By on April 30, 2011

On April 18th, BMW CEO Jim O’Donnell met in New York with reporters, amongst them TTAC’s Jack Baruth. At the meeting, O’Donnell opined that the U.S. government should end the $7,500 tax credit for EVs. “I believe in a free economy. I think we should abolish all tax credits,” O’Donnell said, noting that it was his personal opinion.

O’Donnell also said that “from a practicality point of view, EVs won’t work for most people. For at least 90 percent and maybe more of the population, an EV won’t work at the current battery range.” What else is new? A 10 percent market share for EVs usually is regarded as widely optimistic. And we all know that German automakers are not particularly excited about electrification. The quote wasn’t newsworthy, and did not rate a mention in Jack’s report about the meeting.

Interestingly, the meeting had been the kick-off for BMW’s ActiveE EV lease program.  If a CEO says that a new product is not all things to all people, he usually gets praises for being candid. This apparently does not apply in the world of faith-based motorization.

The Detroit News picked up the quote. From the DetN, a firestorm raged through the plug-in blogosphere. O’Donnell’s remarks were treated as anti-electric racism. Autobloggreen demanded an apology. AllCarsElectric rapped O’Donnell for forgetting “to not say horrible things about your product.”  Treehugger said the 90 percent remark was “a pretty oversimplified statement, to say the least.” The rest of the firestorm in the blogosphere … was the usual copypasting.

Two days ago, O’Donnell committed a cardinal sin in the corporate propaganda business. He violated the rule that says “if you stepped into the shit, don’t parade around the house.” The incident had been long forgotten, and filed away in the cabinet of memorable EV quotes. Like Volkwagen’s Christian Klinger’s “the electric car is not a request from the customer, the electric car is a request from the government.” Or the much more diplomatic “Maybe 90% wouldn’t choose [an EV] as a first vehicle, but they may choose it as a second vehicle,” by Chevy Volt spokesman Rob Peterson.

Instead of letting it go and rot in the cabinet of EV quotes, O’Donnell issued an apology. Since when does a BMW CEO apologize? He sure did. In a statement, O’Donnell said:

“On April 18th, I had a conversation reported in the Detroit News that has caused a great deal of concern over the past week. I realize I could have been clearer in my comments and I sincerely apologize if I have offended the strong network of electric vehicle advocates whose support has been deeply meaningful to us at BMW.”

“We also understand that we are a country of diverse living and driving conditions and that electric vehicles may not be the natural choice for all drivers, many of whom will want to choose other advanced technology vehicles. “

“I am sorry for the confusion and concern I have caused. While I clearly should have chosen my words more carefully, rest assured, BMW is fully behind electric vehicles and all of the ongoing innovation in this area. We live in a diverse world and our company is working very hard on meeting the needs of our wide range of customers all over the world.”

Now THAT created a firestorm. The DetN basks in the glory of feeding BMW crow, which their CEO ate. From Fiskerkarmablog to Electriccarnews, all are happy to hear that O’Donnell apologized for saying the truth. We live in a strange world where you have to say that you are sorry that you did not lie.

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67 Comments on “BMW CEO Apologizes For Telling The Truth About EVs...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Lord so the guy spoke the current reality. Will the future be diffrent? Who the heck knows? Maybe battery tech breaktrhoughs will occur and all of this will be water under the bridge, but currently battery powered vehicles will not work for most consumers. For my current commutte? Yes. For the trip I’m taking driving to Ohio this summer? No. Facts is facts.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    My turbo Saturn Sky is pushing close to 40 mpg on the daily commute of 60 miles one way. With 350 hp and 400 trq why would I make the sacrifice in driving pleasure for the cost of a few more mpg?

    • 0 avatar
      savuporo

      So if you were driving something with Tesla Roadster performance, how would that be a sacrifice ?

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Even the hottest factory Sky was 290hp and 340 lbs/ft of torque. It was also rated 19 city/28 highway. If you’ve managed to upgrade the vehicle to the point where it is making much more power as well as achieving far greater fuel economy, congrats, but those are hardly numbers that most drivers would achieve.

      In fact, I can’t think of any production car with more than 300hp that also gets 40mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        I see this mpg creep from people all the time about whatever vehicle they have purchased. A co-worker recently claimed he got 31mpg in his AWD Honda Pilot(version w/o cyclinder de-activation) while driving close to 80mph on a road trip. Me thinks he fudged his calculations a bit to make himself feel better.

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        Creep goes both ways.

        You have the liars who claim implausibly good mileage. The same liars whose bone stock car ran “14 all night” when they actually nailed the launch and ran a 14.94 once in the middle of some 15.5s. And that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt that they ran it at all.

        But you also have the perpetual victims who are continually on it, actually get 15 mpg, and that turns into 12 mpg when they’re complaining about how their last car always beat sticker (reality: matched the pre-08 sticker once) but this one won’t because Toyota is screwing them. (Not only will it not match sticker it’s also on the 3rd set of pads with 30K on the clock. I wonder why.)

      • 0 avatar

        Ford Mustang. 305hp, 40mpg highway.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        Did you notice him saying “40 mpg … one way”?

        Maybe it’s all downhill that way. I am curious as what’s his round-trip mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      downhill56

      Ok let’s work this our… You are paying about $13 dollars a day for fuel only for the “pleasure” of driving your Saturn. That’s $64 a week or $255 a month. I can drive my EV the same distance for $18 and half of that my employer pays for as I plug in at work. The $245 I save a month over you pays most of my payment and I don’t have oil changes, tune-ups nor am I supporting OPEC and fouling the air. Hey I like power too so when I have that need I just hop on my 1000cc motorcycle and get my rush.

      • 0 avatar

        You left out the 60 mile commute part, which your EV probably can’t do or does at the very edge of its abilities. Nissan Leaf: 73 mile range, assuming all is well with the wind, weather, and driving style.

        Sorry, I’m not interested in running out of juice two blocks from my workplace just because the day is a little windier than usual.

        Of course, like a true environmentalist, I work from home, so I have no commute. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Mike999

      Drive your turbo Saturn Sky into a City, and then tell me about the 13 mpg it gets.
      The Honda Insight gets 38-42 real world in the city, because the traffic moves slowly, and all acceleration can come out of the battery, and braking power can go into the battery.

      On the highway, I get 47.
      If I fill up on a highway gas station, drive 400 miles and fill up again on a highway gas station I’d get more then 50 mpg, maybe 57 mpg.

      It’s good to be conservative, in that you don’t risk your hard earned assets on innovative new products that haven’t proven themselves. Holding off on a Prius, or doubting hybrid technology today, is long past that point.

      EV battery life is proving itself as we speak.
      It’s time to review your fear of the new EV tech.
      It has too many advantages for You and America.
      – Send Osama a lesson.
      – Reduce US trade deficit, keep energy profit in America and increase the Multiplier Effect of Spending in America
      – Support Innovation.
      – Improve Air Quality, including in YOUR HOME, where garage fumes don’t pollute your house.
      – Save yourself a ton of money, cut your fuel bill by 75%.
      – Free yourself from oil company profiteering.
      – With an EV you can become self sufficient with a solar panel installation, really saving some dough.

  • avatar
    Doc

    My guess is that Mr O’Donnell is not really concerned with offending people who write for green blogs as much as he is worried about offending government officials that could make life miserable for an auto company that does not tow the line on electric cars. A careful fiction has been created that says that the public is clamoring for electric cars and the auto companies are finally going to build what people have wanted all along. We were, in fact, told that the lack of electric and hybrid offerings was part of the reason that GM and Chrysler got into so much trouble.

    Remember the outrage at the white house regarding Ed’s op ed in the WSJ about the Volt? The white house is not going to come after TTAC, but their could be repercussions for BMW in the US if they offend the powers that be.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    He may have a point in that electric vehicles aren’t quite ready for prime time for most households as a primary vehicle right now. In my opinion though, that’s exactly why the subsidies are needed. If the government wants to push electric vehicles as an agenda, then it needs to incentivize them to the point where they make some form of sense.

    The government did similar credits for hybrids, and now that the technology has evolved so that they are affordable and accepted by the mass market, the incentives have gone away. Enough interest has to be drummed up for electric vehicles to reach a sales level where automakers can use some economies of scale and general technical improvements to allow them to be priced at a point where they are both profitable to automakers and affordable to the average household.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      How much interest did a few thousand dollars from the IRS drum up when gas was cheap and the 1st gen Prius was a terrible car that nobody ever heard of?

      Auto manufacturers are 5 of the top 30 corporations in the world in revenue. They can pay for their own R&D. When the market is ready for electric cars they will.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The automakers didn’t go to the government begging to build electric vehicles and then ask for a subsidy so that people would buy them. The government went to the automakers and pushed for electric vehicles.

        Flawed as the CAFE regulations may be, the government is continually raising the bar for fuel economy expectations. If the government wants 10% of new vehicles sold to be electric, and the price prices at which they can currently be built won’t result in anywhere near that number being purchased, the government either needs to reduce the electric vehicle market share estimates, or offer incentives for people to buy the cars in greater numbers.

        I agree that the government shouldn’t have to pay for the automakers R&D, but if the market isn’t there for electric vehicles to be produced profitably yet, the automakers shouldn’t be expected to build them at a loss.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        50 years ago the 3 largest car companies were American. Now only one.

        When the market is ready for electric cars they will invest in R&D in electric cars. Which will be to late.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The first gen Prius was a terrible car? Really? I guess I was under a rock as the success of that car planted the seeds for the highly successful second and third generations…car show last week was loaded with manufacturers showing ready to purchase hybrids. Sure too cheap gas prices held back sales. But gas didn’t stay cheap for long. Now if only EVs could follow that curve…not possible but…

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    The only ones who want to see electric vehicles succeed are the government and a small segment of consumers.

    I can’t speak for consumers but I am confident that government is licking its lips thinking of all the different manner of control they can exercise over a fleet of battery powered cars.

    It’s the only thing that makes sense. There’s no other logical reason for such a hard push from the government to make these vehicles mainstream.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Yeah, couldn’t be energy independence, reduction of pollution, co2 reduction, etc… Let’s just jump head first into the conspiracy theories.

      Why wouldn’t anyone want electric cars to succeed if they can be shown to be a suitable replacement for ice automobiles?

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        Because if they actually gave a crap about any of those things they would attack gallons and grams respectively, instead of miles.

        The alternative energy push is simple patronage. A federal election runs over 5 billion dollars. You think people are paying $40,000 a plate to have their picture taken?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        <<<<<>>>>>

        Actually there are many people who consider these things important. No different than those who consider, say gun rights, or abortion, or pick whatever you please. However, the market, left to its own devices will never respond in time to address them. As much as I oppose these credits, I do realize that they play a part in nurturing a fledgling industry in the path to becoming self supporting. You could argue that this is not the government’s role and you would neither be wrong – or right – but it is in our country’s best interest to work for energy souces that are not middle-east nor fossil fuel derived. (BTW, nukes are not going to go away despite the tragedy in Japan as there is no other means right now to generate the volume of energy needed).

        Gallons and grams, yeah you are right. But we can’t even get this country to become a follower of MKS units like the rest of the world. We will never get the “unit” of MPG to go to the far more relevant GPM yardstick. And, yes, the push for alternatives is fraught with patronage, but sadly so is everything else…watching all industry belly up to the trough is disgusting, especially as they ship their work overseas…

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m in that small segment of consumers. I’m tired of being part of the problem, especially climate change and the oil wars. Also, my commute is very short, so 100 miles a day gives me a 10-1 safety factor on most days, and a 4-1 safety factor on the days when I drive a lot. I’d still keep an old gas beater around (or rent one) for road trips, but it’s still a 90% reduction in my oil demands from my already-low usage.

      I don’t see how an electric car has anything do with government control. If anything, it frees me from government control because I can make my own fuel for an electric car at my house, without depending on my government to keep the oil flowing. Being dependent on oil? That’s being controlled by both the government and big business.

      As for the On-Star type electronics in the car (which are widely deployed on non-EVs too), I’m a computerman and I own the car. I’ll modify or replace them to suit my needs whenever I feel like it.

      • 0 avatar
        Acubra

        Sorry to surprise you mate, but you are still part of the old problems (oil required to ship all components and materials to assemble your toy, negative trade balance, etc.) and are creating a few new ones now: rare earths depletion, terrible pollution in ares where batteries are made (China), etc, etc.

        Ignorance is bliss. Amen.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Acubra, cutting my personal gasoline consumption by an order of magnitude is miles better than what I’m doing now, and it’s close enough that I can consider it “no longer being part of the problem”. Yes, electric plants have emissions, and yes it is better than burning gasoline in your car directly. Yes, buying a car off of the world market has side effects but, yes, has far fewer side-effects than buying oil off of the world market. Overall, a big win — even if doesn’t play out the way the teenagers screaming from either side of the political divide think it does.

        Some people follow that line of reasoning and decide that they want to turn the clock back to the 1800s or to the stone age, but I’ve lived that lifestyle and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. A carefully considered technological lifestyle is much better, and lower impact in many ways. (If everyone decided to live like cavemen, we’d all need a lot more land — and that’s just the beginning of the problems.) Turning the technological clock back sucks, so the careful and thoughtful application of technology (with full awareness of its side-effects) is the way to go.

  • avatar
    skor

    Global warming, electric cars, caveman diets, etc. See below.

    Трохим Денисович Лисенко (Trofim Denisovich Lysenko): Soviet agronomist who was director of Soviet biology under Joseph Stalin.

    Lysenkoism:Used colloquially to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.

  • avatar

    Reminds me of a bloom county strip spoofing the flap that happened when Larry Summers raised the issue of fewer women in science. Opus says, “…very very very very sorry. Clearly the prescription painkillers had driven me barking mad.” It ends with Opus strung up by his ankles in a cell, over a package labeled “costco jumbo centipedes, 200-pack,” and the centipedes crawling out and onto him. (4-17-05)

    I agree with Doc. I am also inclined to think the $7,500 subsidies are premature. That money could probably be better spent funding more research into batteries. If/when ones that can give cars at least the range of an RX-8 (about 280 miles) and that have charging times of less than five minutes, then the subsidies would be indicated to help the market get to the point where economies of scale bring the capital cost down to where the life-cycle costs are more than competitive with ICE.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    First off, when EVs have a range of 200+ miles and charge in less than 5 minutes EVERYBODY will want one. A more realistic answer is 2 hours and 150 miles of charge. That is achievable in a few years at most. Super capacitors can give the instant charge you seek and the range is a matter of charge.

    Second, 90% of society can’t live within 100 miles a day? Really? From what I read last the average US driver does less than that and if businesses offered free charging at their car parks this would be solved with ease. I think the numbers are more so reversed, 90% could live with that but 10% couldn’t or to be fair closer to 30% would need hybrids while the rest could have EVs.

    This website tends to cater to the right-wing car lovers who seem to prefer to believe EVs are by definition the devil. They’re the future and frankly the sooner we get off petrol the better.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Ok, so you’re neither right -wing nor a car lover, so what are you doing here? For your information, it’s going to be a long time at best before we can wean ourselves from petroleum so you better get ready for a long wait. Electric is not the future no matter how much utopians want it to be. Electric cars are kind of the philosopher’s stone of the greens. No matter how much you want it to work, barring major advances in battery technology it is just not practical for most of us. Plus there are the problems of pollution from power plants needed to charge the things and from shortages of rare metals to make batteries. They are no more than a small niche product depending on subsidies for life. Those subsidies can’t be afforded forever either.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Incremental steps are still steps.

        If most of us Prius driving “hippies” go out and trade them for electric cars, and everyone else keeps doing what they’re doing now, that’s still a win for us all.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Good lord, I love cars. I want a Porsche Cayman and perhaps a new Mustang. Right now I drive what I have to because of my poor grad student status. But to argue that 90% of car owners couldn’t live with 100 mile range is just a flat out false hood. BMW bet the bank on ICE using hydrogen just like Ford did in the early 2000s. Turns out nobody in the oil industry was interested in aiding in hydrogen extraction at their cracking facilities to put it on the roads so BMW simply abandoned that and Ford bought up hybrid tech patents to produce the fusion hybrid and try and still push the ICE hydrogen-powered idea quietly.

        BMW is by no means left or right wing, their existence is more so aligned with whatever party is willing to aid them but with BMW offering ZERO hybrid or EV cars them saying anything is tantamount to propaganda. It’s like McDonalds slandering hot dogs, they don’t sell them so why not insult them?

        The kind of demands people want from EVs such as 200 mile range is around the corner. In most cases hybrid cars are dramatically faster to 60 than their ICE counterparts simply because they don’t have a crank shaft that needs revving. They simply produce more power as required. The battery is limiting but by no means is it primitive, as newer generations of batteries are developed since there is a market for them we’ll see increased energy efficiency.

        This applies to the lower statement but what I have read with hybrids and EVs is unless you live in Canada or Alaska the US’ normal climate range will only affect an EV about 10% one way or the other which is about the same effect it has on ICE but because the fuel tanks are larger the effect is easily masked.

        I tend to see the future as a plethora of options but to assume EVs are DOA is just asinine. The gas-powered ICE is here for atleast two more decades but with the new CAFE standards of 2016 hybridization is going to become standard across the board with sizable increases in EVs a necessity simply because even with the damnable credit swapping they allow in the system there won’t be enough credits to go around and Ford and GM will be the vast majority of purchasers.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Kind’a off subject here. I read a comment where TTAC is accused of catering to “right wing car lovers”

      The next thing I know, I see a poitical ad for the NDP.

      For those that don’t know, the NDP is a far left party lead by an avid car hater. The only thing he hates worse than cars,is the oil sands.

      The USA make wake up on Tuesday with a communist country on thier border.

      • 0 avatar

        MikeAR said: “Ok, so you’re neither right -wing nor a car lover, so what are you doing here?”

        Mike, please don’t put TTAC into a box. We welcome readers and commenters from all backgrounds and of all persuasions to join our discussions here. Without a diverse reader and commenter base, TTAC would devolve into an echo chamber rather than a forum for the vigorous, Socratic pursuit of truth. I won’t have that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that echo chambers are devastatingly boring and ultimately irrelevant. Regardless of how I might feel about a given issue, preaching to the choir bores me to no end.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      When EV’s:

      1)Have a range of 200 miles
      2)Charge in 5 minutes
      3)Have all the creature comforts people expect(heat, AC, power everything)
      4)No range penalty when operating in extreme conditions(very hot/cold)
      5)Similar performance with equal sized dino-juice powered vehicles
      6)Costs the same to buy as dino-juice powered vehicle

      I’d love an EV, and I’ll buy one when the above happens. Unfortunately, the above listed specs ain’t gonna happen….violates the laws of thermodynamics.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        1) 200 miles is 2 generations away, so within 6 years
        2) 5 minutes is a very short time. 200 miles is a 3 hour drive so increasing that time to 15 minutes isn’t a bug but a feature
        3) Not big energy consumers except maybe AC (heating is almost free in an ICE so car designers never focused on it)
        4) Which extreme conditions? London, Ontario is much more extreme than London, England.
        5) It is easier to build a fast electric car than it is to build a fast ice car
        6) Shouldn’t that be cost the same to operate? For instance every diesel version cost more than a gasoline version but for example in France more diesels are sold. Why? Because they are cheaper to operate

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      EV’s are merely part of the future – not “the future” per se. Do you think heavy-duty commercial vehicles can be electrified? Doubtful. They may run on alternative fuels like biodiesel blends down the road. For anything larger than a D-segment sedan, full electric power (without an ICE or other hybrid assist powerplant) is impractical, given the amount of power required for such a vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        +1.

        We don’t need a one-size-fits all solution, and one doesn’t exist anyway.

        It will be a much more fun automotive world when you can pick the right power-plant for your car based on your personal requirements, rather than the current “you’re getting an ICE or nothin’!” Much better to have a variety of choices.

        (For those who aren’t deep in to green car culture, I’ll point out that, except for the Volt, all of the hybrids on the market get all of their energy from gasoline — just like everything else on the road. A high-efficiency hybrid vehicle is incremental improvement, which is welcome, but it’s not going to solve any big problems.)

        (Also, remember that more oil that I save when I use an EV for my commuting and grocery runs, the more oil you guys can have fun with until it runs out.)

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Don’t heavy duty commercial vehicles run on an alternative fuel called diesel?

        A 40 mile range and an electric highway system and you can run heavy duty commercial vehicles electric. Also city delivery will be pushed to electric because as soon as it will be practical to run electric it will become illegal to run ICE

    • 0 avatar

      @Xeranar

      Most of the time, most people, including me, drive less than 100 miles a day. But I drive more than that often enough, and sometimes unexpectedly enough, that an EV would be a major reduction in my quality of life.

      While I certainly don’t think EVs are the devil, or the red peril, I do think the push for them is coming largely from the government, and that it ***may*** be premature, as some other fuel/technology may prove superior, such as hydrogen, or microbially-produced fuels. I think it is probably too early for the gov’t to put it’s money on EVs.

      besides the problem of betting on what is potentially the wrong techology, the gov’t is spending a hell of a lot of money on subsidies that I think could do a lot more to reduce fossil fuel use if spent elsewhere. (For example, on subsidizing people to put better insulation on their houses.)

      Finally, although there are right wing car nuts on this site, there are also left wing car nuts, and everyone in between. The great thing about this site–thanks to both the original editor, Robert Farrago, and the current editor, Edward Niedermeyer–is that our discussions are kept civil, and free of trolls (unlike the NPR ombudsman’s website on the trolls!) and thus far more interesting than they would be if flame wars were allowed. The more you hang out here the more you’ll see we’re a diverse and intelligent crew.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Hydrogen is electric with a fuel cell instead of a ICE as in the Volt. It just makes to much financial sense to add a 20 miles plug-in battery which makes the economics of hydrogen gas stations not economical

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        I drive the occasional 200 miles for fishing and pleasure trips & I completely understand that EVs can’t handle that. What upsets me though is that for those occasional trips the newer EV technology will make them easier to deal with. I’m not saying go out and buy a leaf or volt tomorrow, if anything I highly advocate hybrids for those who travel greater distances and need the range. But arguably EVs aren’t really premature, they’ve had stagnant technology gains since the 1990s because oil companies and car companies essentially worked together to prohibit the advancement because gasoline was still cheap.

        The push from the government isn’t evil or wrong. I know your intent isn’t necessarily to imply that but I don’t like using it as a de facto excuse for the events. The government is pushing EV technology in an attempt to increase CAFE standards since they won’t be able to meet them otherwise. In Europe the standard small car gets 40+ MPG and while about 2-3 seconds slower to 60 than our small cars their medium and large cars are near identical in speed to 60. The US auto industry has generally lagged behind Europe for decades simply because they could, the US is a closed market. I got annoyed with the attitude coming off of the BMW supporters who assumed that what BMW said was the definitive truth, if anything the truth lies somewhere in between but BMW has no EV technology to speak of and bet the farm on hydrogen-powered ICE cars so them coming out against EVs is actually just standard industry propaganda practices.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    I wish I knew the details on how the $7500 rebate works. What I do know is that it could turn the Mitsubishi iMIEV into a real option for a lot of people. 20 grand is close to the price of a lot of loaded subcompacts, and although this isn’t as nice, and the range is limited, it has a huge ace in the hole; no more fillups, and apparently no drivetrain maintenance. I’m not a fan of government subsidy, but if they funded it with a gas tax, I don’t know if I could complain too much.

    I’ll be interested to see what the price is on the EV Fit when it comes out. If they could get the msrp to ~30k, minus the rebate you could have a Fit with a battery for $22,500. Sign me up.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It’s been covered extensively in green car blogs. In the old version, it worked like any other tax rebate where you got your money after you file your taxes. A proposed new version would get the dealer involved so that you get the $7500 rebate off of the price of the vehicle when you walk out the door.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I think it’s too early to say with any confidence what the truth of EV’s will be. To presume to know the truth about EV’s presumes that one can simply extrapolate that future conditions will be pretty much the same as present circumstances. While this may be valid in many kinds of predictions, the truth of EV’s depends on a whole host of variables ranging from unforeseen technological innovations to changes in consumer perceptions about driving needs, vehicle desirability, and so on. Regardless of which situation turns out to be true in the end, to claim to know it at this point in time would seem to be premature and expressive of a certain overconfidence in the evidence upon which one’s claims are said to rest. We can all make our own guesstimates, of course (and some will likely be better warranted than others), but I would suggest that any such claims are probable at best with a high degree of possible error.

    As the current focus on fuel consumption indicates, the desirability of vehicles can change quickly and dramatically. Anyone who claims to know the truth about EV’s should be making a fortune in the stock market.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Also, the availability of oil. Oil is a finite resource, and we burn it when we buy it.

      The problem is obvious, but predicting when the problem will start to bite us, and the details of how it will happen, has stumped a lot of smart people.

      I expect the price of oil to increase steadily in real terms over time (and also the volatility of the prices), so an EV will insulate a person from that a bit.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Any time I see the word “government” followed by a verb, I know that some shallow thinking is likely to follow. Likewise, when I see a number preceeding “mpg”, I’m pretty sure that I can reduce it by a third if I want to get some approximation of the truth. If you remember back far enough to the pre-seatbelt, pre-airbag, pre-catalytic converter days, you could easily cut in half (at least) the dire warnings of their costs issued by the Big Three. It was all hyperbole in the service of self-interest. Big lies all, but nonetheless soon forgotten by most. I suspect that ten years hence, much that gets people exercised today will seem like so much piffle.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Philosophil: All excellent points. Most of us are inclined to imagine a future where the landscape is much like the present. While some things are timeless, that’s rarely the case with things technical, economic, political, etc. So your guess is as good as mine or most anyone else’s.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    The problem demonstrated by this episode is that electric car mania is a religous faith based movement rather than a reality based one.
    The greens should haved declared victory regarding automotive pollution long ago and stopped (they did a good thing but car pollution is now minimal). Ships are a major pollution source – they should be the next target.
    Instead the greens have declared war on CO2, pointlessly. Electric cars with a range of 100 miles? Uhm, no. I’ve test driven the Leaf, and putting the AC on (as one tends to do a lot here in Dallas) drops the range to the 60’s. That’s enough to go to work and back with a side trip to the grocery store but not enough left to go to my evening class.
    I like the Prius and the Volt is OK (I’ve driven both) but pure electric is an answer to a question that’s pointless for most of the population. Drive one if you choose, but don’t make me subsidize your Gaia worship. What would Jesus drive? Probably step-dad Joseph’s old carpenter pick-up.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “The problem demonstrated by this episode is that electric car mania is a religous faith based movement rather than a reality based one.”

      I’m an atheist and so don’t have faith in anything, really. However, I want to purchase an EV, and will do so as soon as my personal finances and the market line up.

      I’d like to hear your reasoning that this idea is based on “religous” faith. Unless it’s just based on the idea your lifestyle is awesome and Right and that anything different must be inferior, then I get it and I don’t really care.

      • 0 avatar

        @Lokki: Was Joseph’s pickup a Chevy or a Ford?

        @Luke42: I’m also an atheist, but I think most peoples’ views on political issues are more religious than knowledge based. (That’s why before the crackdown under TTAC’s first editor, Farrago, discussions on climate disruption used to devolve into flame wars.) We’re a tribal species, after all, and while we’ve been at the current level of intelligence for at least 40,000 years, science has existed in most of the world only for a few hundred years or so (yes, it goes back further when you look at the Greeks). If you go back even to Civil War times, some of the views from people who remain esteemed, on the nature of the African races, for example, were truly nutty.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’ve also observed the tribalism. I have to keep reminding myself that public version of the climate debate really is only about culture and not about anything else, at least as far as the BS that politicians and pundits say. The rhetoric certainly ignores the reality of the situation, which is a decade or two ahead of the debate in every respect.

  • avatar

    The truth? You can’t handle the truth! : ) Never trust anyone who claims they know the “truth” about future consumer preferences.

    Electric cars are not expensive. Their batteries are. I’m amazed they don’t cost more considering how few are being produced. Given enough demand, the price would drop precipitously. They are much simpler to build.

    Other than cost, they are a good solution for urban multi-car families.

    As for government subsidies, I take them when I can get them (Prius, my gas furnace, electric car). Surely not all government subsidies turn out to be a waste of money?

    According to the Nissan Website, registration for the Leaf begins May 1 (today) but it is Sunday and nobody is at work, so…

    I already registered for the MiEV but have not made up my mind …could use some help.

    Google “Biodiversivist Leaf or MiEV?”

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      I want you to define waste of money pertaining to government subsidies. You do realize that the money government uses to subsidize whatever they think is worthwhile has to come from somewhere don’t you? It either comes from me and taxpayers like me or from debt issued to make up the difference between receipts and spending. That debt has interest and eventually will be oaid back so your subsidy still comes from me. You know what, I don’t like paying for your stuff and I don’t like mooches. I have the right to complain and you appearently have the right to be smug. If smugness could power cars you greens would have an endless source of energy.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        What you don’t realize is that the oil and gas industry is already being subsidized by our tax dollars, so in order for the market to work (to provide the correct price signals), electric vehicles must also be subsidized too.

        If you’d mentioned that you want to remove some specific existing subsidies, then your argument would hold water. But it sounds like you don’t want new stuff subsidized, but you’re just fine with the existing subsidies. That’s consistent with neither a fiscally conservative viewpoint, nor free-market viewpoint.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        I did not sound like I am happy with current subsidies, you’re trying to change the subject. I am against subsidies of all kinds, ethanol especially. I do not like the fact that my tax money supports people who are making things that cannot stand on their own. In other words, mooches don’t like light shining on their mooching.

        Your arguement is weak and pointless. Don’t accuse me of being like you because I don’t mooch off the producers of this country.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’m glad you’re consistent about objecting to subsidies across the board.

        Other than that, your comment is just a mild ad-hominem, so I can’t really respond. Saying it don’t make it so, though. You have to make an argument for your position. If you want to call me a name and have it mean anything, you have to tell me exactly part of my fully-employed tax-paying lifestyle matches that name. Otherwise, meh.

        P.S. An awful lot of people who make arguments that sound like yours turn out to just be objecting to change, or to people who don’t aspire to live their exact lifestyle and aren’t actually objecting to a specific policy issue or technology. Somebody needs to call it out.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        Luke42,

        I dont normally partake in these politically-charged (as opposed to electrically-charged) discussions here, but. I keep hearing about all these oil company “subsidies”, but never see any specifics. $7500 per electric car is easy to understand, the Ethanol issue a little more complicated, but still pretty direct and understandable. Tell me exactly how oil is DIRECTLY subsidized. Thank you.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Here’s a good description of the subsidies from a working petroleum geologist:
        http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7861/798247
        Yes, the site is one with an agenda and, no, I don’t necessarily agree with anything that I read there, but it’s a good description of two of the major types of subsidies — that drilling companies can write off the oil they’ve removed from the well as something like depreciation, and that contract services are tax deductible.

        (EDIT: A bunch of crazies have posted comments since I last read that thread. The comments from “ROCKMAN” and “westexas” are the ones to which I wanted to bring your attention.)

        (EDIT: Here’s another link that’s more authoritative:
        http://www.irs.gov/publications/p535/ch07.html#en_US_2010_publink1000208883
        However, it lacks a lot of context which, given that a lot of mixed nuts comment on The Oil Drum may or may be a good thing….)

        Another type that comes up in discussions is the leasing system for mineral rights on public lands; many people feel that oil companies should be charged more (or at all) for access to the oil that is below public lands. I haven’t researched this one fully, though, so I can’t really say much about it.

        The one thing I can’t stand is the blind repetition of talking points. I respect the opinion of people who disagree with me, just so long as they don’t consider shouting other people’s talking points to be discourse. MikeAR’s argument seems bulletproof at first glance, but only if you haven’t looked below the waterline — and I needed to point out the problem for anyone who might stumble upon it. It may be a personal failing on my part, but I’ll get over it… :-)

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with government subsidies is that they are often guided more by politics than by economics and science. In its quest to reduce greenhouse emissions, the government should figure out how to get the most reduction in emissions per dollar and put money there. That’s going to be mostly in using energy more efficiently for a while. Insulating houses. Making power plants more efficient. stuff like that.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    O’Donnell is against all tax credits.

    So I’m sure BMW will be returning any millions the state of SC gave them for the factory down there, right?

  • avatar
    bodegabob

    Ooooh, one of these things! I love these things.

    If your EV has an effective all-weather range of 70 miles or so you had better not have a commute longer than 10 miles. There are contingencies to every commute. Say you forget your laptop half way to work and need to turn around to get it. Say that you find out you need to make a special trip to the doctor’s office when you find out your kid was sent there from school. You can still make an EV work in these cases, but you’d better not be using it anywhere close to its capabilities just for steady-state commuting duty.

    So I think an EV remains a very nice lifestyle statement for people who like to buy products that make them feel good about themselves and superior to others.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It sounds like an EV won’t work for you. That’s fine! It doesn’t need to be a one-size-fits-all solution, and if EVs work for some people, it’ll be a win.

      Transportation never needed to be a one-size-fits-all endeavor, though the unusual versatility of gasoline-powered cars has gotten a lot of people to think that it has to be.

      An EV will work for my family. We fit the label of an “Urban multi-car Family”. Our town is 5 miles on a side, but it’s quite dense because the farmland surrounding it is incredibly productive and valuable. In all of the time we’ve lived here, we’ve never driven more than 70 miles in a day — unless we’re on a roadtrip. An EV will work just fine for the bulk of our daily and yearly driving, and we can keep an old gasser around (or rent one) for the few days a year we go on road trips or haul heavy objects. I’d sure like to get off of the oil-price roller coaster for our daily non-discretionary driving, so when our Prius is up for replacement in a couple of years, a LEAF, the Ford Focus EV, and the Volt (if the price comes down a bit) will all be on our shopping list.

      Alas, our 2nd car (a Ford Ranger), our “everything the Prius can’t do” vehicle, is up replacement. That’s proving to be a real challenge, because most family cars intended for the American market aren’t designed with my needs in mind. Maybe a Subaru something-or-other (with good roof racks and a trailer hitch), or one of those European cars that Ford and Fiat are bringing to the US market will fill the slot slot.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      “So I think an EV remains a very nice lifestyle statement for people who like to buy products that make them feel good about themselves and superior to others.”

      The same could be said for a whole host of other cars like Hummers and Escalades. Just because a vehicle isn’t rational for you doesn’t mean it may not be rational for others. Assuming values based other’s purchases says more about you than it does about them.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        It depends on the context.

        I helped a family member purchase, finance, and register an F-150 4×4, because it’s the right tool for the job. Her work takes her to remote parts of the US and she travels thousands of miles per year over unimproved roads in 4 wheel drive. Considering the amount of survival gear and work-tools that she takes with her, it is simply the correct tool for the job. I’m proud Prius driver, and a proud co-owner of this F-150.

        A shiny hummer in the mall parking lot with no mud on it is another story entirely. Also, the spotless F-150 Office Worker Editions that park in the parking deck near my office are just silly. OTOH, some of my co-workers live on farms and drive their farm truck in to the office. That’s not quite as silly, especially since a lot of them have to plow their own driveways on their way to work, and it’s really easy to see the difference. The farm trucks have trailer hitches, plow attachments, dents, and mud on them. The spotless pickup truck that lives in suburbia really stands out; it’s a machine that isn’t being used for its intended purpose and is, by definition, a waste. The money, the fuel, and a perfectly good machine are all things that should be put to work doing something useful.

        (I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, because the F-150 I co-own was one of those Office Worker Editions with almost a hundred thousand easy miles on it. The owner use it to commute to a while collar job and to do some occasional light towing. Compared to the kind of use it’s getting from the off-road desert work, that thing was brand new when we bought it, and it cost a lot less than a new truck.)

        The Right Tool for the Right Job. Both sides of that statement are important — and the second part is the hard part.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    So-called “green” power is much more subsidized than conventional electricity: http://media.hotair.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/energy-subsidies.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That’s related to the fact that efficiency is the best alternative fuel, at least on the first pass. Once those ducks are in a row, then you can evaluate PV or wind. Or not, I guess, if you don’t care about the externalities incurred by using fossile fuels. But, even then, efficiency will save you money.

      (Unless you start keeping score with your buddies and you like to win, in which case it may not save you money.)

      The problem is convincing people to care about insulation, efficient household appliances, and efficient transportation.


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