of the details decrease the distance travelled or increase the range expected from a given charge.

          I can see EVs being popular with rich homeowners in downtown Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal who feel a need to be trendy or have something to brag about. The farther you get from that, economically, geographically, or in terms of use case, the less likely an EV will be considered even marginally adequate.

          For those of you who don’t think about geography much, please remember that Canada is bigger, more spread out in terms of population, and much colder than the continental US.

          For that matter, the whole Texas is Big meme is a bit of a joke north of the border, given that three provinces are all larger than Texas. We tend to think of it as Texas isn’t Tiny.

          My cousins living in the Yukon tended to think nothing of driving 200 miles (320 km) to a good restaurant for dinner. It’s all what you are used to dealing with, and here a lot of it is cold, long dark winters, low population areas, and distance from everything to everything, moderated in a few high density urban areas.

          Something eminently suitable for a 20 mile commute in southern California can fail miserably up here for a large part of the year over much of the country.

          Also remember that in a lot of Canada, there is a ‘cottage’ tradition, where people live in and around cities but maintain a second home, used in summer, and often in the winter for vacations, holidays, and recreation. These are in much less developed areas, often hundreds of kilometers away, and many people go there every weekend for six months of the year, more if they ski, or hunt, or snowmobile. ‘Cottage country traffic’ is A Thing that you deal with every Friday, Sunday, and often, Saturday morning for several months.

          Now consider that getting a 60 amp service to a cottage can be a very expensive undertaking. More power? I’m willing to bet that you pay a fair bit more. Anyone want to guess the density of available EV chargers in the farther reach of cottage country?

          Inter-city traffic – on weekends, if you are lucky, the 401/MCF/Autoroute 20 from Windsor to Toronto to Montreal is pretty much full with cars rolling along at 120+, most of them going several hundred kilometers, or more. The part of the 401 going through Toronto is one of the busiest highways in North America. Keeping that traffic going, if EVs are used, is a massive undertaking.

          I invite anyone with the time and inclination to dig up the traffic statistics, and to try to rough out charging power needs under challenging conditions – probably winter – and the accompanying infrastructure requirements. I’d love to see a second run at the numbers.

          A related problem, the rapidly soaring price of electricity, is an issue for another day.

          Reply
      2. Retired

        The 90% charging at home is key. For us it’s closer to 98%. Think about it, how often do ICE cars leave their home with a completely full tank of gas? Basically 0% unless you have a pump in your garage. I too had some “range anxiety” when we bought the car but it quickly disappeared. Living in CA range anxiety should only be reserved for those driving more than 300 miles a day which is a very small percentage of the population. Living in the middle of Nebraska? Then range anxiety is real.

        Although we’re not on Peak Demand Pricing we charge out car after 10:00 PM as to not charge during peak demand. My wife loves not having to go to the gas station. The downside? She asks me to clean her windshield.

        Reply
        1. a different chris

          I have “range anxiety” a lot on my (gas) vehicles — because I am absentminded and often find myself going to work with the fuel ibumping E. The first gas station I come to is not far away, but it is after a long, long hill climb. Several times a year I climb that hill with my fingers crossed.

          Plugging in when I come home, which will happen sometime in the not so distant future, will make a big diff.

          The few times I do have a long highway run — it seems that I don’t ever think to check the gauge until I have just entered the Pa Turnpike. Now being low on fuel *there* is certainly exciting.

          Reply
      3. mauisurfer

        Are you serious? You say:
        “The average U.S. car is used only 2 hours a day, so charging speed doesn’t matter if it’s plugged in either at home or at work during the other ~22 hours. An EV can be recharged from as little as a drier outlet.”
        Do you fail to realize that people do NOT buy cars so that they will be limited to
        “average” 2 hours use per day.

        Reply
        1. kevin

          Plenty of 2 car families can. Only need one car for vacations/long distances. The second one is entirely a get to work/short errands car

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Huh? As Elizabeth Warren pointed out in The Two Income Trap back in what, 2003, families now often have two cars because they have two earners. I don’t know where you get this long distance/short distance car construct from.

            Reply
      4. d

        And the shorter time to charge is coming, I recall there was a story a few months ago where they figured out way they charge slow now. Its based on how electricity flows from charger to car, if they fix that, it really shortens the time to recharge to minutes from hours

        Reply
    2. ambrit

      Why was the PT Cruiser dying? We had to replace the radiator on Phyl’s 2001 PT and the overheating problems were solved. (Of course, I do my own auto repairs, up to head gasket replacement, cutting out a lot of maintenance costs. The labour on an auto repair job can become prohibitive.)

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Is the car a primary vehicle or a secondary vehicle? My dad has a 1994 Ford Taurus which has a head gasket replaced among other items, but it hasn’t been his primary, reliable vehicle since 2003ish.

        Based on the alternative presented (Assuming a person like my older sister wasn’t the previous owner), I think the choice presented was fantastic.

        Reply
      2. Polar Donkey

        I only buy used cars. Saw a used 2012 Leaf i liked but it was in a city 200 miles away. I would need to get a truck with trailer to get it. Then need to put in a 240v electrical outlet in my carport. Here in Memphis, the city is 340 square miles and the surrounding suburbs are pretty far out. I am lucky to live about 9 miles from work, so an electric car would be great for me. But I am not the average Memphian. Only a handful of charging stations around town, so you have to be disciplined with your driving. These things make the new electric car market virtually non-existent and therefore no used electric cars. Not to get too down on teslas, but Elon Musk is a douche bag and the people who are buying them in the Memphis area seem to fall in that same demographic.

        Reply
        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I only buy used cars

          This is basically true for myself and my family. Dad ran into needing a vehicle after cash for clunkers, so he did buy new.

          Dad told me about Ira, the name on half the cars in Taxachussetts in the 00’s. Dad must have bought five junks from Ira, not a salesman working for Ira but Ira when he was just a used car dealer. Ira had developed a reputation for doing trade ins back in the day. Dad said he pulled up in whatever junk he had (he would know), and he could see Ira come running out of his office on the lot shouting, “no trade in, no trade in.”

          My dad said he was quick on his feet and claims he said, “that sounds fair.”

          Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      What makes you think that through the depletion of the planet’s resources, that we won’t be back to horses in the 2120s?

      Reply
      1. John A

        That infamous prediction back in the Victorian Age that the streets of London would be a yard deep in horseshit in the 21st century, might belatedly come true, perhaps?

        Reply
        1. Monty

          @isotope I have done some reading since I first saw your alarming posts pointing to near term extinction. Nature Bats Last etc.

          Wouldn’t you agree that even in the worst of the worst case scenarios (+11c), there will be areas where life can persist. i.e. Further from the equator, higher altitudes.

          What are the mechanisms you see that will turn everything to the Sahara?

          Reply
  2. Ranger Rick

    Will EVs even have a (nominal) ten-year lifetime similar to traditional vehicles or are we looking at another cellphone-style planned obsolescence?

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        From the prices I keep seeing for used cars today, that is too true. Plus, the older cars are easier to work on at home.
        Our neighbor has his Dad’s ’63 two door Thunderbird garaged next door right now. I don’t know what’s wrong, if anything. But you can just about sit on the fender and work inside the engine compartment of that tank.

        Reply
      2. d

        And most have that life span now days. Electric cars are much simpler than IC are, no plumbing to speak of, along with other things. So its easy to get them long

        Reply
    1. Knifecatcher

      Ours is 4 years old with 40k miles. Based on the current battery condition it should make it to 10 years / 100k miles with well over 80% of the original battery capacity remaining. The battery chemistry improved significantly between the first 2011 Leaf and my 2015.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        I can see that the ‘average’ distance driven in a day would have an impact, (I’ll not debase my vocabulary to use ‘impact’ as a verb.) Something like one of the Fiat 500s with an electric motor sounds about right for an urban environment. For out in the ‘country,’ present battery capabilities do not engender confidence. I already see a fair bit of old fashioned ride sharing going on today among the more ‘deplorable’ elements of the population. Economics, as usual, will always trump aspirational display behaviour.

        Reply
    2. fdr-fan

      Physically, electric motors naturally last a lot longer than gas motors. One moving part, no explosions, no reciprocation. Much easier on the steel and the bearings. Appliance motors often last 50 years.

      The control circuitry is the weak point. An EV with simple SCR speed control (no software) could last 30 years before overhaul.

      Elon has arranged for the ultimate planned obsolescence by forcing the whole system to depend on CONSTANT connection to his updating center. Tesla can obsolesce your car any time it wants to; and all Tesla cars will be instantly obsolete when the company shuts down.

      Reply
      1. Hammer225

        We can expect that to come across the automotive and industrial machine industry anyway – that’s just Late Stage Capitalism.

        Reply
    3. PlutoniumKun

      Seven year warrantees are normal for electric vehicles, and most can be replaced in a modular fashion. There seems to be a huge difference between the brands and their approach to this – Renault in Europe allows buyers to lease the battery for a monthly charge. The Leaf battery is comparatively cheap to replace (I think about $4500 in the US), while the Chevy Volt is expensive ($15,000 in its entirety). So far, the batteries have proven very robust, they seem to lose about 80% of power and then stabilise for the long term. There are EV’s around with 300,000 miles on them with no discernible loss of power. Prius’s are used for taxis in Europe running up huge mileages with no apparent battery problems.

      And of course even battery replacement costs need to be set next to the far lower power running costs and significantly fewer mechanicals to go wrong.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Yes to electric drive vehicles having fewer moving parts to “drive” energy and maintenance costs. The robust old Moon Rover was electric drive. “In space, no one can hear you scream for oxygen to enable internal combustion.”
        I really wish that one of the Apollo astronauts had had the elan to leave a “For Sale Cheap” sign on one of the Moon Rovers left on the Moon. What a photo op that would make in the future.

        Reply
      2. Carolinian

        Thanks for the info. And one should point out to “I.A.” that the US is considerably different from Norway where they have efficient intercity train transport and much shorter distances. Where I live electrics are not only rare but vehicle carbon reduction is going in the opposite direction as half the populace seems to be driving king cab Ford 150s. It would take sizable motor and battery to shove one of these monsters around.

        It’s likely that the only thing that will change US attitudes would be a huge increase in gas prices. Trump may be trying to arrange this with his Iran dispute.

        Reply
        1. a different chris

          However, again as everybloody points out people generally use their cars for commuting. Usually solo. And a quick google brings up this:

          According to a February study by Experian Automotive, which specializes in collecting and analyzing automotive data, Americans own an average of 2.28 vehicles per household, and more than 35 percent of households own three or more cars.

          So a Leafish vehicle makes sense for, well just about everybody. A Tesla, not so much. Of course Tesla is what everybody talks about. Sigh.

          Reply
          1. GF

            The price of a Leaf is just a couple thousand less that the standard Model 3 Tesla. The Tesla’s driving range is about 3 times the Leaf. If one is going electric, the Tesla seems to make more sense.

            Reply
        2. ambrit

          Economics plays a part in that F-150 Work Cab trend. I remember several small pickup trucks offered, like the Datsuns, the Mazdas, the Ford Rangers, etc. in the long ago. Someone around here has an old Suzuki mini-pickup truck which works fine for him. A tiny little engine with minimalist cab and adequate bed capacity. I am convinced that what the automobile makers consider to be “The Market” is really their stakeholder class in disguise.

          Reply
          1. d

            As long as oil (gas) is cheap they are economical . But when is gas 5$ a gallon or more, economical isn’t the right word any more

            Reply
        3. Ian Perkins

          Getting rid of things like Formula 1 racing, in favour of Formula E, might help with changing the minds of the monsters.
          Cities or states could refuse to host such events, and sponsors could be badgered and shamed into putting their money elsewhere.

          Reply
          1. Ian Perkins

            I should have added, having sponsors throw money at competing Formula E teams might help solve some of the problems outlined in these comments.

            Reply
  3. The Rev Kev

    Don’t know how an electric vehicle would go towing something like a caravan or a horse float with a coupla horses, especially uphill, but I suspect that it would be problematical. In reading up on them I found the following page-

    https://www.hotcars.com/24-things-wrong-with-electric-cars-millennials-choose-to-ignore/

    I suspect that number 14 will be the big one for a lot of people – low resale value. And who is to say that Tesla, for example, might not have it’s plug pulled in a few short years time. What happens then to stuff like technical assistance, spare parts, etc?
    In a city, having electric vehicles may be a working solution but at heart I suspect that, in part, it is a way in avoiding a future featuring mass public transport again and very limited personal car ownership. That is a future that most people are not willing to contemplate but I suspect that this is a future that we have ahead of us.

    Reply
    1. viscaelpaviscaelvi

      About public transport as a key element in any transition to EVs:

      Let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that total transition into EVs, from 0% to 100%, happens overnight on, say, 1 Jan 2030. No more petrol, only EVs from that moment on. Those who can afford an EV will buy one. They will all be new, expensive cars. We will make an effort and it will be fantastic for the environment and probably for the financial institutions providing all the credit to buy those cars.

      The problem are those people who can’t afford those cars. People who, now, can only afford used cars that cost even less than $1000, who have no access to credit and who will be needing some sort of means of transport because petrol is phased out. What is the obvious solution for them? Public transport, I would say. Without that public transport option, they can’t move anymore. They can’t reach their workplaces, they can’t have a normal life as long as it involves moving around in vehicles.

      Of course, things wouldn’t happen overnight, the transition has started and it will be a long process, and that leaves room for the persistence of a pool of cheap, second-hand, dirty petrol cars that would extend its life into the future and would coexist with possibly a majority of EVs. But here is the thing, that transition would never end because the aim of providing EVs to those people would be impossible to achieve (subsidies for all? more subprime finance?).

      The full transition into EVs which is going to save our planet would have to involve at least a partial move towards public transport. Otherwise, there is a section of the population that is left out, just because they can’t afford it.

      But then, if we are going to move towards a more public-transport-intensive model of mobility, why waiting until stage x of the transition at an imprecise point in the future? Moving towards public transport makes sense now. It makes sense today with petrol cars. And it made sense 40 years ago when we were not even discussing EVs. So if we didn’t do it 40 years ago, why would we do it in the future?

      This is to point out that all the debate about EVs, when it does not go hand in hand with a discussion of the mobility model for our cities in the future, is sort of moot. We may have a marginal gain, but it is the change in the way we move around that will make a difference. The current debate, which is just replacing the petrol fleet of cars with an EV fleet, is about people wanting to keep their lifestyles into the future, and that probably means that we will end up with the nice people driving EVs and the deplorables polluting and dooming the Earth because they are soooooooo reactionary.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        To be cynical about it, the deprivation of the ‘deplorables’ class of the means of livelyhood is probably an unspoken goal of many present trends in this World’s society. The idea that the Jackpot is an evil plot is probably bunk, even though I have been continuously surprised at the depths to which people will sink. Foe such an idea to unfold into a reality does not need active participation of whatever ‘manipulative and self centered’ elites you may wish to demonize. “Natural” events will, given a degree of, as Nixon famously observed, “benign neglect,” do the trick of producing conditions conducive to a human population reduction. How this just beginning demographic disaster is managed will be the major political and philosophical contest of the next century.

        Reply
      2. Altandmain

        The problem are those people who can’t afford those cars. People who, now, can only afford used cars that cost even less than $1000, who have no access to credit and who will be needing some sort of means of transport because petrol is phased out. What is the obvious solution for them? Public transport, I would say. Without that public transport option, they can’t move anymore. They can’t reach their workplaces, they can’t have a normal life as long as it involves moving around in vehicles.

        This will not work in rural areas.

        Public transport is not viable in rural areas. It needs a minimum density to be viable. Plus there are applications that EVs simply are not viable. Heavy towing for example. There would need to be huge advances in battery technology for that to work. Until then, Musk’s vision of a 100% semi truck is largely a fantasy. Short haul trucking might be able to use EVs though or a hybrid.

        Personally I think that we should consider PHEV as an intermediary. The main cost of EVs being more is the battery. It costs a lot to have a big battery.

        Full disclosure: I work in the automotive industry for a tier 1 supplier. I work on both ICE, hybrids, and am working on an EV for one of the US big 3 automakers.

        Reply
    2. Ted

      I was just in Hamburg for a few months where the German state is actively promoting EVs to do its part to save the world. 2 charging stations on every block, for about 25 to 50 cars parked on the streets. Gonna have to scale that one up big time, which I doubt will ever happen. EVs are not scalable in any serious way in any state that is not a low population European country like those wealthy ones in Scandinavia. The urban architecture and plan simply will not allow for it at the price the state is willing or able to pay.

      Reply
      1. Anon

        Volkswagen AG is the largest carmaker in the world. They are making the transition to EV vehicles as I write. They will have a limited lineup available in 2021, but expect to roll out a full lineup in 2022. VW is developing a modular EV platform (chasis) that allows for multiple models and price points. They expect their costs of production to decline and their profits sustained. (The company that cheated to keep diesel motors on the roadways is now attempting to be the leader in EV’s.)

        Reply
    3. a different chris

      >Don’t know how an electric vehicle would go towing something like a caravan or a horse float with a coupla horses, especially uphill, but I suspect that it would be problematical.

      Just the opposite. Electric motors are brutally strong luggers. You are aware that every freight train you see going by is actually electric-powered? They are the original Priuses!

      Now, a couple of hills and there so go your batteries, So yeah a “horse float” vehicle is best technically a hybrid. However, if you are like us (gentleman/woman farmers) and the horse trailer only runs 1/2 dozen times a year, it makes more sense to bump your “hybridization” up a level, say with an all-electric commuter vehicle(s) and just a plain ol’ 3/4 ton truck dino-juicer.

      But we are so cheap we have old 4cyl Japanese cars, as I have admitted elsewhere.

      Reply
        1. Monty

          The Model X is rated for around 9,500 Newton-meters of torque, which equates to around 7,000 pound-feet; or what you’d get out of roughly 47 mid-90s Toyota Camrys. To put this into perspective, a new Mack-branded Semi puts 1,860 foot-pounds of torque to the wheels from a 13-liter inline-six diesel engine.

          Overkill?

          Reply
          1. Anon

            Well, the Model X P90D comes in all- wheel drive with motors front and rear. That’s likely where the torque specs come from. Any vehicle that can go from 0-60 MPH in 3 seconds is likely overkill as a passenger vehicle.

            Reply
    4. d

      maybe you missed it, but seems like Ford (of all OEMs) did test with one their BEV F150s towed a rail car, with about 50 gas F150s on it, I recall the weight was more than 1 million pounds. Course one has to remember it was a prototype, and a BEV has instant torque, no revving engine to get it

      Reply
  4. ptb

    Right, I’ve been saying this forever. If you make, say, 20%+ of cars electric, charging infrastructure becomes a real big issue.

    The solution is straightforward, however. Plug-in hybrid with a small gasoline engine.

    And non-plug in hybrids are fine too. They get a big-but-not-as-big efficiency benefit vs electric cars (regenerative braking and load leveling). They don’t require the cost of the plug-in infrastructure. Still, going from a 25mpg vehicle to a 75mpg vehicle is where most of the gains are. going from 75mpg to infinite-mpg is a smaller gain. Turbo diesel hybrids aren’t popular but they could be, offering even higher efficiency, if some technical challenges having to do with catalytic converters are solved.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      Indeed I think PHEV are the way to go short term. Usual 40-50mi EV range is sufficient for most people for daily driving, but there’s no problem with longer trips.

      Unfortunately, most people who own them ignore the “plug” bit, but that can be overcome

      On the TD hybrids – I believe Mitsubishi now came out with a hybrid engine that for low RPMs behaves like diesel (self-ignition of fuel-poor mix), getting it towards diesel efficiencies. It’s achieved by localised fuel-rich mixture igniting first. My problem with that is complexity, and thus reliability..

      Reply
      1. ptb

        That’s good. I am interested in the development of TD’s actually.

        Some tech notes there for anyone who is interested. To get the thermodynamic efficiency you need higher compression ratio -> higher temperature ratio. TD’s can make it a lot higher.

        As for fuel air ratios, due to pollution control, I believe they’re now always stoichiometric (exactly enough oxygen to burn the carbon and no more). Rich wastes fuel, lean increases NOx pollutants -> increases load on catalytic converter. Modern TDI’s control fuel-air ratio with exhaust gas recirculation (since gas has less O2). I think the catalytics are the economic weak point of TD’s today. A secondary consideration is that the oil industry needs to consume all the ligher liquids that come out of the fractional distillation of oil in large amounts, thus gasoline.

        Reply
      2. anon in so cal

        Our PHEV has a 47-mile EV range and a combined EV and gasoline range of 340. I drive it on EV to work until it depletes to about 5 bars of battery. It’s often impossible to recharge at work, so it’s good that it’s got the gas engine.

        Reply
    2. d

      Not really, most BEV can schedule charging, to off peak hours if desired.the other thing to note is that our electric use has been going down a lot in the last few years.

      Reply
  5. kimyo

    their beneficial effect on the environment

    if you have your own solar panels AND you park your tesla at home between 11am and 3pm, your carbon footprint has indeed been reduced.

    the other 99.9% of electric car owners are still running their cars on (mostly) fossil fuels.

    gail tverberg has an interesting take on electric cars (and renewables): Rethinking Renewable Mandates

    I do not see any real reason to use subsidies to encourage the use of electric cars. The problem we have today with oil prices is that they are too low for oil producers. If we want to keep oil production from collapsing, we need to keep oil demand up. We do this by encouraging the production of cars that are as inexpensive as possible. Generally, this will mean producing cars that operate using petroleum products.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      …until we’re all dead from CO2 induced climate change.

      Look, ICE cars are more complex/unreliable than EC’s. Petroleum products also leak from these engines on to roadways and then transported as run-off into streams and rivers. The pollution is not inconsequential.

      Reply
      1. d

        And IC production is actually more ‘dirty’ than BEV are. Never mind how much easier it is electricity and use ALmost any where and its not like IC doent use electricity wither(gas stations among others require electricity to run)

        Reply
  6. Jeff

    I think the N°1 question is still as to why anyone would want to buy an electric car. If you want to go green, you go without a car. Or if you need one, you take somebody else’s, saving scarce resources. And for all other purposes, electric cars don’t bring enough value.
    Electric cars bring value to car makers, as they get better mileage from their fleet, but not car owners.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      One of my best friends keeps her car parked in the carport while she rides her bicycle to work, to shopping, to the bars, and who knows where else.

      The car in question is a 1960s-vintage Plymouth, and, yes, it runs. That’s because my friend and her late father restored it and both of them are/were quite handy with a wrench.

      She won’t buy a new car because, as she would put it, they’re too [family blogging] expensive.

      Oh, did I mention that she also owns several vintage bicycles that she restored? Including her father’s bike, which is mounted on the wall of her living room?

      Reply
    2. a different chris

      >electric cars don’t bring enough value.

      The following two posts (Knifecatcher & Grant H) seem to dispute this, no?

      Reply
    3. d

      Well let’s see, we generally run on electricity about 90% of the time, and will go roughly 200 miles a week, and that costs us maybe 8 bucks . A week. We don’t have to do oil changes but maybe every 2 years (we have a Volt). So a BEV wouldn’t even have that. Just try to compare that to your gas usage for the same number of miles. And almost all of the miles are in town

      Reply
  7. Knifecatcher

    We have an electric car and like it very much – a 2015 Leaf. In fact for cruising around town I’ll usually grab the keys for that car rather than the ostensibly nicer ICE car sitting beside it, as there are real advantages to the Leaf in everyday use – instant torque, near zero maintenance, and of course never needing to fill the tank. My teen daughter has driven it almost exclusively since she started driving and hates when she has to take the other car.

    Now could we make do with the Leaf as an only car? As of now it would require some lifestyle changes that we haven’t yet made, but I can see it as a possibility in the near future. Of course upgrading to a Tesla or another longer range EV would make things easier.

    I expect to see more carrot / stick initiatives from governments around the world to get people to switch. But once people try EVs they tend to become converts.

    Reply
    1. GrantH

      A friend of mine with excellent taste in motor vehicles has recently bought a Leaf. When I asked him how he liked it he smiled and said “it’s quieter than the Bentley”

      Reply
  8. Stadist

    “According to the survey, electric cars scored a mobility confidence index reading of 55 on a scale of 100. Self-driving cars scored even lower, at 36 points, which would hardly be a surprise since this technology has yet to mature, and developing trust in it would be a long process.”

    Human hive mind is surprisingly accurate, but at the same time populism is a dirty, filthy thing to do. Biggest proponents of EVs seem to be people who have stakes in the business one way or the other. Naturally in the EU Germany will shift to support EVs increasingly in the future because of it’s car industry and the climate change considerations (CO2 emission reduction targets). For countries without car industry it makes more sense to build more energy efficient cities and communities while enabling enough mobility for the population at large to support economic activity. Hand outs to EV buyers are just transfers to rich and more well-off people.

    Like said by commenter Jeff: “If you want to go green, you go without a car”. Exactly, get a house close to your work place and grocery store and walk or bicycle all the trips you need to make. Even relatively old gasoline vehicle isn’t that bad if it’s used in moderation, especially when compared to the other option being buying a far newer EV. Still funny here in the EU that car makers and regulators are obsessed with the CO2 emissions per chosen unit distance, while strictly speaking the exact efficiency is pretty minor issue if the vehicle is used excessively for unnecessary trips.

    Reply
    1. d

      The odd thing that is generally ignored by the MM is why dealers don’t want to sell them. And they don’t since a lot of their profits are from maintenance which a BEV has very little of. So selling one doesn’t lead to profits later. From you. Now no matter if the OEM wants to sell them, their dealers slow that down a lot

      Reply
  9. Tomonthebeach

    Two problems not mentioned are price-to-buy and ubiquitous inexperience driving electrics. Most people are likely unaware that most ships are electric – the engines run generators. The reason is the wasted energy created by gears. When you drive electric, there is no gearbox – just forward, backward, and stop. As for pulling power, a comparable-sized gas or electric engine can pull the same load.

    Reply
    1. d

      Technically yes
      But equal IC and BEV don’t operate the same way, as the BEV will produce instantly while the IC wont and torque is what moves the vehicle

      Reply
    2. paintedjaguar

      Know what other vehicle category is famous for low emissions, high torque @ low rpm, few moving parts, and ease of maintenance? Plus fuel flexibility? EXTERNAL combustion, aka steam cars (and with a flash boiler there’s no sitting around waiting to build up pressure as with the ancient types). I’m still wondering why that wasn’t considered as an option after the gas shortages of the early 70’s.

      Reply
  10. Heidi’s Master

    I bought a Honda Clarity PHEV in December 2018. I have driven about 5K miles and only used about 15 gallons of fuel. I have less range anxiety than I ever had with my ICE cars in the past. I fill the battery every day. In an ICE car you have range anxiety near the end of every tankful of gas.

    Reply
    1. anon in so cal

      This is what we have. So far, I’ve driven it just over 6K miles and everything is great so far. I charge it up as soon as I get back home every day. We contemplated installing a Level 2 charger but the CA DWP person talked me out of it.

      Reply
  11. sciencebiasedbias

    maybe because it is completely untrue, most ships defined as the majority of big boats currently plying the waters of the world, are not electric drive but direct drive using big slow turning diesels and they are very efficient in respect of thermodynamics and resource utilization.
    The military have gas turbine electric and some of the cruise ships have a few hybrid systems but the military has other reasons for this.

    Reply
    1. BillC

      True, SBB, Tomonthebeach got it wrong. I’ve gone trans-Atlantic on two different-sized container vessels (one about 300m long, the other about 200m, or roughly 1/2 the larger one’s capacity) and both were diesel-powered as you say (pistons around a yard in diameter, revs red-lined IIRC around 30-40 RPM, crankshaft directly driving the [one!] propeller, and an ingenious mechanical/pneumatic system to reverse engine rotation).

      Efficient, yes, but their Achilles’ heel is pollution: their “bunker fuel” comes from the bottom of the petroleum barrel, full of sulfur and other pollutants, and they produce copious particulates. On calm days, my rides left a nice yellow track in the sky behind them.

      Reply
  12. Warminghut

    Electric motors are the future. A combustion engine can be efficient at a very limited range of speeds and is best if you can tune to one speed. An electric motor is what you use when you need an engine to run at constantly varying speeds.

    Batteries, hydrogen/fuel cell, combustion engine running at one speed generating electricity, little nuclear engines that run on banana peels, whatever the source, electric motors are the solution as long as we desire to travel around streets and roads in independent pods.

    Reply
  13. thoughtful person

    I suspect that the price of new electric cars is the biggest issue. We have 3 drivers and 2 gen 2 (’04 to 09) priuses. We live near the city center, but most food shopping is a, few miles from us. Likely that the next car we get will be a used plug in. We’ll keep one prius for long trips, but would be easy to use the electric mostc if the time.

    Reply
    1. philnc

      Agreed. Price is definitely the most serious barrier to entry. We’ve now got two vehicles for four adult drivers (two kids in college). One is a 13 yo Prius, the other a 7 yo Caravan. Everyone loves the Prius, the van, not so much. Prices for new EVs are ridiculous ( whereas those of new ICE cars are simply depressing). Given our experience with the Prius (whose only maintenance costs have been engine oil, washer fluid and tires — OK, had to replace the aux battery for around $100 after someone left the interior map light on a few times), it’s likely we’ll wind up buying a used gen 2 or 3 to replace the van. The kids are partial to EVs, but their incomes won’t cover purchasing new for a long while, so maybe we’ll see some more old Prii in the driveway soon.

      Reply
    2. paintedjaguar

      Yes, and there’s definitely a class bias in the analysis/promotion of EV advocates. For starters, they all seem to assume that everyone owns a garage (with modern wiring no less) to use as a charging station.

      Reply
  14. John Beech

    Buy one? Nope, not yet. Lease one? Yes, I’m ready. However, only if it’s in a format we like, think station wagon, possible SUV. Traditional 3-box 4-door sedan? Nope, not happening.

    Demographic? Early 60s, meaning we can afford what we please. Not really rich, certainly not stupid, and I often buy our cars second hand. Also tend to keep them a long time (family trait, for example I still have grandfather’s ’69 Silver Shadow). Meanwhile, my wife still drives her 2005 E320 estate and when queried recently about another one, responded with, ‘not yet’. After all, you don’t get rich by being stupid with money.

    All that said, an electric-powered car wouldn’t be our only car. Thus, long-range scenarios posited when the subject arises, e.g. for a trip from FL to NJ just wouldn’t matter. This, principally because we usually fly if it’s much more than 150 miles (far more convenient to rent a car at our destination than waste a lot of time traveling).

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Only a fool would get rid of a functioning ’60s era Silver Shadow. The Merc sounds like the ’round town machine. Not being a 10%er, who is also early sixties, I don’t look to be buying anything new in the foreseeable future for entirely different reasons than you.

      Reply
    2. a different chris

      OMG we agree on something!

      And yeah, you don’t have to be even slightly rich. There are a lot of cars not as pleasant but every bit as reliable as your wife’s E320 from mid-2000’s that won’t cost even 6K.

      And flying is way underpriced, but that isn’t our fault. Why would anybody drive, like you said, more than 150 miles… unless of course it’s a family trip (young family, 2 kids, dog).

      Then as I said Enterprise will pick you up. Not cheap until you figure out all the money you are saving by *not* driving that Caravan all year round. Then suddenly you realize…

      Reply
  15. Mikerw0

    The argument that EVs are environmentally superior as they are not directly powered by hydrocarbons and therefore do not emit CO2 is massively, overly simplistic.

    As others have said the electricity needs to come from somewhere as one major flaw in the argument.

    Bur, equally important is to look at the total lifecycle of a car. EVs contain a much higher percentage of plastic, to reduce their weight, of different types. This poses a real challenge at the end of the cars life. A metal car, which also is now loaded with different plastics (known in the trade as fluff), is a valuable commodity as they get shredded and the steel fed back to the industry. EVs, in their batteries, are laden with highly toxic chemicals. What happens to them? Lead act batteries are all recycled for the lead. Etc.

    Reply
    1. Mattski

      I have read that there isn’t enough lithium currently available for a country like Britain to convert (did I read that here?)

      And I remember reading that the mining was sometimes a matter of brutal conditions and sometimes child labor. Is this true? I’ve been wanting to pursue this angle as we contemplated a new car.

      Addendum: If the Great Unraveling is indeed upon us. . . am I right in a gut sense that a car that will help me to drive over the bodies and get away–like an Outback–could be more “life-effective” than a zero-clearance Prius? Not being completely facetious.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Weathering that storm entails much more than simple movement from point Alpha to point Omega. In post collapse scenarios, a small EV powered by a home PV array would do quite well. Sunlight is cheap and free. Gasoline takes a long and labourious supply and production chain to produce. (Unless you build a wood gas run internal combustion rig. Actually done during WW-2.)
        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_gas

        Reply
      2. Alex Cox

        I read the same article – a NC link a couple of weeks back. It said that if every ICE car in Britain were replaced by an electric one, all the planet’s rare earth metals (not just lithium) would be exhausted.

        If that is true, electic cars are as silly a fantasy as self-driving ones.

        The only solution is public transport. If you have no access to public transport the ‘greenest’ alternative is to buy an old gas beater and keep it running as long as possible, ride a bike, or walk.

        Reply
  16. Louis Fyne

    as i looked into an electric car, even without the range issues…..

    1. (ironically) most people don’t drive enough to offset the higher costs of electric cars versus lower cost of electricity.

    2. many people will need new electric wiring to have your house handle the amps for a level-2 charger. That costs $$$$ (and easily would equal one-half+ year’s worth of gas for many people)

    3. lithium-ion batteries decay based on time. After 8 to 10 years, it’s chemically guaranteed that your battery will degrade/fail (lots of evidence-based anecdotes supporting this on the Tesla forums). Even if you don’t own cars for more than a few years this affects resale value of one’s car.

    4. to make the most of electric cars, one ideally would have to switch to market-rate priced electricity from your utility (to recharge in the graveyard shift hours). some people may have an aversion to this.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      3b, read the fine print. Eg, Tesla’s battery warranty explicitly states that Tesla reserves the right to replace a failed battery with a used/reconditioned battery. Presumably most/other companies do this too.

      at the end of the day, for most people a hybrid (ideally plug-in hybrid) is the better choice versus a pure electric car.

      Reply
  17. arte

    Wasting all the resources in the world on long range EVs, trying to keep the affluent sprawl-oriented lifestyle going as before? What a disaster it is turning out to be, and will slow down any meaningful change in the next decade.

    To oversimplify: If you have 500 miles of daily electric range (of which you use about 20% on a daily basis, but you “need” the range for the occasional longer trips), there isn’t enough battery materials left for your nine slightly less high-income suburban neighbours to get an EV – they will be using gasoline every day for their long commutes instead. The next richest neighbour can get an EV next year, then the next one, and so on, until everyone has an EV ten years from now – and the neighbourhood can start frowning at those laggards on the poor side of town that still drive their gas-guzzlers.

    If instead you have (and need) only 50 miles of daily electric range plus some form of as-needed range extension, there’s enough annual resources left over and your nine urban neighbours can also buy the short range EV the same year as you did, and have the same 50 miles of daily electric range in their vehicles from year 1.

    On the bright side, if you have the long-range EV and got it early, you can skip feeling guilty about all the bad news about the world – you have done your part, surely?

    Reply
  18. bob

    Range falls about 20% with the heater on….

    Depends on the outside temp. 20% might be an underestimate in some climates within the US.

    That 20% probably also includes having the car parked in a garage, so sort of heated to begin with. The garage is probably also *required* so that the car battery doesn’t get too stressed. Most non-upper class people don’t have garages, or garage space that they can spare during the winter.

    I’m in the northeast and the electric car people I know are shocked at how the range drops during the winter, and they all have garages. In order for mass market adoption, they have to figure out how to be able to have most people park them outdoors during the winter without the range hit, as most people already do with normal cars.

    Reply
  19. The Rev Kev

    The problem with these later generation vehicles is that because of the technology employed, they are not that robust nor are they easily repaired. This may sound pessimistic but I would not be surprised if that through necessity, that in the decades to come we are forced to re-learn past lessons and once again start building vehicles that are robust, easily built and easily repairable. Here is a 4-minute clip demonstrating how they built a vehicle once that was all three-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtyDj7EsqSM

    Reply
    1. MichaelSF

      vehicles that are robust, easily built and easily repairable

      Cars having fenders that fend and bumpers that bump? Modern auto bodies look to be designed for ease of assembly at the factory and for entire panels to be replaced, not repaired, when in the consumers’ hands. Metal shaping is largely left to restorations and custom vehicle construction now. Body panels that have been crunched are not slowly eased back out to their original form by the application of specialist tools wielded by skilled hands they are replaced.

      Reply
  20. shinola

    While EV’s are probably the future of personal transportation, IMO they’re not ready for prime time yet (at least in the US) Some things to consider – an EV is practical IF:

    -You live in a home with a garage (preferably heated). Apartment & many condo dwellers need not apply. Also, in my area, many houses built in the mid ’50’s are @960 sq. ft. with no basement. Quite a few have converted the garage into living area.

    -You never travel long distances by car. Not necessarily in a problem in small countries with some infrastructure in place to handle charging away from home. But in the US…?

    Why do I get the feeling that the comments by I.A. are coming straight out of a Tesla sales brochure and are aimed at upper middle class buyers?

    Reply
    1. Pelham

      Good points. Also, if EVs are widely adopted, what would global lithium mining look like? Is this mining dangerous or environmentally unsound? And how about disposal of the millions of pounds of dead, toxic batteries?

      Reply
    2. d

      While maybe older apartments didn’t have garages, lots of them do now (spent more than decade with every apartment having a garage. Even before getting a plug in). Now as to long distance driving in Texas just going Dallas to El Paso, is a 600 mile trip, which can be done by car, if want to drive 10 hours, or more. And if you stop for food, its even a longer trip. Unless you can’t fly, make no sense to do so.

      Reply
  21. kramer

    After hurricane Katrina interrupted the fuel pipelines that send fuel up the east coast, things got a little sketchy around here (near Charlotte.) This was a problem for along the entire east coast. The same thing happened again due to leak in the pipeline in Alabama a few years later. I would really have loved to own an electric car then.

    I don’t worry about range. I can rent a car for the four or five time a year when we take a longer trip and need the range.

    Maybe someone will make a small generator to fit on a reese hitch if the electric car can charge while moving.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      A DIY Hybrid auto. Interesting idea. It still requires externally produced fuel though. One of the solar panel topped electric vehicles I once saw entered in a non gasoline car race held in, I believe Australia, was interesting. It looked like a butterfly with wheels.
      I always wonder why the annual Stanford fuel efficiency contest is not more widely promoted, propagandized.

      Reply
  22. Joe Well

    Just thought I would summarize why EVs are a horrible idea and a dangerous distraction from the real solutions (public transport, bicycles, walking, electric wheelchairs, etc. and telecommuting):

    1. Roads and highways are already beyond carrying capacity where most people live. EVs do nothing to solve that. Only public transport and bikes do.
    2. EVs charge at night so no solar power there.
    3. EV batteries will destroy some of the most beautiful places on earth with mining.
    4. There likely will not be enough lithium or other necessary elements available for widespread adoption of any battery technology in the next 20 years.
    5. EVs do nothing about road accident carnage. Again, buses and bicycles do.
    6. Every car on the road reduces the safety and desirability of cycling and walking and to a lesser extent, buses, which are the real solutions.
    7. Any kind of car leaves out many poor, disabled, alcoholics, and others. It is like private insurance vs M4A.
    8. Car infrastructure destroys human-scale architecture.

    And now 9. Consumers just are not into them despite cool factor.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      Joe,

      Nice points. As to #3 and 4, it is probably more environmental to drive a used, small, well made, long lived Japanese Toyota or Honda with a gas engine. Parts widely available used from junkyards and anyone can repair them.

      Tesla owners are finding them to be piles of junk. Long wait times to get repairs. If Telsa goes out of business, no parts available. An expensive brick when a fuse fails.

      What prevents me from buying another brand of more reliable electric car, which I could afford and have the right daily mileage use for is the following:

      You cannot plug them into a normal household outlet, either 120 or 220 volts.
      Instead one has to have a special paddle charger installed which means;
      Permits,
      building department snooping around,
      higher property taxes for the improvements,
      the forced installation of a time of use electrical Smart meter on your house, meaning higher charges for summertime electricity, which cannot happen with an old analog “wheel” meter, which smart environmentalists demand.
      See this link why:
      http://emfsafetynetwork.org/smart-meters/

      If society is serious about fighting ‘climate change’ and going to electric vehicles, they will allow anyone to install solar panels to run their household, feed power back to the grid and charge electric cars, with no added permitting or property tax costs.

      In addition, free effective public transit will be offered, so that people don’t need cars to begin with.

      Reply
      1. d

        You don’t need any special plug to charge one,standard plugins work just fine. Smart meters have nothing to do with Evs. Odd thing about public transit,it really only works in small geographical areas. And public transit won’t in rural areas. Permits etc are used to make sure any one who puts in some thing that might cause majors fires and deaths. Which messing up the electric grid in your house can do. And since you will be in urban area you can cause a lot of damage

        Reply
        1. Dan

          They make an electric car that can be fast charged from a standard outlet? Which brand?

          You cannot install a fast charge paddle in PG&E territory without a Smartmeter and a building permit. There go some of your savings with added property assessments, permit costs and higher per KWH time of use charges with a Smartmeter.

          “Permits etc are used to make sure any one who puts in some thing that might cause majors fires and deaths. Which messing up the electric grid in your house can do. And since you will be in urban area you can cause a lot of damage..” Thanks, one more reason to keep my ’89 gas powered Corolla.

          More Tesla news:
          https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-08-02/tesla-ex-employee-production-was-circus-company-may-be-infiltrated-ford-chevy-and

          https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-08-02/these-products-are-defective-yet-another-family-sues-tesla-over-yet-another-fatal-0

          Reply
    2. a different chris

      I am not disagreeing with your points but what exactly is happening to get to your (actually mine, too) car-less Nirvana? Nothing or worse.

      My barely flickering hope is:
      1) We do start moving your way – “the kids these days” are really losing interest in cars and the ‘burbs
      2) Suburbanites realize that they don’t need 300mile range on an EV which they can refuel at home so they buy half as much lithium
      3) We then (unexpectedly to the supposed seers) start to converge on a point where
      a) less people need cars
      b) the people that need cars move on from gas because electrics are really, way better. Seriously.
      c) said electrics consume a lot less than expected lithium overall
      d) and everything balances out

      Cue Lennon’s “you may say I’m a dreamer…”

      Reply
    3. dearieme

      I cycled to work, and to many other places, for a quarter of a century. I found that bikes and buses are really lousy sharers of a road.

      Reply
    4. Oh

      10. EV’s shift the pollution from the vehicle to the power plant. Unless we figure out how to remove CO2 at a reasonable cost from power plants, the only EV’s that will reduce pollution are the ones you charge with solar cells at home.

      Walking, biking and local and long distance mass transportation (which we really need in this country) seem to be the best alternative.

      Reply
      1. Brooklin Bridge

        That we are in the process of changing power sources to lower carbon outputs is beyond question, all be it inconsistent. slow and ridiculously profit rather than purpose driven, but it is still happening which obviates your argument except in the more immediate sense.

        This means that purchasing EV’s of all kinds – NOW – with an eye towards energy conservation (even if not the only objective) is a perfectly reasonable thing to do as part of that transition.

        That said, I agree completely on a much higher emphasis on public or mass transportation. That issue is largely one of ideology and will not happen quickly or easily as it will be over the dead bodies of the fossil fuel industries not to mention just plain intransigent attitudes.

        Reply
      2. d

        You do realize that a power plant is already creating pollution, long before any evs were on the road right? And unlike ic its a lot easier to cleanup the pollution or change the source of it. Again mass Transit works in urban areas, not rural. And doesn’t really work in large areas. Try to take the train from Orange county to LA, it isn’t cheap, and you will spend a lot of time getting where you are going. And the main reason we have suburbs is housing is cheap.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          Hardly anyone lives in rural areas of the US anymore and their average incomes are so low that vanishingly few are going to be buying EVs. Let them have the abundant used ICE vehicles when the metros cut back on cars.

          Reply
      3. kramer

        A typical gasoline car gets about 1 mile per kilowatt hour (~36 kwh per gallon of gas).
        A hybrid gets gets maybe 2miles per kwh. An electric car will normally get about 4 miles per kwh. Also, even a coal burning power plant is about twice as efficient as a car with a gasoline engine.

        Reply
  23. Peerke

    Gregor MacDonald of Oilfall Fame showed a nice analysis of energy intensity for EV and ICE using Argonne’s GREET (https://greet.es.anl.gov/). Whole system energy accounting for EV is 2,468 btu/mile whereas for ICE it is 5,511 btu/mile. These are “well to wheel” numbers. The EV figure is the average for US excluding California. Most of the difference can be thought of as a difference in oil demand ie for every average EV sold then approx 3K less oil equivalent btu//mile is needed. This a profound effect on energy intensity and oil demand as more EV are added, replacing ICE. Expect to see more negative propaganda against electrification and more effort by Oil industry to pivot to petrochemicals to try to generate growth. Without growth oil industry will be in trouble and tend to look more like coal industry.

    Incidentally I drive a Bolt in Phoenix. In summer AC is a big impact on range but it is manageable. When it is hot it pays to get from a to b ASAP. When temps are moderate then a slower route is better (assuming constant distance) to take advantage of best efficiency. My commute is about 12 miles each way – can easily get this back overnight at 110V 8A. If necessary I can use 12A charging to get walking pace charging (4mph). I would never go back to ICE. This about reducing oil demand as far as I am concerned so that we are forced to leave it in the ground.

    Reply
  24. Bottom Gun

    This really makes the case for plug-in hybrids. I drive a Honda Clarity and love it. 50 weeks out of the year, it’s an electric car. I plug it into an ordinary 120v outlet every night. In the morning it has 40-50 miles of range, which almost always covers all my daily errands. Yes, it burns gas on road trips. But my overall gas consumption is about 1/20th of what it used to be. My long-term maintenance costs (brake pads, transmission anything) will plummet as well.

    Space efficiency isn’t quite as good as a gas or electric only car. And the thing drives like a Buick, although that’s probably down to Honda’s tuning choices as well as weight. Still, I have no idea why we would put 1 electric car on the road when we could put 3 PHEVs on the road for the same 50kWh battery capacity. Cut gasoline consumption by 95% among 3 cars instead of 33% among 3 cars. And Uncle Sam pays you to do it!

    Reply
  25. Steven

    The real danger of this fixation on EVs as I see it is the ‘survivalist’ mindset of those fortunate enough to be able to drive one. Take a look at The Rev Kev August 2, 2019 at 12:55 am. Privately owned vehicles (POV) and the urban sprawl they precipitated were a mistake and the sooner we own up and try to correct it the better for everyone – including those Tesla drivers who somehow seem to think there will be people around to maintain the roads for them after industrial civilization collapses (or blows itself up in resource wars).

    That transition is going to take some time, of course. The way I justified my GM Volt was that it would be useful in the transition. But there are lots of problems with that approach as detailed here on Naked Capitalism and elsewhere. See PlutoniumKun August 2, 2019 at 3:48 am The $15k figure for battery replacement was about what I heard from a GM service advisor. At anything above $10k (and falling) that makes my Volt a throw away if and when its battery needs to be replaced, negating any potential benefits from “the far lower power running costs and significantly fewer mechanicals to go wrong.”

    There are lots of people like @Martin Cohen – see ptb August 2, 2019 at 1:08 am and vlade August 2, 2019 at 2:22 am out there. So when you ask “who killed the electric car” the answer is the technology was DOA – unless battery replacement costs and salvage problems can be resolved.

    The larger problem is that this is too little too late. Take a look at these slides, particularly “Coal: the worst CO2 emitter” in Global Warming Part 1

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ATW582uRosHotHIvPWhj64SJkt8IvkUb

    Reply
    1. anon in so cal

      Someone already said this above, but the cost to the environment of manufacturing new vehicles, regardless of whether they’re ICE, EVs, or PHEVs, exceeds any environment-saving benefits they might offer, no?

      Reply
  26. Adams

    Great discussion, but, mea culpa….

    I like to drive. Accelerate, brake, go around corners, shift gears, etc. No vroom, vroom but moving briskly when possible. Also maintain the vehicle. I am getting a Leaf for my 16 y/o daughter so she will never become addicted. But I will never buy a car that does not drive and handle well. Have done lots of research. Tesla not an option for numerous reasons, including Elon’s mental problems. Maybe a Clarity. Fortunately for the earth, I will leave it sooner rather than later.

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Well said. The “burbs” aren’t going away anytime soon, by choice at least, and driving will be enjoyed as well as a necessity until Google pries the wheel away from our dead cold hands.

      But a lot less of it would occur with good public transportation. Trains have become too expensive (and shabby -when they even exist- in this country) but they can be marvelous ways to travel, even over relatively long distances with high speed. And anyone who took the subway in Paris in the 70’s (I think it’s gone down hill quite a bit since) knows how pleasant, clean, on time to set your watch, and efficient subways can potentially be.

      Reply
      1. Adams

        Spent two weeks in Paris w/o car last Sept. The Metro was a little shabby in places, with trains that could stand to be replaced. Figuring out the stations was daunting. And hot. Nothing like a car stuffed with sweating bodies. But it was possible to go anywhere, even outlying districts if you include the surface system.

        Downside. Got my pocket picked. All part of the cultural experience.

        Reply
  27. Phil in KC

    The real challenge is to build a convenient network of charging stations. Most hotels, for example, have but one or two stations, which are sometimes occupied by ICE-vehicles.

    Another question: the electricity for the fleet of electric vehicles is generated how? And as the fleet expands, do you need more powerplants? And will this increase emissions?

    When I first saw a Tesla, I thought, “wow, a coal-powered car.” Coal being used for generation by our local utility.

    Reply
    1. Winston S

      MIT has made this very handy tool where you can compare the life cycle emissions and costs of a whole range of EVs and ICEs.

      http://carboncounter.com/

      It’s for the US market. Try it, you can play with lots of parameters and see in real time how that changes the picture. Main take-away: Even if the grid is 100% coal fired power plants, most EVs will still emit less and cost less than most ICEs – largely due to the fact that electric engines are far more efficient than combustion ones, ~90% vs ~30%, and far lower maintenance and running cost.

      Reply
  28. Michael C

    Yes, these two main factors need addressed: “Among the top problems noted by respondents were the length of time it takes an EV to charge and the length of its range.”

    I only need one car, and I do road trips, so it just isn’t practical. I wish it were since I would definitely buy one. At present I have a hybrid which I love, which at least is a step in the right direction.

    Reply
  29. Big Tap

    A problem I see are people living in apartments or condos. You can’t charge a car overnight nor have access to a close changing station or a heated garage.

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I don’t think you have to charge your car indoors. Apartment owners and condo associations should be willing to provide outdoor outlets (apparently safe in the rain). Obvious limitations in the city though one wonders why a parking meter wouldn’t do double duty (assuming they still exist). Keeping the batteries warm is another issue but if you can keep the car “plugged in” all night, I think it helps to keep the battery warm.

      But true, there will be many situations where apt. dwellers have a hard time with electric cars – they already do with parking anyway.

      Reply
  30. Burritonomics

    I’m always amused by something that is glaringly absent from these articles and discussions: a non trivial amount of people (myself included) are apartment dwellers. I couldn’t own an electric vehicle if I wanted to; there’s no way to charge it!

    Reply
    1. jrs

      I don’t know, I see a lot of charging stations around, isn’t that an option? Inconvenient though maybe, and maybe slow to charge at least the cheaper models?

      Reply
  31. bruce

    Electric cars are spooky, the way they creep up on you silently. You have to be more careful about crossing the street now. There’s also concern about the power source, a lithium-ion thing as I recall. I’ve heard about spontaneous fires breaking out with these batteries, I’ve heard about vape pens blowing up in people’s faces. If there’s enough energy stored in there to propel me down a highway at speed, there’s enough energy to turn me into well-done meat in a spontaneous fire.

    Then there’s the issue of locating and using charging stations. I know where the gas stations are. When I moved to Oregon in 2001, I thought it was very odd that I’m not allowed to pump my own gas here, but now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m balking at getting out of my truck and handling an unfamiliar, high-voltage instrument, even if I was lucky enough to find it in the first place.

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Agree that the silence is an issue. On another wold in another time this could be solved with computer software and directional noise of some sort, but alas on this world and in this time that would simply be another opportunity for intrusive data collection.

      Reply
  32. Jack Parsons

    The bet with charger availability is that it will go up, and apt. dwellers will charge at work or something.

    At this range, they are commute cars, and there are a LOT of commuters.

    People buy a car for various reasons:
    1 Commute
    2 Get around town, not commute, but often (soccer mom for example)
    3 The Dream of Freedom

    #3 can be addressed by including a week’s free rental of a gas-powered car when you insure an electric. You wanna go on vacation? Drive there and back, no problem!

    I’m looking at an EV as a commute car only, keeping our sedan for around town/trips. I’m seeing a bunch of EVs for sale in Los Angeles area which list their most recent service in the Bay Area. I translate this as: we moved to LA for job/housing reasons, and discovered commutes were just too long for that little battery.

    Reply
  33. Jack Parsons

    Also, Tesla has “in development” a thing where you drive up, get the battery swapped, and drive off. This requires each station to stock a vast amount of battery and keep them charging: a high inventory cost.

    Reply
  34. Sleeping Dog

    The short term test of whether or not the public will transition to EVs in the numbers that the advocates claim will be what percentage of current EV owners lease or buy another? Anecdotal evidence that I have read is that a significant number of current EV owners will return to vehicles with ICE for their next vehicle.

    Reply

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