Here’s Why You Can’t Afford an Electric Car

Yves here. This high level piece on electric cars in the US focuses on the main obstacle to greater uptake, which are prices. Mind you, that does not mean that there are plenty of other impediments are far as some drivers are concerned, such as slow charging times/limited charging infrastructure and range/charge anxiety, particularly in areas that get cold temperatures.

The US policies, despite commitments to various “end sales of new gas cars by X year” are so poorly designed as  to seem not sufficiently explained by the typical Democratic Party /Professional Managerial Class love of complicated eligibility requirements as a way to reduce payouts and reward only the deserving, which among other things means those with the doggedness and reading skills to navigate the rules.

The complexity of the electric vehicle subsidies appear intended to increase the uptake of electric vehicles to only a limited degree. One has to wonder if this is a feature, not a bug.

Recall many experts have pointed out that the US electrical grid cannot handle a big increase in electric vehicle use. Other stories at places like OilPrice report that US utilities are still not investing to meet the projected increase demand. So are these programs the electric vehicle version of Timothy Geithner’s “foaming the runway” during the foreclosure crisis, of attenuating takeup to prevent an electrical supply crunch?

By Sonali Kolhatkar, an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

It seems that there has never been a better time than now to buy an electric vehicle in the United States, especially if you read news headlines and White House press releases. You might be forgiven for thinking that you can actually afford to upgrade your old gas-guzzling sedan with a sleek, new zero-emissions EV. And if you can’t afford one, the various local, state, and federal rebate programs will surely knock thousands off the price tag, right?

Wrong. In order to be able to qualify for the ever-changing and complicated federal $7,500 rebate on EVs, one has to be rich enough to be able to afford to buy a new EV (some used ones qualify but good luck figuring out which one, and then even better luck finding such a car available for purchase). But, in order to qualify for the rebate, one can’t be too rich. If you’re middle-income, like me, you can lease an EV, but then you don’t qualify for the rebate—your leasing company does—and you’re left paying a hefty monthly lease.

News headlines about Tesla slashing its EV prices might still convince you that a new EV is within reach—that is if you don’t mind enriching one of the worst humans on the planet. But Teslas are still among the more expensive cars on the market.

Meanwhile, there are sensationalist headlines about EV sales falling over the past year, so much so that one might be forgiven for thinking that maybe most people wanting an EV already purchased one and demand is simply weakening. Dig past the headlines however, and the news reports all come to the same conclusion: EVs are still unaffordable for the majority of Americans, especially those who simply want to reduce their carbon footprint and their financial expenses at the same time. “Pricing is still very much the biggest barrier to electric vehicles,” according to one research analyst.

A Los Angeles Times report agreed: “Although the cost of building EVs continues to drop, it has yet to reach price parity with conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.” But the paper then bizarrely blamed Americans for the high price tags, saying, “Americans’ preference for larger vehicles necessitates larger, heavier and costlier battery packs, contributing to the high prices.” There was no mention of auto manufacturers spending years aggressively marketing SUVs and other giant gas guzzlers to Americans. Indeed, there is a whole range of EV trucks on the market right now—still out of the grasp of ordinary middle-income Americans looking for an efficient commuter family car.

Too bad these consumers don’t have access to China’s new EV, the BYD Seagull, a car that test drivers in the U.S. are gushing over, and whose price tag begins at a mere $9,698. “That undercuts the average price of an American EV by more than $50,000,” explained Bloomberg. In fact, more than 70 percent of all EVs sold globally are Chinese manufactured. You don’t have to live in China to buy a Chinese EV. You just have to live outside the U.S.

What most headlines aren’t saying overtly and what the Biden administration is also keeping relatively quiet about is that the U.S. is engaging in a fiercely protectionist trade war with China in order to shield American automakers. Forget the TikTok war—it’s Chinese-made EVs that keep U.S. auto CEOs up at night.

To protect them, the Biden administration is fanning the flames of anti-China sentiment and claiming it is worried about “National Security Concerns” over the computer systems of Chinese-made EVs. “China is determined to dominate the future of the auto market, including by using unfair practices,” said Biden in late February. “China’s policies could flood our market with its vehicles, posing risks to our national security.” The president has even ordered an investigation into China’s so-called smart cars, which most EVs are these days.

But the Biden administration’s climate goals for auto emissions rely on a mass transition to EVs across the nation. Already, it’s behind in ramping up towards its goal of wanting half of all vehicles sold in 2030 to be EVs, likely because most Americans can’t afford them, or can’t access the far-cheaper Chinese-made cars. On top of that, the GOP has now made attacking EVs part of its new culture war. It’s no wonder EVs remain out of reach for most Americans.

Why are Chinese cars so much cheaper, more varied, and just better than American ones? It doesn’t all boil down to the cost of labor as one might imagine. Chinese labor costs are not as low as they used to be. China’s government has simply made EVs a massive priority. An analysis in MIT Technology Review explained, “the government has long played an important role—propping up both the supply of EVs and the demand for them,” and that there have been “generous government subsidies, tax breaks, procurement contracts, and other policy incentives.”

Instead of adopting a similarly aggressive approach to making EVs a priority, the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has created a complex series of tax credits that require all EV materials and labor to be sourced in the U.S.—a goal whose math just doesn’t add up. And, the IRA doesn’t even protect U.S. workers enough. The United Auto Workers (UAW) denounced the IRA on its first anniversary for failing to require fair labor standards in the transition to an EV economy.

Still, UAW did the job itself. Fresh from a major union victory in late 2023 the union won job protections from the three biggest U.S. automakers for workers transitioning into the EV industry.

Our economy relies far too much on cars and most American cities are planned around car-centric living. It’s no wonder that petroleum-powered vehicles are the single largest U.S. source of climate-changing emissions. There are many ways to reduce this source, including redesigning cities to be more walkable, improving the quality and cost of public transportationand train systems, and encouraging bicycle transportation when possible—all of which will take concerted effort, time, and resources.

But the climate clock is ticking fast. After decades of scientists and climate activists sounding the alarm and being ignored, we are only now starting to take baby steps to mitigate climate change and it’s simply not enough. Even when accounting for the mineral extraction needed to make EV batteries, EVs have a far lower carbon footprint than petroleum-based cars and are perhaps the best, most accessible tool we have to quickly reduce our carbon impact.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    The cynic in me tells me that the Biden White House will do a compromise with the import of those Chinese EVs. So what they will do is insist that that BYD Seagull for example be built in the US but that it be an “Americanized” version – or at least a version that the big auto manufacturers thinks that Americans want. So straight away they will increase the dimension as they know that American only want huge a** cars. This will require a much larger battery array of course which mean more weight. So the BYD Seagull will go from 1,160-1,249 kg (2,557-2,734 lb) range to something three times the weight. And of course they will quadruple the number of electronic chips in it to run the latest bells & whistles that the latest cars must absolutely MUST have. Maybe even a self-driving function straight out of beta software. Of course with all that extra weight the number of recharges will have to increase as the actual range of that car decreases. And being a brand new car, it will take a year or two to learn how to build them properly. Tesla I note is still learning how to build their cars. Unfortunately that means that the original $10,000 BYD Seagull will now cost about $60,000 for the American made BYD Dodo but at least it will have a ‘Made in America’ stamp on it which is priceless. And the Biden White house will hail this as a great victory.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Isn’t the current trend of the free market economy set by US Congress that you can offer your product to US markets only if US investors own more than half of your operation?

      1. digi_owl

        Taking a cue from China, are they? Because i seem to recall that this was one of the early complaints about China and how they allegedly “stole” all that tech.

    2. ISL

      You have too much faith in US manufacturing. See example of the chip manufacturing plant with unlimited govt subsidies going nowhere in Arizona.

      I expect just promises and speeches and stock options and lots of management fees from insider trading.

      Otherwise, spot on!

    3. Altandmain

      The US has a tough choice because it can’t match China on cost of automobiles.

      1. Completely restrict Chinese cars via quotas and high tariffs, in which case EVs might not be ever affordable unless the US automotive industry uses tons of Chinese suppliers.

      2. Allow Chinese automobiles in full. EVs will be much more affordable outside of the upper-middle class. The US manufacturers are going to be devastated the way other industries that allow full free trade are. There will be many deaths of despair from job loss like after NAFTA and China joining the WTO.

      3. Allow China to set up branch plants to be set up. This would lead to a compromise between 1 and 2. A variation of this seems to be that China is setting up assembly sites in Mexico and making most components in China.

      The fact the US consumer prefers larger vehicles won’t be an obstacle. Chinese manufacturers have long been accustomed to manufacturing different products to serve different markets. There will be Chinese made large cars for the North American market. Its still going to cost a lot less than anything made in North America.

    4. jrkrideau

      So straight away they will increase the dimension as they know that American only want huge a** cars.

      I don’t know about actual sizes but BYD seems to have quite a few models available in Canada. Judging from the photos (and the prices) some are a lot bigger than the Seagull. BTW, the Seagull is quoted at CDN$ 15,960.

      2024 New BYD Electric Car Price In Canada

  2. timbers

    If you check local car dealer in the Boston area online for more moderately priced sedan hybrid models like Hyundai Elantra or Prius, the stock of new cars can frequently be counted with one hand, and they are almost always the most decked out model (most expensive). Prius is now designed like a cramped space capsule with notably more horse power for quick American rush-to-work road rage driving habits so you can get to the next stop light or backed up traffic faster than anyone else. I found one (1) Elantra of the basic model at a dealer with a total of 4 Elantras. Another with dozens but almost all high end models. Perhaps the newer space capsule helps Prius to compensate for the increased gas guzzling horse power for quicker acceleration.

    And dealership online search options seem to have been crapified, at lease for me, as search options seem blunt and obtuse steering you to look at ALL the cars not allowing quick access to obvious choice category like models types not clear forcing you to look at an Elantra w/o knowing if was the entry level or maxed out version with options you might not want or need.

    When driving in a neighborhood, am always amazed to see so many homes with garages that have cars parked in the driveway in front of the garage door. Because the car is too big to fit inside the garage. One of my criteria for a new car is that it can fit inside my garage. That criteria is getting increasingly hard to fulfill because the government/Profit Car Industry wants me to by a car much larger than the one I actually want or need.

    The government has imposed quotas on how many non electric vehicles can be sold, and this has greatly increased the price of cars. If people knew this and understood it, I think there would be potential for a mass revolute against our government the kind we see in Europe with farmers. The kind you might see if the ATF announced today they are going into Texas to take away everyone’s guns.

    1. ToWard

      At the end of February, we went to buy a new Prius and were told it would be a 6-12 month wait with a price of close to $40,000. Our car was falling apart, so we needed to move more quickly. We settled on a Camry hybrid for around $32,000 with delivery in “only” three weeks. No choice of color or other options—just take it or leave it.

  3. Matthew

    Am I the only one who finds the “range anxiety” phrase irritating? It feels condescending. Like, I don’t have anxiety about it, I just know that there aren’t enough charging stations to get me everywhere I want to to without waiting in line tor two hours.

    1. Paris

      These people are pathetic. I bet they live in NYC or some other cramped city like this one and have never been to the real America.

      1. JBird4049

        I do not like the phrase “real America” because it is all the same country. That said, it is a huge and much varied country, and too many people seem determined to be ignorant of this because simplistic one size solutions are easier to impose on others.

  4. AG

    German car salesmen scale back on EVs which are unpopular in Germany.

    According to Germany´s biggest automobile club ADAC, EV market share is now at 3%:

    “(…)Only just under 27,500 cars with pure battery drive (BEV) were newly registered in February this year – that is 15 percent less than in the same month last year. Their share of new registrations thus shrank from 22.6 percent in December last year to just 12.6 percent. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, the share of electric cars in the fleet will be less than three percent by January 1, 2024.(…)”

    Among other reasons: The soon to come cheapest Chinese model will sell for 9000 Euros. The cheapest German-market model by DACIA goes for 23.000.

    BOSCH company therefore argues that industry will rely on combustion engine technology (which is regarded as Germany´s Forte globally) until 2060. At the same time laying off 7000 workers world wide while 25.000 were on protest in Germany against the decision.

    btw: in Germany there are 50 mio. cars (vs. 80 mio. bikes.)
    Any child can see how this will end.

    p.s. it doesn´t bode well with alleged German legendary “innovation” that the engine they see as still prime for the industry in its basics is 150 years old.
    But in order to keep alive this dying patient the German state does everything it can to block meaningful public transport – international bus routes are a joke, the bus stations are from the Stone Age, any visitor of Berlin Main Train Station will learn to hate it immediately. Not to speak of German railway and its incapability to be on time.

    1. Piotr Berman

      I see no reason for bus stations to represent Space Age. OTOH, inability of trains to be on time seems to be an innovation in Germany, there was a time when trains were regularly on time. So the spirit of innovation still exists, although misdirected.

      1. AG

        ” Space Age” – due to comment length I failed to specify:

        The level of comfort is an issue when cars and public transport are in contest.

        The bus / train stations in Berlin e.g. are freezing cold, vast spaces extremely hostile to basic human needs.
        In Munich e.g. the toilets at the bus station for long-distance travel used to be beyond words…At Berlin bus main station there is no time table but a couple of printed sheets of paper to display where exactly your bus is leaving. Compare that to modern airport time-tables. Berlin Main Central Train Station offers hardly any heated public space to spend time unless you spend money in a fast food venue. Everything is meant to push you either out of the building (re: the homeless) or into the restaurants (spending money).
        The late architects of the infamous new Berlin Airport pointed out that conditions and liberties to build such spaces have changed radically for architects – they should know since the same group of architects built the old Tegel Airport in frm West-Berlin. Which was far more “passenger”-friendly and not just a location designed to force people to spend money.
        Compare those public buildings with the level of comfort in cars since the 1980s. Cars have grown in size and transformed into tiny space-ships. Spending on Autobahn Infrastructure is in lock-step with car-manufacturing trying to side-line train-traffic. There is no overarching concept to solve transportation as a major social issue in concordance with the true needs of the big majority of society. But instead half-hearted attempts to simulate public transport and relentless pro-car policy. At the same time it is madness to navigate German cities by car during rush-hours.

  5. chris

    What do these people think we should do? Let the Chinese completely destroy the center of our domestic manufacturing capability?

    We can’t roll out an EV plan until we agree on an industrial policy. As in, the US needs to agree that such a plan is necessary. And then these liberals who hate dirty domestic factories are going to have to learn to love them. I think the chance of either happening is slim. The further needs of restarting domestic mining and building more power generation facilities are even less likely to occur. If I had to guess, we’ll get a mix of policies that won’t help to solve any of these problems and we’ll get an increasingly stupid protectionist strategy. So that the cost of EVs stays high and we never support the kind of things to encourage more adoption.

    1. Bugs

      but, but…we’re in a Services Economy! Vertical industrial integration will decimate outsourcing and its rent-extracting enablers throughout the finance community! Think of the carnage!

    2. GF

      A couple of points:
      The domestic manufacturing capability can easily be converted to military vehicles, tanks and drones at 10 times or more profit margin than cars or trucks.

      Domestic mining is going great guns, except the dirty coal portion. The main problem is that most of it isn’t owned by Americans, except the dirty coal portion.

      Sorry for the lack of links, running short on time.

    3. spud

      yes according to the clintonites, we deplorable and our smelly greasy factories are not the future.

      almost everyone in bidens catastrophe were either directly involved with bill clinton, like biden, or second generation clintonites, who view free trade as a proper white supremacist vehicle.

      now we see the blowback from the complete idiotic policies of woodrew wilson and bill clinton.
      why biden even arrested black socialists, that outraged woodrew wilson.

      the free traders can no longer have it both ways, the exploitation of people of color, and free trade.

      the people of color have now surpassed the white free traders technological advantages. stunning them, they are like deer in the head lights.

      Yeman is making complete fools out of the clintonites, and their calls for where are my aircraft carriers.

      china will eventually flood america with these cars, and with our automakers under complete control of bill clintons hedgefunds, woefully under prepared.

      it will be a bloodbath, which was predicted from 1993 on wards.

      “In the Wilson Administration, the State Department routinely ignored and dismissed Black citizens’ pleas to speak out against lynching and other forms of discrimination. In fact, the administration was proactive in perpetuating segregation. Wilson and his cabinet actively worked to re-segregate federal offices and limit opportunity for Black Americans. A Postmaster within the Wilson administration once told reporters “There are no government positions for Negroes in the South. A Negro’s place in the corn field.” Documents in Record Group 59: General Records of the State Department at the National Archives provide proof of discrimination. The way in which the State Department responded to citizens concerned about racism is a clear indication of their attitudes. Alvee Adee, member of the Department of State, trivialized the effects of institutional segregation in response to D.L. Dartman, a Black citizen who was concerned about Jim Crow:”

      “This is a loaded claim to make against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South. Jim Crow, a set of laws enacted by state and local governments in the former Confederate States of America, followed the Reconstruction period and mandated segregation of public education, public transportation, and most public facilities. This, of course, limited the opportunities afforded to Black people. By implying that the mistreatment was alleged, and not proven, they turned a blind eye to the institutional forces that prevented black people from accessing resources essential to survival. Additionally, they minimized the impact of violence against Black Americans.

      Dartman clearly did not reach a responsive member of the administration. The letter continued: “The Department regrets to have to inform you that this is not a matter for the consideration of this Department, but is rather one for national legislation.” Curiously, conspiracies of Negro unrest were matters for the consideration of the State Department.

      A document titled “Special Report No. 10,” which was forwarded to the State Department and made by the Directorate of Intelligence of the British Home Office, revealed American sentiments that “race prejudice” was nothing more than propaganda:”

      ““It now seems clear that the riots were not the sporadic outcome of race prejudice, but the first fruits of the doctrine of socialistic equality preached by agitators to negro audiences throughout the country. . .It was hardly to be expected that colored troops could be employed in France without stirring up race-consciousness among returning soldiers.”

      While there may be some truth to the claim that black socialism was gaining steam, this claim had at least one purpose: It served to de-legitimize the very valid concerns of a people who were being subjected to violence, such as lynching. According to this study, concerns were more invested in the private sentiments of a group of men than the burning and torturing of Black bodies. By framing Black organization (which was a response to violence against Black people) as a threat to democracy, this study showed little concern for the lives of Black people.”

      the world view of the free trader is that the chinese just could not grasp technology. and were to sweat in factories assembling the products of today and tomorrow, under the direction of the white supreme run factory of the future.

      the clintonites running america will not be able to stem the tidal wave of blowbacks from the three amigo’s(bill clinton, barack obama, and joe biden)disastrous policies.

      the oligarchs they created and served, are about to get a very rude awakening.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    Pretty sick of this idea that automakers are just giving the USian consumer what they want. What they are doing is larding everything up with tech so people can’t fix their own cars, driving up the price, and then shoving it down people’s throats whether they like it or not.

    Can’t have a cheap EV, and can’t have these very affordable and useful low tech pickups either –

    Globalization is supposed to be this great boon according to the Western technocrats, but apparently only so long as the US gets to control the globe.

    1. digi_owl

      “Pretty sick of this idea that automakers are just giving the USian consumer what they want.”

      Not just automakers, i keep seeing that argument all over the place. In particular surrounding products one need in order to function in the current society. It is all marketing and induced demand. But whenever one try to highlight that the response is “it sells, therefore consumers (moo[sic]) must want it”. No, they pinch their noses and endure the expense and hassle because the choice on offer is fictitious at best.

    2. Duke of Prunes

      I disagree. There is a bit of a chicken and egg issue, but from the perspective of maximizing revenue, the auto industry is doing what it must. Why all the larded up expensive SUVs vs cheap basic transportation? The margins are the expensive vehicles are much larger. Even better, many of these buyers (or even better leasers) buy/lease much more frequently because they need the latest and greatest. Meanwhile the basic transportation buyer will tend to drive until the wheels fall off.

      I read an interesting anecdote on a Prius forum where, IIRC, the person posting owned a glass tinting business, and he said he always quoted Prius owners a higher price because they tended to be major pains in the ….

      The Ford Maverick (small, relatively cheap, hybrid 4-door pickup) was definitely a step in the right direction. It was announced to huge fan fair and there was great interest and a lot of people said “See – people DO want basic transportation”) but Ford can’t get out of its way bringing new products to market and product delays led to a long wait lists which drove up the price beyond affordable.

      About the Chinese EVs – I would be interested in knowing how well they perform against the US safety regulations. This is the excuse auto makers generally make about why the US can’t have the “global” models. Too expensive to bring them into conformance with crash tests, etc.

      1. Paris

        HuAgree. The demand is for large cars, no matter what the deniers say here. So much so there are just a few sedans these days, sold by the Japanese. If you don’t want a bloody SUV, you have to stick with Honda and Toyota. Which is fine for me, I’d never buy a bloody Ford lol, they break down.
        As per safety regulations, you’re correct. Although I’d like to see how the Chinese pass the test in Europe.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        Yes that’s basically my point – they are making what maximizes revenue for the corporation, not necessarily what the customer wants. Sure, some people do want larger vehicles, but some people would also like a relatively cheap, no frills, reliable vehicle. But since the margins on those aren’t as high, there aren’t many of them on offer.

        Perhaps it’s time for a nationally owned car manufacturer that will produce a cheap, reliable vehicle not designed with planned obsolescence. You know, to bring some competition to the big 3.

    3. JBird4049

      That Toyota pickup looks pretty good to me with the 25% surcharge being the real problem. Even with the cost of extras like a radio, its size and nearly certain Toyota reliability would attract me if I had need of a pickup.

      1. Ed S.

        At the price point in the article, I don’t think a 25% surcharge would be any issue ($2,500 on the base price of $10,000). The cheapest new Toyota Tacoma pickup has a list price of $33,000; a Ram Tradesman (supposed to be a “work truck”) is $41,000. Ram is also advertising 10% off 2023 models – which Ram states typically knocks $7,500+ off of the list price (so a list price of $75,000).

        $12,500 for a basic truck sounds awesome.

      2. Louis Fyne

        I’m pretty sure that the Toyota pickups aren’t subject to the 25% tariff as they are all assembled in Texas and Indiana—and have been for many, many years.

        Just look up the parts origin content on GM cars….it’s common for Toyota vehicles to exceed the USA content of GM vehicles

    4. JohnnySacks

      Basic transportation appliances only being available outside the US is a repeat of disgusting 70’s protectionism replay.

      The burdensome regulations protect their market. Cars need to adhere to safety ‘requirements’, yet any day of the week a person can opt to buy a motorcycle. Just rate them, let the customer decide. I’ll be the first in line to buy a $9,000 EV, but at current prices, it’s a non-starter.

  7. julian

    Hi Yves,

    If you were a policy maker, how would you balance the need for cheap, imported EVs against the pro-labor benefits of rebuilding an internationally competitive manufacturing sector?

    Regarding EVs specifically, I don’t understand which aspect(s) of the supply chain makes US manufacturing so uncompetitive against the Chinese. Michael Hudson usually points to high labor costs due to stagnant real wealth levels as the primary barrier against rebuilding domestic manufacturing/exports, but this article seems to point towards Chinese investment in reducing tech costs. Are Chinese batteries just cheaper? Or are they advantaged by vertically integrating rare mineral mining as well (which, for its environmental and lower labor costs, shouldn’t be worth competing for)? TIA

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As we say in Maine, I don’t think you can get there from here.

      China is willing to operate on the old Japanese model of accepting low to no profits to achieve scale economies and positive brand image with customers. US manufacturers are too greedy and short-sighted for that.

      Mariana Mazzucato recounts long form in her book The Entrepreneurial State the sorry tale why the US has no domestic LED screen makers despite considerable US investments in the technology to allow US firms early mover advantages. The short version is Silicon Valley didn’t think they could wring enough profits out of the industry to be competitive and weren’t interested in even making a serious attempt.

  8. Kengferno

    As someone who is going through this right now, The issues faced by the ev interested consumer are mirrored in the home solar market. There’s various federal, state and even local tax rebates that exist but no way to easily find out if you’re eligible. There’s confusing time and location specific parameters for selling your excess electricity back to the grid. And there’s even regulations about how many solar panels you can have on your roof which vary by state. And don’t get me started on the leasing vs owning thing…

    1. Jokerstein

      We installed a 9KW system back in 2018 and back then there was no confusion or complexity at all about finding what rebates were available, nor about selling power back to our local supplier. We even go net aggregate metering, meaning that before we sell any back (at low, low prices) the excess power generated on our island home is offset against the power used at our mainland home. And WSU runs the state incentive program whereby we get a check from the state each year, commensurate with the total amount of power we generate, whether we use it or sell it back.

      I have hear that things have become crapified since then, with many solar companies basically becoming finance companies who sell solar on the side, but our experience was great, and the system paid for itself in six years.

    2. elissa3

      For many years, I’ve thought that for those living in a single-family home, rural or suburbs, the optimal route would be solar panels on or adjacent to the house and two vehicles. One, the “good car”, standard ICV or hybrid, comfortable for 3 or 4 persons and long trips, and the second, a small, cheap EV used for the 90%+ of trips that are the most usual for most households. Limited range–maybe 50-60 miles corresponding to a lighter vehicle–but just what is needed. Maybe something like the Seagull referenced above. Plug the thing in at night to the storage battery connected to the solar panels, et voila! Not sure where home storage battery tech is right now; when I was most interested, the “breakthrough” was always a few years down the road, but I can envision something basic and suitable for the above scenario is now feasible.

      On another subject, what I find truly appalling these days is the monstrous size of some late model trucks. Who the hell needs these tanks? Certainly not most contractors that I know. I hope that it’s a temporary fad that will be limited by the insane cost of these behemoths. One can note with satisfaction the extreme rarity of used Humvees these days. I read somewhere that their popularity, post-Iraq war, was somewhat due to a substantial subsidy of some sort.

      1. heresy101

        It’s not just the big manufacturers that make huge gas-guzzling trucks. Saturday on I880 in Fremont, CA, a Tesla Cybertruck passed our Tesla Model S. Besides being buttugly, it was so huge that it could barely fit between the lane markings. It was almost like a flat semi-truck tractor in size. A Ford F-150 looks like a ballet dancer in comparison to the Cybertruck. There are rumors that Tesla is going to make a Ford Ranger sized model but it is so ugly that wouldn’t even buy that.
        I’m hoping that Canoo gets their electric pickup on the road soon. It is very much like my VW double cab pickup that I had 50 years ago.

  9. john r fiore

    Not only are US cars priced to the hilt, the process of “dealing” with the dealerships with their give and take BS makes one just want to give up and walk everywhere…and dont forget auto insurance rates which go up every 6 months! 5 times higher than anywhere else….like the housing market, its just a nother failed system…

    1. Paris

      Tip re insurance: I was able to keep my rate the same for the past 5 years by moving from one insurance company to another, every 6 months or so. Try that. It’s a pain, but works.

  10. dd

    The US can go its own way. The countries where you can by EVs for less than $10k will have cleaner, quieter and more comfortable cities. Transportation costs will be lower giving households more disposable income hence lowering labour costs.

  11. Sub-Boreal

    Another consideration is insurance costs. In Canada, where EV ownership is lower than in other affluent countries, the insurance industry hasn’t got enough experience yet with repair costs to adjust its rates accordingly. But early signs are that repair costs (esp. battery replacement) are higher than for conventional ICE-powered cars: EV owners likely to pay more for insurance, report says. Here’s why.

    One case which got a lot of attention late last year involved the BC owner of a 2022 Hyundai who was quoted $60,000 for replacement of what appeared to be a lightly damaged battery. The provincially-owned public auto insurer balked at paying more than the cost of a new vehicle, and simply wrote it off.

  12. Synoia

    EVs have a far lower carbon footprint than petroleum-based cars and are perhaps the best, most accessible tool we have to quickly reduce our carbon impact.

    I believe this inaccurate. The better response is Buses and Bicycles.

    I have not had a car since 2008. I find a B icicle better for my health, and very good for local activities. Having used a bike for this time has reduced my weight from about 286Ib to 190ib. As a measure I weighted 170 lb at the age 18 to 19.

    Bicycles also do not require the same amount of road repairs as Cares.

    1. Michael.j

      I totally agree!

      I’ve been using an ebike for shopping and commuting for over ten years. The trick on this is to get one with an aluminum or steel frame for cargo capability, and the capability to pull a grocery trailer. Fatter tires help with gravel roads and trails. High speed capability works well when you’re mixing it up with autos. They’re best with off street trails.

      The motors are also great at beating the heat. They have the best range on “eco”, but at 90+ degrees, kick it up to “tour” or “sport”, slack off a little on pedal pressure, and let evaporation cool you. It’s a bear cat when you stop, but while you’re moving, it’s actually quite pleasant.

      I live in a semi rural area and commute 5+ miles each way to get 32-40 lbs of water in my trailer every week, and it’s a fun adventure. I make this journey about 2-3 times a week for all the other stuff. It’s only 8 minutes slower each way than driving in heavy traffic.

      Fortunately for me, when we bought our house 35 years ago, we had the foresight to buy a place fairly close to a decent bike trail.

      Why waste all the cost of hauling a heavy car around, when there are much more efficient options?

  13. TomDority

    The leveraging up of basic living costs through law enabled investment gambling – jacking and propping housing costs, AI boosting food costs, privatization and tax gaming to the benefit of the speculative investments and imposing enormous debt loads upon productive companies to extract all monetary gains to a small sub-set and to the detriment of actual physical production. these and many more games by the financial innovators has left little for a consumer to spend on physical improvements to energy utilization and environmental stewardship. The fact that debt payment to fictitious capital is not considered overhead but a positive to GDP and that the debt is forcing the inefficient use of physical capital and mandate to overconsumption and overproduction just to make homage to financial investments imposed debt servitude– is appalling and, that these same forces are buying the congress to re-enforce this destruction through the same debt leveraged peonage will not sustain on this planet.
    Rambling again – sorry

  14. Eclair

    Here we go again! I’m old enough to remember (IOETR?) the Volkswagen Beetle, or Bug (thank you Hitler???!!) Scorned by Americans, who ‘demanded’ chrome, big fins, and a newly designed model every year, throughout the 50’s and 60’s, it became popular overnight during OPEC’s oil crisis in the early ’70’s. We bought one in bright red; our kids still talk about riding the the ‘way back.

    The only American-made passenger car I ever owned (bought by an over-solicitous father) was a Chevrolet Chevelle station wagon, in 1964. Filled it with our stuff and headed out for California. I did own a lovely little Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck in the ’90’s, which my husband called a ‘lady-truck,’ but ditched it after our first winter in Denver, when we narrowly escaped death after it spun out on Interstate 25. It’s been all-wheel drive Subaru’s ever since.

    My husband’s only car was a ginormous Ford Crown Victoria ‘hangar queen’, a discard from his parents; for thirty years he commuted to work by bicycle.

    1. Sub-Boreal

      Triggering fond memories of our family’s first car, a 1959 VW Beetle. I recall that this design had an interior cargo space behind the rear seats, and I was fond (before I put on much height) of making it my place to sit on longer trips. (Seatbelts? what seatbelts?)

      1. jo6pac

        Yes I had one same year and what gas gauge? You start run out you turn the handle on the floor with your foot & hope the next station near by. I put over 300,000 miles on it you could rebuild the engine in one day. I wish I had it today.

    2. Revenant

      Thank the British army, not Hitler, for the Beetle. Wolfsburg was in the British sector of the occupation and stubborn (Yorkshireman) British officers insisted that, contrary to the Morgenthau plan for the agrarianisation of Germany, the company was stood back up and specifically that the Beetle (the Everyman’s Car) was continued in production.

  15. Carolinian

    I still ride my zero emission bicycle and we have new trails for me to ride on. Meanwhile some of my neighbors cruise around the hood in souped up golf carts as though this is some kind of beach resort. They doubtless thereby consider themselves green even if their other vehicle is a Suburban and the carbon cost of making the golf cart a lot greater than simply walking a few blocks (the carts only legal on 25mph streets).

    There is a strong argument for a cheap electric car. And if battery costs can be licked then the greater simplicity of motors versus highly complex current gasoline engines means they could be much cheaper than what we drive now. In the end reality may trump the protectionists.

  16. John Ray

    Consumers are balking at EVs because of cost and range. These will get better with time but there is no way the power grid can keep up with a significant expansion unless we nationalize the grid and make it into a priority like the Rural Electrification program in the 30s. Even mining the copper needed would take a massive investment in the big mines in Chile, Mexico and Peru. Big banks will hesitate to dump billions into these unstable countries and the big US mines are closely regulated. Again, it would take investment by taxpayers in a program this large, which in my estimation would be well worth it.

  17. Jason Boxman

    If liberal Democrats took climate as seriously as they claim, they’d be moving heaven and earth to get these Chinese cars into this country and manufactured in this country, regardless of where the profits accrue to, because our lives depend upon it. You manage the climate emergency with the hand that you’re dealt. The US political elite ensured that we’d have a weak hand to play.

    Which isn’t to say the job losses in the auto industry won’t be cataclysmic, but we’re in for much more hurt than that if we continue to do almost nothing.

    Or there can be a serious effort to support EVs and hybrids, but that means real, generous subsidies, and strong regulation or outright nationalization of the auto industry, to ensure that partial electrification of transportation as much as possible is the goal, not corporate profits. This is incompatible with American financial capitalism, so will not come to pass either.

  18. TomW

    Look around and copy….Amsterdam has an interesting history with tiny, electric vehicles:
    IMO, small, electric “city” cars would have evolved, had the technology been available. Anyway, you see these little vehicles tooling around Amsterdam, and they look fun.
    Electric motors are just superior to gasoline. ICE have evolved to be amazing, but are absurdly complex in present form.

  19. Louis Fyne

    the BYD Seagull is only 143 inches long, similar in size to a Fiat 500—by US standards, this is a micro-car.

    The gasoline-powered Fiat 500 was a sales dud as outside of New York City or San Francisco, the market does not want a car this small.

    Comparing a micro BYD Seagull and a mid-sized Tesla Y (best selling US electric car) is arguing in bad faith (or the writer doesn’t know about cars).

    A BYD Seagull should be compared to a gas-powered MItsubishi Mirage (MSRP $16,700). Even the *tiny* electric Chevy Bolt is 20 inches longer than a Seagull.

    That said, I would never allow anyone in my family to drive a car the size of a BYD Seagull in typical American suburban, interstate driving—-it is a death trap given the size of American individual, public, and commercial vehicles and speeds involved on American roads. (Subcompact cars already have the highest death rate among car classes in the US)

    Just saying.

    1. Jason Boxman

      We’ve got someone that drives around in a “Smart” car out here; I’ve always called them smart coffins. Your death is assured in an accident in one of those; there’s no space for any crumple zones. Vehicles are so big in America, at this point, it is a self licking ice cream cone. People buy size for safety, because you really need to anymore.

      As usual, a failure of leadership and vision, where it concerns the public commons. But the business of America is business, at any human cost.

  20. David in Friday Harbor

    Yves has it right: “You can’t get there from here.” I suspect that the impetus for this piece was Sonali Kolhatkar getting a little dose of reality shopping for the kind of BEV that is available in most markets.

    The BEV is a terrific idea but there’s no profit in it. It’s just Clintonite magical-thinking. The existing battery technology requires a massive vehicle to cart around enough energy for more than a grocery run. This is before you come up against the problem that the charging infrastructure is inadequate for more than a few PMC early-adopters.

    I enjoyed riding my electric-boosted bicycle during Covid when there were fewer cars on the road. Now riding it in traffic feels like a good way to get killed. Our infrastructure was designed around the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) automobile.

    1. OnceWere

      This article quotes an EROEI of 60:1 for oil at the wellhead. That’s a fantasy figure. The estimates I’ve seen for current global crude production are 20:1 or less and declining. If you’re going to plug garbage figures into your analysis then you’re going to get garbage output.

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