By on February 27, 2012

Editor’s note: While our erstwhile Editor-in-Chief, Edward Niedermeyer, is on sabbatical, he will continue to weigh in on automotive issues in a (hopefully) weekly column entitled Blind Spot. This is the first installment.

Back in 2008, as the worlds of automobiles and politics headed towards a dramatic collision, the founder of this site and I had a series of conversations about political perspectives on automobiles. Though these conversations were wide-ranging, I kept coming back to the same conclusion: for all of the talk about guns as “tools of freedom,” it seemed to me that cars were even more worthy of the title. After all, most people use an automobile in the pursuit of freedom and mobility every day, whereas guns are (relatively) rarely used to secure individual rights.

But embracing the car’s role as a tool of freedom raises a number of troubling questions, most of them inherent to the very cause of liberty. Though cars make us more free as individuals, we must recognize that it comes at the cost of (among other things) dependence on gasoline, an “addiction” that many now seek freedom from. As new energy sources and mobility concepts become available, citizens will have to navigate a complex thicket of issues as they seek to maximize the freedom that personal mobility offers.

That private transportation fundamentally increases personal liberty is difficult to argue against. On the theoretical level, it’s not difficult to understand how private mobility frees individuals to choose where they live and work, empowering individual choice over collective planning. And for those who see humans as essentially freedom-seeking creatures, the headlong rush towards private car ownership in developing countries could be a sign of the car’s inherently liberating power.

But as is so often the case with expanding liberty, the democratization of the automobile has a flip side. Indeed, the very expansion of the global auto market puts pressure on our energy sources, creating something of a zero-sum global market for private transportation.

Even more troubling for proponents of the car as a tool of freedom, the expansion of the global car market in developing countries is being accompanied by a transition away from automobiles in developed countries. Beyond even the impact of rising gasoline prices, social, cultural and technological conditions are making automobiles less of a liberating force in developed nations. Particularly among young people, automobile ownership is increasingly seen as a burden rather than a freedom.

For some, the answer to this automotive apathy lies in new technology, most notably in electric cars (EVs, or electric vehicles). New technology, cleaner energy sources and a more high-tech image will, argue EV boosters, make cars more relevant and sustainable to new generations of developed world consumers. But can electric cars really serve as tools of personal freedom?

On the most superficial level, EVs offer considerably less immediate freedom than gas-powered cars. Once its battery is used, an EV must sit immobile for 6-12 hours before it can drive again, limiting (if nothing else) the perception that ones car could cross a major land mass efficiently should one need it to. This gut-level reaction is, among admitted fans of freedom, a major stumbling block to the acceptance of EVs.

Add to the EV’s fundamental limitations the fact that the market for them is being stimulated by government tax dollars, and i shouldn’t be surprising that EVs have become something of a punchline on the right. After all, a gut-level appreciation for continent-crossing levels of freedom and an appreciation for the free market tend to go hand-in-hand, and the EV fails on both counts.

But by making EVs out to be nothing more than a patronage plot based on Global Warming hysteria, the political right does a disservice to both the EV and itself (however true individual accusations may be). For a significant number of Americans, the EV holds the long-term promise of an almost unheard-of level of freedom from external energy sources: what could be more enticing to the lover of freedom than the idea of local private transportation powered by solar panels on your roof? And on a national level, the hidden costs to taxpayers of gasoline dependence aren’t often brought up by the deficit hawks (or hawks of any kind, for that matter), but they are very real.

In the real world, though, microgeneration and EVs themselves are too expensive to be available to all but the most wealthy freedom freaks. And frustratingly, the most convincing solution to the EV’s problems with range and cost, namely battery lease/swap infrastructure like Better Place’s, are hardly a libertarian dream come true. Only by centralizing grid management and paying for a battery swap infrastructure, a task necessitating government involvement, do EVs make sense on a large scale.

This leaves the EV in a frustrating impasse with the value of personal liberty. Though holding profound promise for self-sustainable private transport, the range-limited, heavily-subsidized reality is as bad for many lovers of liberty as its obvious cure, the “natural monopoly” of a centralized swap/lease entity.

And yet, if we look to the markets, we see it moving toward electrification. The number and variety of hybrids available today would astound American observers of the introduction of the Prius just over ten years ago. Those who believe in the market’s wisdom can not deny the steadily increasing electrification of the car market, nor ignore its implications. And as is ever the case when technology and markets shift, those seeking to maximize their personal freedoms will have to choose carefully from a new set of imperfect choices.

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146 Comments on “Blind Spot: Electric Cars And “The Freedom Thing”...”


  • avatar
    acuraandy

    ‘I kept coming back to the same conclusion: for all of the talk about guns as “tools of freedom,” it seemed to me that cars were even more worthy of the title.’ Good point, sir.

    The automobile is the epitome of freedom. If that means EVs, fine. As against them as I am, when I can get a Volt or Prius for the price of say, a Fiesta sedan (about $13k NEW here in the Twin Cities); and not have to charge it for 8-12 hours to drive another 100mi or whatever, then i’ll think about it. Until then, Petrol please.

    That said, since gasoline is around $5/gal around most of the US (here in the People’s Republic of Minnesota it averages $3.59/gal at the moment), other avenues should be explored as to ensure this liberty.

    The United States (and Canada) were designed, other than in densely populated areas (think NYC, LA, Toronto, etc.) for the automobile and tractor-trailers to transport people, capital and goods. To change this would essentially force people into Soviet-style flats, driving either EVs or riding light-rail/buses. To achieve this would, in certain instances, induce a Civil War.

    To basically tell three generations of Americans that they have to take the bus or train instead of jumping on the freeway to get to work or transport goods would cause such a psychological backlash, I wouldn’t want to be around to see the aftermath.

    Just sayin’…:)

    • 0 avatar
      capitalL

      The US has a world-class freight rail network, due in no small part to the fact that passenger rail is not the focus.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        The deciding factors in a vehicle purchase is price and how well the vehicle fits a person’s needs.

        If a person has a family, the vehicle must fit that family.

        How a vehicle is propelled is simply not as important. The reason folks bought SUVs was not because they wanted a gas hog. The reason folks bought minivans is not because they wanted a horribly dull vehicle. The reason folks buy pick up trucks is not because they have more gas money than you or me. The fact that an EV runs on electricity makes it’s propulsion different from most cars, but isn’t the most important priority to nearly all auto buyers.

        The exception are EV drivers. How their car goes is important to them. They are the ones who are choosing a vehicle not based on typical buyer priorities. The fact that the Volt, the Prius, the hybrid Fusion doesn’t suck – doesn’t give a buyer a reason to pay thousands more up front for a vehicle that doesn’t fit their needs. There is really no reason to buy these EVs, other than their fuel needs. That is not a compelling argument.

        Everything else is secondary. We see this daily in the business, and this has been the situation for decades. So, why the big surprise? It isn’t about gas prices. It isn’t about battery range. It isn’t about politics. It’s just that the current flock of EVs don’t meet the personal needs of most buyers.

        Your need to see me in an EV does not trump my need to find a vehicle that fits my needs. Your arguments as to why I should drive an EV don’t change with your arguments anymore than why it would be wiser for me to wear a swimsuit to work on rainy days. I don’t wish to drive an EV. Why isn’t that my choice anymore?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Vanilladude:

        You’re mostly saying that most people aren’t car enthusiasts, and then puzzling over why green car enthusiasts care about green cars?

        Uh, dude, this is a car enthusiast site. A lot of guys seem to care about horsepower and “sporty feel”. Some guys, myself included, care about efficiency. You seem to care mostly about how to fill a minivan with screaming infants. I don’t see a puzzle here — different folks, different foci.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “That said, since gasoline is around $5/gal around most of the US”

      Not hardly. Per the AAA, the current national average price for a gallon of regular is $3.698. Let’s not overstate things.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        You are correct. I was referring to the coasts where 87 octane has hit $5/gal.

        LA, $5/gal. Miami, $5 to $6/gal. It’s coming to the rest of the country, just a matter of time.

        As usual, I hope i’m wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        M. Ellis

        I just filled up two cars. One in Los Angeles (proper, near LAX) and another in San Francisco (near the airport). In both places, 87 octane was under $4.50/gal, and premium was under $4.90/gal.

        By the way, rental #1 was a Ford Focus Hatchback, and rental #2 was a Ford Fusion. Both were base (SE) level rentals. Both were very solid, handled well, had surprisingly good stereos considering the trim level, and got decent mileage. The Fusion, in particular, felt good to drive, had decent seats, and is a car I can see myself purchasing (in 2013–look I’m an Aston Martin–guise, with the next-gen Sync because my wife and I are both tech nerds).

        The Fusion absolutely needs a back-up camera, though. I’ve gotten used to driving a hatchback and even if you can’t see exactly out the back, particularly on a Prius, you at least have a pretty good feel for where the tail is at any given moment. I don’t remember the last sedan I drove frequently having no feeling whatsoever where the rear bumper is.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Small cars have traditionally began as either starter cars or as second cars. The traditional family vehicle remained as the primary car for thirty years after the first compact cars arrived.

        The EV is not a starter car, and it is not a second car. The prices of the EV forces it to challenge the traditional family vehicle at this time, and as the challenger, it is the loser.

        We will not see a widespread adoption of the EV until it either grows into a family vehicle, becomes cheaper to become a starter car or second car, or when the used car market is so full of them, they will not be seen as different from other vehicles.

        This is not either/or. We will have both kinds of vehicles. The source of power is not the primary reason for purchasing a vehicle. The idea that folks will simply line up like lemmings to buy an EV because of how it is powered was delusional. The idea that we will be forced into EV is not unrealistic when we have an Administration that believes it should force citizens into decisions best left to the Market. The current Administration has not been a help to the Cause – while it has sunk billions into an alternative energy vehicle, how it has done so has made it a political football and has alienated at least half the US population.

        The reason this is a political issue is because the Administration doesn’t know how not to. This has been a one-sided, tone deaf and politically insensitive administration incapable of speaking to the majority of Americans on this issue. It has been an incredibly arrogant group that appeals to only a small group of people who also seem to be incredibly arrogant, tone deaf and politically insensitive.

        The Model T was a rock thrown at a window. Auto liberty came from the people, not from Washington. As long as EVs are forced by people who think they are somehow smarter than the average Joe, EVs will not become the new Model Ts, anymore than an Auburn or a Cord.

        Browbeating doesn’t work. Never has. Dictatorships don’t work. The EV crowd needs to remember that forcing people to do what they think is right, is wrong.

        So, it is not about freedom – BUT – it is about FREEDOM. PERIOD. We don’t care what the point of your arguments are, we have the basic human instinct to make our own damn decisions. Remember that and perhaps you will be seeing more EVs in the future. Sell us your idea. Stop insulting us.

        When a car fails to sell, the sellers are suffering from a Blind Spot, not the buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @VanillaDude: “Small cars have traditionally began as either starter cars or as second cars.”

        And that’s why my dad bought Hondas when I was a kid. He wanted/needed a reliable small car designed for a grownup with a long commute. In the 1980s and 1990s, the “traditional” automakers just didn’t make a small car for a mid-40s guy who wore a tie to work to drive for 5-10 years.

        I don’t care for large vehicles, either. Put “compact” in front of car, wagon, truck, or SUV, and I like what’s built better.

        The LEAF really is a second car, a commuter car. It’s not a bargain basement car, but small doesn’t have to mean “entry level”. Ford and GM wanted defined their lineup so that “small” == “entry level” to avoid cannibalizing their big-vehicle profits — which explains why they had nothing to sell when gas prices took the floor out of the truck/suv market. It also explains why I was only ever interested in imports until recently.

        (I really like that Ford’s European lineup is for sale US now — they now offer several vehicles that I’d own voluntarily.)

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      …”when I can get a Volt or Prius for the price of say, a Fiesta sedan (about $13k NEW here in the Twin Cities); and not have to charge it for 8-12 hours to drive another 100mi or whatever, then i’ll think about it.”

      You don’t have to charge a Volt or a Prius. Both of them have gasoline engines, and operate basically like gasoline cars.

      In the case of the Volt, you can plug it in and have the first 40 miles of your trip without using gasoline, then it runs on gasoline like a regular car.

      My 2004 Prius has never been charged, because it is 100% gasoline powered. The Plugin Prius is just being introduced and is not widely available in the USA yet. The Prii that you see on the road are just gasoline powered cars with clever transmissions that make them burn gasoline very efficiently, but that’s all you get. Well, that and a reliable little transportation appliance with surprisingly good use of interior space.

      The electric car that you’re actually talking about is the Nissan LEAF. It’s 100% electric and only goes 100 miles, and needs to be recharged. It sounds like it’s not the car for you but, as the early adopters buy them and help build the economies of scale, the price may come down to the levels that you mention. Hopefully.

      The Volt is the electric car that meets your specification, though, except for the price — at $40k, it’s being driven by wealthy early-adopter types. Which is fine, it doesn’t have to be all thing to all people any more than the Corvette needs to be able to tow a 5th wheel trailer.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      You can look at the way diesel engines infiltrated the European market. They didn’t start with offering a diesel option in Fiesta but in the big family salons. So why do you expect to see that happening immediately with EV. EV are at the moment just a niche vehicle just a diesel cars were in Europe. But that doesn’t mean that they will stay in their niche.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    All good points there Edward and I agree, the symbol of freedom is best expressed by the automobile and even though traffic and such has made driving on a daily basis less enjoyable, it doesn’t have to be, not when out on the open road.

    And by open road, I mean highways, byways, back country roads etc where one is seeing a part of their country, perhaps for the first time or exploring the old routes people used to take (such as driving parts of what’s left of old Route 66) and discovering our past, nothing is as liberating than that, also to rent a moving van and haul one’s good across the country on the cheap when a new job calls.

    Yes, you can do that on a train like Amtrak or on a plane and for business trips where time is of the essence, a plane is a great way to travel but when you have the time, a private car is the way to go.

    All that said, until the technology for EV’s provides us with the range similar to what we have now with the gas driven vehicle and can quickly be rejuiced (through a battery swap of some kind, even if in a distribution system, much like what we have now for gas with a variety of battery stations around the country). Yes, this means standards, but it can come from a consortium, rather than a company such as Better Place so that you can grab the nearest station, pull in and they swap out your dead batteries for fresh ones in roughly the same time it takes to fill up one’s tank now.

    That will be when EV’s will become viable.

    But until then, I’ll keep buying full gas vehicles or a hybrid, such as the Prius C. Currently am driving a 2003 Mazda Protege5 and love it.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    Why the describe oil/gasoline use as an “addiction”? I need food to live, but as long as I eat a reasonably healthy diet in moderate portions you wouldn’t call me a “food addict”.

    I don’t go driving around in circles just for the sake of burning gasoline, I use gasoline to get places and (maybe this is my addiction) for the enjoyment of driving.

    For over a hundred years, oil is still the most economical and convenient energy source for personal transportation. It’s debatable how much oil is subsidized by defense budgets, externalities, etc, but in Europe where taxes double the pump price there are still lots of cars on the road. People will place a high value on personal mobiliity.

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      I was thinking about this not five minutes ago. Everything that our bodies need in order to stay alive, our minds need in order to stay happy and focused, or our modes of transportation need in order to keep running, can be used well, or abused greatly. To take the metaphor even further, there are external effects that always play a role in the use of all of these (pollution, violation of social norms, etc.), and it is our responsibility to balance our individual use with the wider consequences of that use, while being careful to not fall into abuse.

  • avatar
    banjopanther

    We could start an electrification infrastructure with light rail first. You can charge your electric car at the station and use rail for longer distances. What we have now isn’t freedom, it’s traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      I seem to remember light rail is so expensive to construct and operate that you’d save money by giving a new Nissan Leaf to every man, woman and child who was ever going to ride it.

      You know, for those of us who prefer flying for our interstate trips, a viable electric car is in sight with the $90,000 top-line Tesla Model S with its 300 mile range. That would cover virtually any automotive trip I would like to make in my lifetime. And it costs about as much as a Mercedes-Benz CLS-class, which seems like a comparable value proposition.

      I do hope Tesla makes it. Of all the government boondoggles we’ve seen lately, it’s by far the most appealing, even if I trust Elon Musk about as far as I could throw a Tesla Roadster. (I was an early fan of Tesla founder Martin Eberhard, who is now at VW).

      D

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Light rail makes it possible to have much higher urban density. That is how you get the money back.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I disagree that light rail facilitates density – any public transportation can do that. And most can do it for far less $$$.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “any public transportation can do that. And most can do it for far less $$$.”

        That was the argument being made decades ago when streetcar lines were being dismantled in favor of buses. But it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t now.

        Just as consumers aren’t crazy about EVs, they aren’t particularly fond of buses, either. Buses will invariably be compared to cars, and the buses are an inferior choice for most. The buses may suit the poor, since they have no alternatives, but for the most part, those with more money will generally avoid them if given the alternative.

        People are more likely to like rail, for a variety of reasons. If they like it, then they are more likely to use it. And if the rail system can attract enough users, then it has the potential for scale that a bus line does not.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        LA streetcars never made a profit, and they were private, not government. The only profit was from running freight cars over the rails at night. This sort of paralleled the experience of the long-haul railroads, and even airlines. Passengers dont pay the way, cargo does.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “LA streetcars never made a profit”

        When the street in front of your house turns a profit, let me know.

        It is frankly ridiculous to judge a mode of transportation by whether it turns a profit. They almost never do.

        Transportation is a tool that facilitates other activity. What makes transportation useful is the other things that it allows us to do. The ability to move goods and people, and the economic activity that results from that mobility, are what makes transportation valuable.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        The only form of passenger transport that makes a profit is high speed rail. Every other form, like cars buses trains or airplanes, will not survive without state help. And there are even questions about the profitability of high speed rail

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Climate change is bad. Pollution is bad. Being dependent upon hostile theocracies to power our industries and ourselves is bad. (And offering “drill baby drill” as some sort of panacea to any of this is just plain dumb.)

    But that doesn’t mean that battery powered cars offer real-world functionality. Electric cars are fine, but battery-dependent cars are a problem. This is true, irrespective of what your politics are.

    Better Place is selling you a bill of goods. The solution is not an elegant one, and if some R&D can be invested into improving or replacing the battery, then battery swapping stations will have all of the modern-day utility of an eight-track player. A very expensive eight-track player.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      @PCH101: As evidenced by previous replies, I usually don’t agree with you. This is an exception.

      ‘Drill, baby, drill’ has some credence, but in this instance, it isn’t reality. Gasoline being priced as high as it is (in addition to a myriad of other consumer goods) is a direct result of the US$ being worth significantly less than it was even 6 months ago.

      Just one very important question: how much will the collective electric bill increase if everyone goes to EVs? Not to mention the initial cost of the car? I’d be willing to wager a LOT.

      I’m not rich, i’m not poor, but I just can’t swing $25k on a Prius or $40k (pre-rebate) for a Volt (nor would I). And most Americans (especially in this neo-Malaise) can’t either.

      High gas prices = telling the ‘working poor’ they can’t drive (or at least as much as they are accustomed to). Thus, forced conservatism.

      It isn’t any different than Red Foreman buying a Toyota in 1977 to save gas not having to drive the Vista Cruiser every day…

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “I’m not rich, i’m not poor, but I just can’t swing $25k on a Prius ”

        How about a $12k 1.0L diesel VW Polo like vehicle? Obviously not now, but under circumstance where China is buying 30 million cars a year and Iran is sinking tankers in the Gulf and gas ends up $13.50 a gallon.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @jmo2:

        I once upon a time had a 2000 Jetta TDI. The engine was great. The trans (a stick) was great. The rest, not so much.

        If VW brought over a Polo TDI, especially for sub $15k, i’d seriously consider it. Since they wouldn’t make a dime (or whatever the Euro equivalent is) on it, i’m not going to hold my breath.

        VW could build the Polo along side the Jetta at their Mexico plant, and probably still make SOME money on it (ala Ford Fiesta). Why they don’t is beyond me.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Total electricity bill will naturally increase but that is not the question one should ask. The question is will the average kWh increase in price and for that the answer is mostly likely not as EV make it possible to use the electricity network much more efficient

    • 0 avatar

      I strongly agree with this, except I think Better Place may be viable in a few geographically isolated areas, such as Israel and Hawaii.

      I would also argue, contrary to Ed, that the market is not moving towards electrification. Hybrids are still gas-based. Breakthroughs in battery tech might change that, but I’m not placing any bets. I would say that in the next 30 years, there’s a lot more to be gained from making cars lighter, and improving ICE.

      And discouraging population growth.

      • 0 avatar
        Adamatari

        I’ve seen many Nissan Leafs in Honolulu, but ironically few Priuses even compared to what I saw in Florida when I lived there a couple years back.

        Unfortunately for Hawaii, it only softens the blow a little bit, because the vast majority of the power here comes from oil, and it’s getting more expensive.

        I think the Better Place model can work in any city… But you just move from the problem of oil to the problem of electricity.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “I think the Better Place model can work in any city… But you just move from the problem of oil to the problem of electricity.”

        There’s some advantage to that, because electricity is agnostic about its source. You can change the generator from one technology to another without making me buy a new car every time.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        We spent 45 days in Kihei on the island of Maui over the Christmas/New Year’s Holiday and the price of gas there for our rental Jeep Wrangler was brutal.

        I quit looking at the price after the first fill up and just handed the clerk there $50 in cash for pump Nr 2 every couple of days. I remember that was less than 10 gallons.

        During those 45 days we were there I saw NO EVs or Hybrids. Maybe I was just not looking hard enough since the scenery was mind-blowing. I did see a ton of tiny Toyotas and Nissans. Man, did they have a lot of those little cars there. The Jeep was actually bigger than most of them, and taller.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        The car market is moving to electrification. Just not the electrification of propulsion. But all the belt powered stuff is moving to electricity

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I think Better Place may be viable in a few geographically isolated areas, such as Israel and Hawaii.”

        If the market is that small, then in effect, there is no market.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Israel, Hawaii, all the Caribbean Islands except the 5 big ones, Malta, Hong Kong etc. are all individually small markets but combined they are a medium sized market. Something like Brazil with the same growth potential.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @pch101: “But that doesn’t mean that battery powered cars offer real-world functionality. Electric cars are fine, but battery-dependent cars are a problem.”

      A Nissan LEAF would take care of all of my and my wife’s daily-driving needs. If replace the Prius with a LEAF, keep my old beater-Escape for road-trips, we can cut our gasoline consumption by another 90% without any change in our lifestyle. The LEAF does offer real-world functionality for me.

      Also, both the LEAF that I don’t own and the Prius/Escape that I do own are dependent on energy that I have to buy on the market. The LEAF would offer real energy freedom if I buy the LEAF and a set of photo-voltaic panels which, alas, I cannot afford at this time — but I might be able to in a few years.

      Anyway, your comments are often insightful and well thought out. You’re likely in one of the kinds of jobs I’m likely to work myself in to before I can afford the solar panels I mentioned. But, you also seem to be constrained by conventional thinking and a party line that might not reflect the reality of the future. The relative freedom of being dependent on oil or being dependent on electricity is one of these cases. From a personal-freedom perspective, both gasoline and electric cars really run on money (the way most people use them). The gasoline car can hold more money in its tank. The electric car can hold less money in its tank, but uses a lot less money to cover a mile (lower marginal costs). Neither one offers very much in the way of economic freedom, though.

      For the very small minority of people who do make their own electricity, though, an EV will offer a great deal more economic freedom than gasoline.

      Despite the empty rhetoric from the right wing, most people (from all across the political spectrum) don’t seem really to care about their own personal freedom. I’m guessing the world will continue to greet this line of argument with a “meh”. [shrug]

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Nothing stopping you from installing a used battery or a third party battery in your PBP compliant Renault.

      Its very hard to compete with a free fuel that bubbles out of the ground.. we start to complain when we have to drill several miles under the ocean floor to get to it… we will complain even more when the Chinese and other 3rd world countries start to burn up the available supplies.

      We still have several decades worth of oil, and then we have a few more of coal derived gasoline.. at approximately $4 a gallon and very expensive refineries that NIMVYs wont allow to be built.

  • avatar

    I think it’s depressing that the interesting technology of EVs is getting caught in a political bun fight. They’re not quite a mainstream option (especially at unsubsidized prices), but they are notable cars.

    I think they won’t need battery-swaps to be a useful technology, because autonomous driving is coming, and will hit the mainstream about the same time as EVs do. At that point, you can imagine car co-ops converting to, more or less, a taxi service model, except without drivers. That means a long range round trip can be done by calling for a car, and riding it to your destination, at which point it wanders off to the nearest charging station. Later, when you head back, a fully charged car comes when you call, and takes you home.

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    EV’s are a dead end – we’ve had similar tech forever, and they just aren’t viable for what we expect out of an automobile. The range will always be an issue.

    How come we never even talk about hydrogen fueled engines? Has Honda’s California trial been that bad?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      “and they just aren’t viable for what we expect out of an automobile. ”

      At $4.00 a gallon? No. At $10 a gallon I’d say the calculus for the median driver (who only drives 40 miles a day) would rapidly start to change. And, at least IMHO, there are so many totally plausible scenarios that would result in prices that high or higher.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        If people need to worry about the price of gas to power their freedom of movement they oughtn’t buy a car. Most Americans will buy the gas, no matter what it costs.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “Most Americans will buy the gas, no matter what it costs.”

        To a significant degree, when gas prices rose in 2007, folks compensated by not paying their mortgage. 10s of millions of Americans have precious little slack in their budgets. Do you really want to go through the economic crisis again?

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        “Most Americans will buy the gas, no matter what it costs.”

        One of the most delusional things I’ve ever heard in my life.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Most Americans will continue to buy the gas, no matter what it costs!

        That has been proven every time the price of gas went up. People may have cut back on other things but most Americans kept buying the gas. That will never change.

        People who quit paying their mortgages couldn’t afford to buy a house in the first place. If a person’s financials are so fragile that they cannot withstand an increase in the cost of living they should not have stuck themselves in debt for the American dream.

        EVs may some day rule the roads, but not any time soon. In the mean time, ICEs will rule the road and EVs will be a novelty for the idealistic and the wealthy.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “If a person’s financials are so fragile that they cannot withstand an increase in the cost of living they should not have stuck themselves in debt for the American dream.”

        As true as that may be, it doesn’t stop them from crashing the economy, now does it?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        “Most Americans will buy the gas, no matter what it costs.”

        “One of the most delusional things I’ve ever heard
        in my life.”

        Not really. Most Americans will not have a choice. We live too far from work and the grocery store to walk or ride a bike. Urban development patterns here do not work any where near okay for buses. People will carpool, rideshare, and vanpool to work. We’ll Gas up the POV once a month and car trips will be infrequent and consolidated to reduce gas usage.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        What crashed the world economy was a lot more complicated than people not paying their mortgages.

        But with the number of foreclosures to hit an all-time high in 2012 when the ARMs reset there will be no further impact on the world economy because the major causes that fueled the collapse have been addressed with mandatory reserves.

        The only losers will be the people who over-extended themselves and should have been denied mortgages to begin with, and their neighbors.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “The only losers will be the people who over-extended themselves and should have been denied mortgages to begin with, and their neighbors.”

        There will be a a lot more collateral damage than that.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        “Most Americans will buy the gas, no matter what it costs.”

        BS. If they can’t afford it, noone will sell it to them, regardless of how badly they want it. With (oil intensive) transportation costs such an important share of practically everything on sale here, higher gas prices increase prices for almost every other item competing with gas in household budgets as well. Gas at $25/gallon will put a very severe crimp on lots and lots of people’s ability to buy it at any cost. Even $10, which is not at all unrealistic fairly shortly, will cause quite some problems for many.

        One thing I do worry about, is the same yahoos cheering on the “drill baby, drill” and “bomb baby, bomb” hucksters, being numerous enough to drag their beloved gommiment into gas subsidies like what they have in Venezuela and other places even more degenerate than our contemporary here; completely messing up allocation of whatever little oil that is still left.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Unlikely. The economy is on the mend. People are spending money on buying new cars, gambling their future is not going to get any worse than it is now.

        Optimism prevails because most people can read the signs that Obama (no matter how much loved or hated he is for his policies) has his re-election sewed up and the future of America will be four-more-years of Obama and, unless the Dems win both houses, four more years of a do-nothing Congress.

        Those who can, do! Those who can’t will be standing in Obama’s welfare line as they have been for the past three years.

        Most Americans have learned to work around Obama’s economic policies for America and continue to improve their situation in spite of Obama.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I don’t think highdesertcat is all that delusional. They will pay for it, but only because they have to. Most of the country is built around the car. Even in the few cities with decent public transit, it’s only within a few industries that you can easily find high-paying jobs inside the city. The rest of the good jobs are along highways at the perimeter of the metro area. And of course there is the issue of housing costs the closer you are to a city.

        Most of the country has to drive. People can opt to not buy some gas by consolidating trips and planning more carefully, but there is no getting around buying some gas. As jmo2 points out, that money is going to have to come from somewhere else. At $4/gallon most can either absorb the hit or find a job closer to home. $10/gallon will be a dark day.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        All these alarmists hitting the panic button about the price of gas. Happens each time there is a spike in the price of fuel. But the more things change the more they stay the same. Ditto with fuel.

        In Europe they’ve been paying big bucks for fuel for decades longer than we in the US have. Didn’t stop them from economic growth or social betterment. More people in Europe own cars than at any time and some even own two.

        Instead of complaining about the price of gas, do something about it. Quit buying it. But we all know that will never happen. Every time the price of fuel spikes, forces mitigate its effect and we learn to live with it.

        Everything is going to cost more because the price of fuel is going up. But ever notice that the price of goods or services never went down after the price of fuel came down? We learned to live with it.

        What would cause a panic is a shortage of oil and fuel, like what happened in 1973. That was scary because traffic thinned out big time and people had to leave their cars where they stalled.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        @highdesertcat

        “In Europe they’ve been paying big bucks for fuel for decades longer than we in the US have. Didn’t stop them from economic growth or social betterment. More people in Europe own cars than at any time and some even own two.”

        Yes. But European cities are designed for walking, bike riding, mass transit, and the car. Some European cities are already cordoning off sections of the town and banning vehicles.

        American cities are designed for the car. Period.

    • 0 avatar
      suedenim

      Why *isn’t* there more talk about hydrogen? It certainly seems like a far more plausible technology for mass adoption than EVs, which seem to have an impassable bottleneck in battery technology.

      Is it just because hydrogen was Bush’s preferred technology?

      • 0 avatar
        Mark_MB750M

        There may still be an obstacle in obtaining the hydrogen itself – it takes energy to crack it out of water, for example. I think there is also some way to use nat gas as a feedstock to generate it. A while back I caught a show on a project in Iceland where they were locating hydrogen fueling stations at existing gas stations, and using geothermal power to make the hydrogen. Seemed like a neat plan, but I’m not sure whatever happened to that.
        As I see it, the big impediment to any sort of alternate fuel (and to some extent, EVs) is the refuelling. You have to either have an infrastructure to refuel comparable to existing gas stations in extent and convenience, or else sufficient range to allow refuelling/recharging at home.

      • 0 avatar
        fisher72

        Hydrogen is only an energy carrier because it does not exist on it’s own. It takes more energy to create free hydrogen than you will ever receive back. Unless we unlock the mysteries of nuclear fusion and such.

        Also it ultimately is still essentially an electric car, just the Hydrogen makes the electricity instead of a battery. Basically the H is a battery, in it’s free state it has energy potential just like a battery, and it took energy to get to that state just like charging a battery.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “It certainly seems like a far more plausible technology for mass adoption than EVs”

        If anything, it’s the opposite. Hydrogen is still experimental, and it may never get past the experimental stage.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        pch101: “If anything, it’s the opposite. Hydrogen is still experimental, and it may never get past the experimental stage.”

        No. The thermodynamics that fisher72 mentioned solid. That energy can neither be created nor destroyed is one of the most fundamental rules of the physical universe.

        Unless you can find me a hydrogen mine that isn’t on the moon or isn’t Jupiter, hydrogen isn’t going to get past the experimental phase. It’s just a competing battery chemistry. Its only advantage is that energy storage per unit mass is very good (which is why we use it to power rockets), but its energy storage per unit volume kind-of sucks (which is why rockets are so damn big). The lithium ion battery chemistry seem to be more durable in real life, though, which makes them a better fit for a less weight-sensitive application like a car.

        I’ve known that hydrogen was a dead end ever since I took my first college-level physics course.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Another problem that I’ve read about is that hydrogen leaks out of its tank over a period of time. Your car is full today but return in a couple weeks and it might be empty. One thing I hear the EV fans mention is that you can drive further on the electricity used to refine gasoline than you can drive on the gasoline itself. And hydrogen uses even more energy to bottle.

        If I have my information correct hydrogen is bottled by oil companies b/c they may consume not electricity but oil somehow?

        Anyone know?

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Fuel cell cars are electric cars. They also have Prius size batteries. And H2 is much more expensive than electricity so it makes sense to being a plug-in.

  • avatar
    jmo2

    I guess I just don’t understand the subsidy concerns.

    It seems that Arab spring coming to Saudi Arabia, civil war in Nigera, Iran and Israel nuking each other, China buying 30 million cars a year, etc. are all things that could easily happen and it could drive gas prices to $10 plus a gallon.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to have a few back up technologies in the wings?

    Rand disciple Allan Greenspan, in explaining how he failed to read the signs of the impending financial crisis, stated that he never thought Americans as a group would continue to down an unsustainable path until it lead millions of them into ruin. He didn’t think someone like Dick Fuld would subject his firm to such risk that he’d ride his $1 billion in Lehman stock down to $50k.

    If one thing has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that American businesses and consumers can ride a trend way past the point of no return to the point that it causes a massive economic crisis. Do we want to enter the next energy crisis without an even few somewhat viable backup technologies?

    • 0 avatar
      JustDon

      I’m sorry… but to talk about Alan Greenspan as a “Rand disciple” is misleading at best. Greenspan *used to* be a libertarian, and possible Rand fan – but he certainly has not exhibited those characteristics in recent years.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I don’t understand the subsidy concerns either.

      On one hand I hear folks griping about nickel mining for hybrids and EVs in Canada due to environmental concerns. Then I hear some of the same people complain about the complications the EPA causes for American businesses. Next I hear that we ought to build a giant pipeline for Canadian tar sands oils which are refined from the sands with huge inputs of energy. The I hear we ought to end subsidies for EVs b/c that’s socialism but for some reason subsidies for the oil companies to drill and refine oil isn’t somehow socialism.

      WTF is the score here? Talking heads muddling the issues? Low information voters who need to think for themselves rather than listening to media outlets with an agenda?

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Before we start talking about cars as freedom and public transit and apartment living as commie plots, I’ll just put this out there: the roads are a government project. They also have to be redone fairly often. Suburbia depends on infrastructure that is built on the government dime. Who is a socialist now? Every civilization has had major public works projects, all the way back to irrigation projects in Mesopotamia. Roads are one of ours.

    With that out of the way… Personal mobility is much better than relying on public transit. This is generally true even in places like Boston where there is good public transit and parking and such really sucks. Since lately I’ve been riding a bike (living in a city, no money for a car), I’ve started to think differently about this though. A bike is great personal transit, for a city even more ideal that a car – it helps maintain your health, costs almost nothing, can be parked very easily (for now – Japan has some serious bike-parking issues, with much higher ridership), is much faster than walking… But is not practical for longer distances unless you have lots of time. 50 mile commutes are out. Also, it is often hard to get places even if there are roads, because riding on faster and more crowded roads and highways is not practical. City streets are fine, but get the traffic moving at 50 and I don’t want to be anywhere near it.

    That said, isn’t there a lot of space between living in a city and walking everywhere and living in an exurb 50 miles from where you work? Why not live 5 miles away and bike? Or 10 miles away and take a golf cart? We set things up so the car as we know it is what we use, but there are lots of vehicles we could have between a car and feet, even crossing out public transit. Perhaps we would have to give up 70 mph for 30, but is that really a bad idea?

    As for electric and hybrid cars – well, I’ll just say that oil is a finite resource. All of India, China, and the US can’t go around driving Hummers, heck, there isn’t even enough for all of us to drive Priuses. Something has got to give. And it WILL give, whether this year, in 10 years, or in 25 years. Electric and hybrid cars will buy us some time, and maybe if we’re really, really lucky will replace gas autos for most things. If not, well, we’ll be on scooters, bikes, walking, or taking public transit (if it exists). Maybe we’ll be on horses like our ancestors.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      And it WILL give,

      And I’m worried that it will go all at once, not a gentle rise over time. That being the case, I can’t see why we don’t spend a few billion now as insurance vs. trillions more in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @jmo2:

        Peak oil will take place over decades. Remember, oil is being used up in an instant – IN GEOLOGIC TIME.

        As near as I can tell (from years of lurking on The Oil Drum), we’ve used the easy/cheap oil, but we’ll still have increasingly expensive oil for my lifetime, and likely during a lot of my son’s lifetime.

        There are still a few “head for the hills” types, but most of them have calmed down and, after years of analyzing the problem, are taking the long view.

        That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense to prepare. But “prepare” probably means “the next time you move, choose to live within 5 miles of where you work”. It won’t be feasible for everyone — but, even if you don’t walk/bike/bus to work, you’ll burn so little gas that $15 gasoline might not break the bank.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I worry it will give all at once too and it’ll be with warhawks from one of the big consumer countries wanting to seek a violent solution.

        I was raised to believe that technology would solve all of man’s problems and I still believe this possible except – society’s resistance to adoption of new technologies available to us now.

        EVs work NOW for folks with the budget and a driving profile that fits the tech as we have it now. I have a coworker that drives in from a rural county in a Leaf everyday – rain, cold, snow or heat.

        I see alot of corporate and political resistance to the march of technology that clearly indicates protection of an existing non-sustainable fossil fuel cash cows. Unexpected? No.

        100 years ago I’m sure some of the oddball driving restrictions related to horses were encouraged by the buggy, harness and whip manufactures.

        We’ve already seen the arrival of the EV delayed by a decade or more. Got back and look at the EV1. It was similar to the Honda CR-X in many ways which was very popular. The RAV4EV is now a decade old and still out there roaming about with old but still useful batteries.

        Technology matures much quicker when it is being bought and used than it does in the laboratory constrained by limited research budgets.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      “Suburbia depends on infrastructure that is built on the government dime.”

      In most cities and counties in Washington state, developers pay for infrastructure now. Adds about 40 to 60K to the cost of a house. The first time. And again every so many decades when it has to be replaced. Those costs would be far less if our reality had developed without the car.

      But who wants to live in townhouses, apartments and duplexes with all your neighbors right on top of you. Humans need space.

      As you can tell I am sort of conflicted by the reality of the automobile and the joy of motoring…

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        But who wants to live in townhouses, apartments and duplexes with all your neighbors right on top of you. Humans need space.

        If a single family home costs $300 a month in higher heating oil and $400 a month in gas vs. a townhouse it makes sense. If it runs to $600 a month in heating oil and $800 in gas, for many folks it just isn’t going to be worth while.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        In SoCal, most “single family homes” are now built on lots that allow for no more than 10 feet between each house. Then developers put windows on all neighbor facing walls. Exactly how that is supposed to be an improvement over building a proper partitioning wall, is beyond me. With a thick, sound isolated wall, you’ll hear nothing, see nothing, and lose no heat. Versus the “single family home” non solution, where you hear every yap and whine, while watching your BTUs evaporate through the cheap, shitty windows that allows your creepy neighbor to spend his days gawking at your teenage or below daughter.

        Of course, apartments and town homes are not built with proper anything walls, but instead with little more than paper dividing walls.

        But all that is simply due to the idiocy that is zoning laws, ensuring that there is minimal competition between developers for quality improvements; since developers recognize their money is better invested lobbying a bunch of useless tax feeders on various zoning boards into letting them overpay and under build, secure in the knowledge noone else can put something nicer together next door anytime soon.

      • 0 avatar
        bkmurph

        “But who wants to live in townhouses, apartments and duplexes with all your neighbors right on top of you. Humans need space.”

        It’s a false dichotomy between attached housing and having enough space. We’ve come a long way from the NYC tenement housing of the industrial revolution. I’m sure there are millions of Parisians, Londoners, New Yorkers, Chicagoans, etc. who are perfectly happy living in attached housing of one kind or another. It’s only when people start living more than one to a bedroom (out of economic necessity; I don’t mean couples or small children) that the lack of space starts to take its toll on the mental condition. I’d rather have parks, town squares, and walkable neighborhoods than a large private yard. Modern construction and soundproofing _can_ make one’s neighbors, even in multifamily housing, virtually inaudible. My Seattle apartment isn’t as new or solid as I’d ideally like, but to me it beats a mansion on Mercer Island.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @jmo2

        No, we really don’t. Overall, I infinitely prefered living in my downtown apartment to my current house in the (inner) suburbs. If I could afford a 3400sq/ft garage downtown, I’d still live there. But a car hobby doesn’t work so well in an apartment, so here I am. And I figure my ~1200sq/ft house is about 2X bigger than I really need, but I figure I got it for free with the garage. I can’t imagine why people think they need 5000sq/ft+ “starter castles”

        As far as EVs, IMHO if your driving needs are so slight that a current EV meets them, you might as well drive a V8 musclecar for all the gasoline you will actually use. I drove 500 miles in the last three days – no Leaf is going to do it for me. Luckily all 500 are reimbursed by my employer. I could certainly have an EV for what little personal driving I do, but what would be the point? Spend $30-40K on a penalty box for personal use and have the hassle of renting a car for trips? Or spend $40K for a nice car that gets 70% paid for by someone else? Tough choice.

        And my final thought, getting off topic even more to my reply. Gas is going up. Big whoop. It has more than doubled in the past few years and everyone got used to it. People haven’t even changed thier car buying habits much. It could double again and people will get used to it. I drove 2600 miles around Europe in my car last summer. Yup, $10 a gallon SUCKED. But it is what it is. I survived.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        @bkmurph

        I don’t think this sound-proof modern construction is all that easy to come by. I certainly haven’t been lucky enough to come across one, nor do I know anyone in attached housing with soundproof construction. Right now I can hear it when my upstairs neighbor pisses.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        @ Stuki.

        Same with Washington regarding side yard setbacks. Generally 5′ side yard setback. As far as windows facing each other, they are supposed to be staggered so when you look at your window, you see your neighbors wall, not through their window.

        Re: Windows. Pretty much all windows built post 1950s are garbage unless you make bank and can afford the really expensive high end wood windows, which for some reason used to be inexpensive… Most heat escapes through the roof, and something like 10 to 15% through the walls and windows.

        Generally partition walls between units are not constructed properly. If they are built right, they are sound proof. But they are rarely built right. Basically, they are supposed to be built in a way that it is essentially two separate walls with a 3 to 4″ air space (and nothing else) between them.

        Yep, generally developers suck. I’ve worked for them. And I’ve worked in Planning offices as well. It’s not the Planning Department that is the problem.. It is the City Council that actually caters to the developers. Zoning ordinances need to evolve from text based code to form based code. Where I work now, we have a form based code that is far easier to get better development patterns. There are way less loopholes to be exploited.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        “I certainly haven’t been lucky enough to come across one, nor do I know anyone in attached housing with soundproof construction. Right now I can hear it when my upstairs neighbor pisses.”

        I’ve lived in those apartments too and hated them. It’ll require something more substantial that stick and panel wood construction.

        I’ve been in buildings properly constructed out of better materials and they were quiet.

        It’ll all come down to the price of fuel. If people can afford to live 40 miles from work in a big single family house then they will. They’ll justify it 90 different ways too. Once fuel gets expensive enough -and it will eventually- people will start adapting.

        My wife and I’ve been making slow choices for several years now that place our jobs along a route where we can carpool, where we can drop the kids off at school easily and quickly, where we don’t need a car every 4 years b/c we wore the other one(s) out, etc. Part careful decisions, part luck and it’s panning out just wonderfully.

        If gas leaped to $12 per gallon and we were feeling a serious budget crunch via the pump/grocery/insurance/whatever we’d likely reduce our fuel consumption a little more at next car purchase (buy an EV if our budget allowed b/c our driving habits fit the Leaf now), bike to work part time, consider buying another house like our first house – a 1948 cottage that was about 25×25 and two bedrooms when our finances allowed us to. We could walk to work from that house and have a yard for the kids/pets to play in and an area for a garden.

        A 1700 ft house like our’s might become a multi-generational home in an expensive economy like the one $12 gasoline would represent.

        If gasoline doubled in price our budget would take a $4K hit per year. We’re alot further from destitution than $4K. To get some cushion back in a strained budget Americans would need to make some different choices – what we drive, how expensive those cellplans are, how expensive our TV subscription is, whether we want to pay for internet at home even, how often folks eat out or replace their wardrobe.

        At my house we’d simply go back to a simpler lifestyle that resembles the one my grandparents had – tinkering in the garage, gardening, mending clothes, more hand-me-downs in the family, more staying at home and far fewer long distance visits or phone calls. More mail – either e-mail from work if we didn’t have internet at home anymore or snail mail b/c we’d have the time to kill writing it by hand.

        I don’t want to pay any more for gasoline than I do now and given the budget to buy an EV which allowed me to thumb my nose at the oil companies – I’d gladly do it. Especially if I had solar to charge it with.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      +1

      Ed has cast freedom in very strange libertarian terms -and historically inaccurate terms. Individual freedom has always been bound up with collective action. And that collective action has usually been the role of govt.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      As oil prices rise, telecommuting will increase. More and more, people will work from home. I used to live in Boston (Southie), and reverse commuted to the suburbs. We used the T, but the nearest stop was 8 blocks. Not ideal in the rain or a frigid January day. Now I live and work in the fairly distant suburbs.

      I’m actually an ideal EV consumer, with a 3.25 mile commute. But I don’t want one, and with a short commute my gas bill is low anyway. That’s the coming answer, telecommuting reduces costs for employers and employees, reduces oil dependence, reduces the strain on that public road system and even frees up precious time. It’s the all time win win. Freed from the need to commute, we can embrace cars as enjoyable, long distance capable transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I’d love to telecommute occasionally but I make things, fix things and so forth (engineer). I’d need a remote control R2-D2 to send to a fixit job.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    EVs should be available to anyone who wants to buy one but should not be subsidized by the tax payers. If more people bought EVs maybe there would be more gas available at a lower price for people like me who prefer ICE vehicles for that freedom thing.

    As it is, people like me will pay whatever it costs to buy gas, or diesel. There is no shortage of oil and there won’t be any shortage for at least the next hundred years. Far longer than most of us will live.

    America was built with coal, oil and our own natural resources. The contribution of renewables is negligible. Although there is a place for renewables where it is economically feasible to do so, it isn’t all that it is cracked up to be like the environmentalists lead us to believe. It certainly won’t displace oil for the foreseeable future.

    Maybe once energy storage, like batteries, improves will EVs become common place. In the mean time you can’t travel very far with an EV. You can always tow a generator behind an EV, or buy a Volt which has the generator built-in. Not very efficient, though.

    The only way to enjoy that freedom thing is to buy a vehicle with an ICE, just like we’ve been doing for all these decades. That’s not going to change any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      “There is no shortage of oil and there won’t be any shortage for at least the next hundred years.”

      Even with China having 500 million cars on the road in the next few decades? Are you willing to bet a wrenching economic depression on being right? Why not spend a few billion on insurance?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        There won’t be a shortage of oil. We lost several major drilling rig operations after the BP incident in the Gulf and they all moved to more lucrative areas.

        Just because the US has curtailed drilling for oil does not mean that the rest of the planet is following our lead. China, Viet Nam, Brazil,and Canada are all expanding their drilling operations. Keystone anyone?

        There will be plenty of oil, and America will import all it needs from foreign countries instead of developing its own resources. That’s our national policy.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “There will be plenty of oil”

        Why not spend a few billion on insurance in case you’re wrong? If you are wrong the costs could run will into the trillions.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “There won’t be a shortage of oil. We lost several major drilling rig operations after the BP incident in the Gulf and they all moved to more lucrative areas.”

        Drop in the bucket. Do you have any idea how much oil the world uses every year? A few big wells in the Gulf of Mexico aren’t going to make or break it, just like ANWR barely matters at all.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        They are opening up new oil fields all over the planet, like off the coast of Chile and Brazil, as well as on land. The prospects for oil are better than excellent.

        Everywhere except in America! That’s why China is setting up partnerships with African and South American nations.

        Don’t panic. There is and there will be plenty of oil. But there is no reason not to develop other sources of renewables where it is economically feasible to do so. And some visionaries are doing so in America, and going broke. Solyndra anyone?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @highdesertcat:

        Lots of drilling is happening in the US, too. More of the drilling for natural gas than for oil, though, because that’s what we have left here that we can extract for less than the cost of drilling and operating the well.

        There’s still some oil here to be extracted, but the fact that we’ve opened the Alberta tar sands in Canada illustrates. That’s oil which needs to be mined and heat-processed, rather than drilled.

        Most of the “vast reserves” that Republican politicians discuss are unconventional (pronounced “expensive”). Here’s a quick summary of the argument, and it’s not even from The Oil Drum:
        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/feb/24/newt-gingrich/newt-gingrich-says-us-may-have-three-times-much-oi/
        Foreign oil fields are being tapped because that’s where the remaining cheap/easy oil happens to be. Give the way things are playing out in the Marcellus shale area, neither politics nor locally-based environmental concerns are standing in the way of oil&gas drilling into big resources. The reason we’re not seeing a big uptick in production drilling in the US are mostly economic in nature, but that doesn’t stop the Republican politicians from finger pointing.

        We’ll have an oil market for the next 100 years, but it will likely be too valuable to burn for trivial purposes before I retire in the early 2030s. CNG vehicles will likely make up some the gap, though I personally would prefer an EV. With EV, there’s at least a possibility that I could make my own power for it.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        What’s China’s population – 6B people? How many cars are on the road now? 150M I think I heard most recently. That’s alot of potential gasoline consumers. That’s alot of delivery trucks stocking markets. That’s alot of people consuming energy at home when they turn on their computer, TV and tea pots. Then there is India. And all the other little developing Asian countries.

        I think we can be confident that gasoline – even if oil doesn’t run out – is going to get very expensive by 2035 when I hope to retire.

        China will also during that same period become the world’s dominate super power I’m confident. They’ll call many of the international shots right or wrong. It seriously bothers me that our American consumers have funded this economic revolution for a communist government.

        So we can sit back and reminisce about America’s “good ole’ days” and lament the guy in the White House (whatever the party) – but it’s time to figure out how we are going to prosper in this century b/c there are plenty of challenges ahead and the 20th century solutions aren’t going to be economical enough going forward. Obstructionist politics isn’t going to help either. That just favors the existing cash cow power structure of America.

        I don’t think we can wait and follow Washington, DC to any viable long term solutions. They only think in 4 year chunks and their words never seem to match their quiet intentions.

        I think America’s success will be made at home – your home and mine through careful decisions, objective discussions based in reality at the dinner table or on the patio with family and friends.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      Whether the supply of oil will go up or down in coming years is open for debate, but demand is only going to go in one direction–way up. Over the next couple of decades, the Earth will gain another billion people. Even more significantly, billions of people will be ascending to a middle class standard of living, and that includes lots more cars. Unless supply goes way up to match, expect scarcity and higher prices.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        It’s not open for debate for the oil companies. BP is considering writing off $14B in current value money to pay off the US gov’t for the Gulf spill, betting their their future profits based on proven reserves will dwarf that amount. Record profits ahead for BP and all other oil companies!

        And BP is not the only major player betting future production will skyrocket. Check into Canada, the oil-exporting nation and what they expect future exports to be. Or how about Viet Nam, as an oil-exporting nation?

        Then there is Brazil, soon to be another oil-exporter because their economy is based on alcohol. And the west-coast of Africa. Major drilling to begin there into proven oil reserves.

        For oil companies things are looking up for many decades into the future.

        There’s no shortage of oil for the planet. Only in America are we not developing our own resources. That’s our national policy. We stunted the development of our own national resources.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @healthy skeptic: “Whether the supply of oil will go up or down in coming years is open for debate, but demand is only going to go in one direction–way up.”

        Do you want to debate the physical reality of the amount of oil in the ground? That’s going down, dude, every time someone drives to work.

        The rate at which we may pump oil in the future is certainly open to debate.

        Just not sure what “supply” means to you, and felt the need to point it out to the audience.

        I agree with highdesertcat that oil COMPANIES are going to have good times in the future, but not why. If you can manage costs, the price for your product means you have good times in your future. But I personally am far more concerned abut whether the good times will continue for PEOPLE, and that is in doubt.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      “There is no shortage of oil and there won’t be any shortage for at least the next hundred years.”

      Wow, are you a shill for the API or what? You obviously do not understand the technicals of oil exploration and extraction. PROVEN RESERVES MEAN NOTHING! What does matter is flow rates, i.e. production.

      Global oil production has been nearly flat since 2005 with increasing prices. Explain that. Point is, you can only burn as much oil in a day as you can get out of the ground and with record high prices globally we’ve been stuck at about +/- 85M barrels/day. Production is failing to keep up with rising demand.

      Combine that with rapidly increasing consumption in exporting countries like Saudi Arabia. Importers like the USA will receive their oil AFTER the exporting countries supply their own.

      On top of that the largest western oil fields are all in severe decline – Cantarell in Mexico, North Sea and Prudhoe Bay in AK. North Dakota will never fill the gap in decline from these super major fields. Canada would have to tear up their entire boreal forest digging up tar sands to supply just 1/2 of US demand. Saudi Arabia is ressurecting mothballed fields with heavy sour oil because they can’t keep their production up.

      Reality is we better get used to using a lot less energy and sooner than later. The easiest barrel of oil to discover is one that is saved in conservation. I’m not sure EV’s are the answer but gas/electric hybrids are proven and a temporary solution to ease the transition to….walking.

      • 0 avatar
        HeftyJo

        Well, what your talking about is a political and policy problem not so much a technical issue. It’s the nimbyism crowd and the stringent controls of the EPA that has prevented a new oil refinery from being built in the US in the last 35 years. All of the current oil refinery’s are running at over 95% of capacity. But when there is a need to increase flow rates they generally just add on new refining equipment at a current site and that boosts capacity. But all that does is move the source of the problem to the next weakest link in the chain. The bottleneck of pipelines that move fuel from the refineries to the rest of the nation only goes out to specific regions. The Nimbyism and the environmentalism is worse off in California than anywhere else and so their refining capacity is constantly pushed to the limits and adding on new capacity is always a challenge. Thus the reason their fuel prices always track a bit higher than the rest of the nation. The Gulf coast has a pipeline that carries gasoline up to the east coast but there is not a pipeline that goes from the Gulf out west. So, you end up with situation like a few years back when California had an oil supply shortage. All the while oil storage tanks in Texas were nearly overflowing but there was no way to get the oil to California. There has been one new somewhat smallish refinery that they have been trying build in Arizona but it’s been a slog trying to get the permits and licensing to move at anything much faster than a snails pace. It’s been a work in progress for over a decade now but it was finally just authorized and should be breaking ground soon. I think there is another one refinery that just got a permit in South Dakota. As we get more of these going then the capacity situation will certainly improve. Otherwise with the rate of new discoveries and continued advances in fracking and oil sands technology we have have enough oil in North America oil to power our automobiles for another 435 years. And if the rate of discoveries keeps on like it has been then the high end estimates go up to as much as 700 years of available oil.

  • avatar
    skor

    The EV is not now, nor it will it ever be, a one-for-one replacement for ICE vehicles……got something to do with those pesky laws of thermodynamics. As fuel gets more expensive, people will have no choice but to live closer to where they work, go to school, shop, etc. People living in rural areas will be either retirees or people who have a reason to be in rural areas…farmers, miners, loggers, etc. The rest will be in high density areas. The suburbs are now headed the way of the Neanderthal. Bye, bye, suburbs. Suburbs, bye, bye.

    Here is a BBC story about the rise of bus travel in the US.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16881957

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      What is it about the laws of thermodynamics that prevent the rise of EVs? In certain aspects, they actually favor EVs.

      I don’t know if EVs will ever completely replace ICEs for all applications (e.g. long-haul big rigs), but I think they can replace a heck of a lot, particularly for consumers.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    The automobile as we know it has costs far beyond the energy needed to power it that most people never take into consideration. In addition to insurance, maintenance/repair, and energy are the land, health, and social costs.

    Every vehicle on the road has three or four parking spaces associated with it. The typical parking space is about 180 square feet. Multiply that by three and the real footprint of a vehicle is around 540 SF. Then multiply that number by all the cars on the road.

    Go to your local mall. Huge expanses of parking. Most days, the majority of the parking is unused. The reason there is so much parking is for two days a year. Day after Thanksgiving and the day after x-mas.

    Now add up how much the engineering and construction costs are for all those parking spaces, plus all the storm water runoff and water treatment that is required. Those costs directly affect how much the rent is at the mall, and subsequently the costs of goods.

    Then as the population continues to rise, suddenly land starts to become too valuable to waste on parking. So parking garages are built. A single space in a parking garage costs around $10,000 to construct. And to park in it costs money as well. Or sometimes the cost is “free”, but you are still paying due to higher prices at whatever shopping center you happen to be at.

    Most development in the US over the past 50 years was designed for the automobile first. No sidewalks. Buildings set back really far from the street so parking could be in front. Residential neighborhoods developed so when you drive down the street all you see is garage after garage. Again, no sidewalks. The result of all of this is people getting far less exercise, and as you are all aware obesity is an epidemic now. Now figure out all of the healthcare costs of that and the lost productivity.

    In addition to all this are the environmental costs from automobile pollution. Since a good portion of the pollution absorption potential of the Earth is being used up on cars, it has become tougher and tougher for the American industrial base to stay competitive with tougher regulations. The result is industry leaving the country for greener pastures minus all the enviro headaches. Now we have a society of baristas and checkers at Wal-Mart contributing almost nothing to the tax base.

    I think if our leaders in their infinite wisdom after WWII would have even considered half of this as a possibility, gas would have been heavily taxed in the US rather than the oil industry being heavily subsidized.

    But let’s face it. People have wanted freedom of travel since the beginning of time. First there was the horse, then the chariot, the horse-drawn carriage and the automobile as we know it. Travel other than by feet is not going away any time soon.

    My belief is the future of the vehicle are small low powered pod type vehicles that are extremely efficient and that have the ability to join up together in a modular fashion.

    The path we are on with personal transportation in this country is like running as fast as possible towards a cliff. What was viable in the 1950s is no longer relevant.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “leaders” and “wisdom” are mutually exclusive. The only way to have the latter, is to get rid of, or at least severely curtail, the former. Something that has not been the case since WW2.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Our manufacturing base is quite healthy; manufacturing output has increased 30 percent in the United States over the past decade. What has declined is EMPLOYMENT in the manufacturing sector. That has nothing to do with pollution (which has improved quite dramatically in the United States over the past 30+ years, and will continue to do so, even with more vehicles being driven more miles).

      It is being driven by productivity improvements, and THAT is being driven by the high cost of employing real people, as opposed to installing more computers and machines.

      The obesity epidemic is being driven by cheaper food, not cars. Food costs as a percentage of income have declined since 1960 (even with the recent run-up in food prices). Visit any poor inner city neighborhood – you’ll see lots of fat people, even though they don’t drive much. Same with many rural areas. You’ll see lots of fat people, and they aren’t commuting 100 miles each day to office jobs.

      • 0 avatar
        harshciygar

        I think it is important to point out that just 20 years ago, cars did not come with cupholders.

        Now, it is a standard feature on every car.

        To me the reasoning is simple; people are spending more and more time in their cars, to the point where eating in the car has become “the norm.”

        I’ve lost 10 lbs since moving to the city and walking more than I drive. My Jeep sits unused 5 out of 7 days a week, as at current gas prices it costs me about $20 to go 100 miles.

        Cars and obesity are absolutely linked. Yes, there are of course other causes too, but how many Americans HAVE to drive somewhere because of a lack of pedestrian infrastructure? It’s the kind of statistic that nobody can accurately answer because its an unconscious decision we make every day.

        “Well I could take the extra 10 minutes to walk to the corner store…but I guess I’ll just drive instead.”

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Poor people in the city and in rural areas aren’t commuting 100 miles a day. But obesity is more common among lower income people.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        @ Harshciygar

        To imply cars make people “eat” is just silly. Bikes come with bottle cages. Does that mean people are eating excessively while cycling? Come to think of it, they have entire food products dedicated to cyclists. Should I conclude cyclists are fat?

        I’m glad you can afford to live in the city. I can’t. It’s cheaper for me to drive to work than it is to pay significantly more for rent to be closer to work. One would assume that as gas prices rise, that living close to work/business will start to make sense. It’s unlikely, however, since it will probably make land prices/rent go way up in metro areas as people move closer to work.

  • avatar
    fozone

    Electric cars can make a great deal of sense under certain conditions, to write them off completely a communist plot or utopian fantasy is nuts.

    I’m seeing a large number of Leafs in the suburbs of Portland. For people who live <10 miles from downtown, these are ideal commuter cars. (Note that the climate is fairly temperate here, I have no idea how they'd fare in a frigid place.)

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      Just to follow up my own post, for those who still think of electric cars as golf carts (I admit I still harbor a bit of that bias), read this:

      http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=8030

      How, exactly, wouldn’t this car work for the vast majority of suburbanites? It holds 4, has a long enough range, and has ‘normal’ features like a/c a good stereo, etc.. and he paid < $6 in 'fuel' for 200 miles.

      We all get that this car wouldn't be great for a cross-country excursion, but as a second car that gets used for commuting around town, why is it so repulsive to so many folks here?

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Pure politics, what else? An electric car (no matter how much sense it makes) takes us away from the perceived “independence” of the ICE and takes us closer to that slippery slope into the world of Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”.
        But, as a hat-tip to the indomitable ICE, an ancient VW Bug in a cave starts on the first turn of the key ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        tallnikita

        Repulsive? Not at all, groovy cars for dopey folks with too much money. Did you read the link you posted? The guy spends more time worrying about charging than driving. Then he is sooo happy that the dealer sold him a Leaf at MSRP $37K. That’s what, 2 Honda Fits and enough money to fuel both for a couple years? Do you not see the problem here? But I felt bad for the guy, he seems to be aloof about his Chevy Volt, which is about 3-Fits worth.

      • 0 avatar
        JustDon

        As another poster said, it doesn’t work for the vast majority of suburbanites because it costs too much. Moreover, while a Leaf might be fine for a lot of driving people do, they also need a vehicle that will perform the tasks they may only need to do a couple of times a week – carrying the family and a load of groceries from Costco, ferrying half the soccer team around, bringing home supplies from Home Depot, etc.

        Finally, even if you could get past those details, the car STILL doesn’t work for a lot of suburbanites. A lot of people live on the margins of what the range of today’s EV’s can reach. As such, even if the vehicle can get them to work and back (and for some of us it can’t even do that), the vehicle becomes a brick at night when we would need to run the kids to school events, go shopping, etc.

        What about those for whom it does work? If they like it – AND if they’re willing to pay what it actually costs to own such a vehicle (as opposed to being subsidized by others) – I think they should buy one. I hope that over time the technology becomes technologically viable and competitive in the marketplace.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @shaker: “Pure politics, what else?”

        Let’s specify what kind of politics. It’s about identity politics. Culture. Belonging to your people. The car itself is mostly irrelevant — except for the fact that the LEAF, like many small cars, isn’t really designed to serve the needs of rural people.

        It’s a shame, because a lot of these cars are good tools for some people, even some people who live in rural areas. I must be fashioned in thinking that decisions about machines should be made on engineering criteria…! But the world seems to disagree with me on this one…. :-(

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      It’s likely those Leaf purchases were purchased for more than MPG purposes, given it’s Portland, hipster capital of the US.

      The problem I have with short range electric cars is that they can only be used in short ranges. Seems obvious right? So if we assume the ideal car for a person with a short commute is a car with a short range, why are they worried about fuel consumption to begin with? If I had a 10 mile or less commute, I wouldn’t be shopping for EV’s, I’d be looking for, well, whatever the hell I wanted, without concerns for MPG’s because I’d only be driving 10 miles to work.

      So what’s the point again?

      • 0 avatar

        FWIW, the picture in the OP was taken in Portland, just blocks from my home. And yes, the Leaf is beginning to be quite the common sight in the City of Roses.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @replica:

        It’s true that where you live matters a lot more than what you drive.

        But, if you can nail both and stop being part of “the problem”[0], then why the hell not?

        [0] You may not agree that dependence on foreign oil, oil wars, climate change, or environmental destruction are problems. But, those of us who do think these are problems can take our pick of reasons we don’t might not want to be part of it.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I’m glad there are car choices on the market for consumers with your beliefs. I fully support a diverse auto industry. However, when it’s coming at the taxpayer’s direct expense, it pisses me off to no end. Can I get a tax break for buying a muscle car? It supports the US economy, that counts for something right?

        I know the “but oil is subsidized through war” is coming. But I’m just not agreeing with it. It’d have been cheaper to just BUY all the oil in Iraq than to invade and occupy it.

  • avatar
    Timgt5

    From having spoken to a number of people in my circle regarding electric cars I have come to the conclusion that in order for EVs to gain widespread acceptance they would have to meet the following critera

    1. Fully charge in less than 15 minutes
    2. Have a range of 300 Miles or more per charge
    3. Cost only a small premium (less than 2K) over the equivilent ICE powered auto.

    As Top Gear’s James May once put it,”Batteries are rubbish” I think that until something like the Honda Clarity (which currently cost Honda more to build one than a Lamborghini Aventador)can become affordable for the average middle class family and a market willing to support a hydorgen infrastructure, EVs will be marginal vehicles for a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Fueling an electric is equivalent to gasoline at $1 a gallon typically. How do you account for that in your math?

      Yes the batteries will last 10-15 years, that is about the economic life of a car.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Freedom has multiple meanings which people often conflate. There is freedom from constraint, for example, as well as freedom of choice. There is also the important, though often misunderstood idea of freedom as self-determination.

    Cars may help remove certain limits or constraints, but they may also involve or impose other kinds of constraints that bind us in other sometimes equally troublesome ways which limit certain kinds of possibilities. The important question is whether the constraints to which they bind us end up limiting our freedom as much or perhaps even more than the constraints from which they free us.

    This plays itself out in similar ways in freedom of choice. While cars may open up or enable certain kinds of choices, they also close off or disable certain others. The same question arises here.

    As for the freedom or self-determination, I think cars may actually limit our power of self-determination more than they enhance it, for the more complex cars become, the more dependent we become on others to keep our cars working as they are supposed to work. As with most complex technologies, cars are part of a broad system of social, political, economic, intellectual, and technological relations and the more you become dependent on cars, the more you become bound up within that broad system of relations (and hence become less self-determining). I don’t think cars add much to our sense of freedom in this sense, at least not at first blush.

    Food for thought.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      As cars have become more complex, they have become more reliable. A 2012 Honda Civic needs far less maintenance and repair than a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air did. And, in 1955, most Americans couldn’t fix the Bel Air. They depended on the Chevy dealer or the local mechanic – just as most people do today.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I never understand why people keep harping on range as an issue with EVs.

    The range is just fine -for the intended purpose of EVs. EV owners know that.

    Too many people seem to think a car has to be able to go from Maine to California with only a few 5 minute refueling stops.

    EV owners seem to understand that their machines are meant for short commutes. Most people drive well under 40 miles per day, which is well within the range limits of current EV technology.

    We don’t think everyone should have a small car, or a big car, or an SUV, or a dually pickup – so why do we insist that everyone has to have the same propulsion system? Most families have more than one car. Why is it such a problem if one of them happens to be an EV? Why do so many people (primarily on the political right) object to individual choices that are different than one’s own choices?

    I can understand the argument against subsidies, but the hatred of EVs (and even hybrids) seems to go well beyond that issue.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Why do so many people (primarily on the political right) object to individual choices that are different than one’s own choices?”

      As much as it pains me to admit it, it isn’t just the right that does this. It’s not uncommon for people on the left to do the same, albeit in completely different ways.

      It comes down to subjectivity: you end up with a prepackaged set of beliefs and challenges to one are interpreted as challenges to the entire belief package. And thusly you lash out. It’s modern tribalism.

      That said, I find it really funny when people claim that someone has no “right” to tell them what to do. Oh, but I do. I can tell you that your F-350 Dually is a poor choice as a daily driver, just as you can lampoon the range of a Leaf. I have the right to say that. You have the right not to listen. Apparently not the self-confidence, though.

      • 0 avatar
        JustDon

        First, you are absolutely right that you have the right to object to my choice of vehicle (the quite sensible Nissan Versa, btw), and I have the right to object to your choice of vehicle (though it seems to work for you). I am not aware of anybody that says you should not be able to buy that Nissan Leaf. There are lots of folks, though, that say I shouldn’t be able to buy a Ford Expedition if I so desire (I don’t at this point in my life). There are also a lot of folks that say that I should help subsidize the purchase of the type of vehicle they choose – as long as it’s electric – since the vehicle is not competitive in the marketplace in its own right.

        I, for one, am more than happy to make a deal with you. I am more than willing to stand up and fight for your right to make whatever comment you want to about my choice of vehicle (even if I make a less “green” choice at some point), and I will not ask you to pay for my vehicle. All I ask in return is that you afford me the same courtesy (though I have nothing bad to say about you choosing an electric), and that I not be required to help pay for other people’s vehicles that cannot compete on their own.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      EVs fit different lifestyles and can be limiting on the choices that you can make in itself. Depending on battery size, expected range, traffic, temperature, you might not be able to run unexpected errands.

      The Leaf cost far more than a car its size, even with the tax credits, which I don’t think should be applied to any EV.

      Now, don’t blame the political right for telling you that you shouldn’t have an EV. First, find someone who actually says that no one should be able to buy an EV. They might tell you shouldn’t be able to have or do something, but so does the political left. They differ on what they say you can and can not do.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “EVs fit different lifestyles and can be limiting on the choices that you can make in itself. Depending on battery size, expected range, traffic, temperature, you might not be able to run unexpected errands.”

        That’s fine. If someone is willing to accept those limitations, then why criticize? I may as well complain about the turning radius, fuel economy and parkability of a SuperDuty.

        “The Leaf cost far more than a car its size, even with the tax credits, which I don’t think should be applied to any EV.”

        To be fair, the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class also cost much more than many cars their size, and all sorts of industries get all sorts of tax breaks (what, you didn’t think petroleum does? Do you want to pay the full, externalized costs of a gallon of gas?)

        “Now, don’t blame the political right for telling you that you shouldn’t have an EV”

        If the Right had it’s way, certain things that are a net-benefit to society would never get off the ground because they’re morally dubious, don’t have immediate short-term economic benefit and/or are promoted or liked by people the Right doesn’t like.

        EVs fall into this category. Of course, so did the Internet.

        And you’re right that the Left does the same, albeit with different things. Short-term environment impact versus long-term net gain comes to mind.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @ Steven02:

        An EV would fit some people’s lifestyle. Don’t blame the political left for telling you this.

        An EV with a 70 mile range will have enough range to run unexpected errands all day.

        I agree that your statement is correct for a lot of people, and it almost certainly reflects your lifestyle. The result is that EVs are a niche vehicle for now. The niche works for me, it doesn’t work for everyone (including, most likely, you). This is engineering, not politics.

        Why does an EV work for me? I’m a boring mid-30s dad, and I live in a dense little urban town that’s 5 miles on a side. I drive 2.5 miles to work. The big box stores are 10 miles from my house (the far corner). I’m also very busy, so making 5+ trips to the big box stores in a single day is inconceivable. Also, I make a lot of short trips and waste a lot of gasoline in both the Prius and the Escape getting the thing warmed up 30 seconds before I arrive at my destination.

        Also, I own a Ford Escape, which is almost an ideal vehicle to back up an EV. The EV is optimized for my daily-driving needs. The Ford Escape is a swiss-army-knife car — it can do “anything”, but it’s “optimized” for nothing. Just the tool for dealing with the unexpected, but at <25mpg, it burns a lot more gas than I’d like from a daily driver.

        I agree that EVs will be niche cars until you can get that 300 mile range and recharge it up in the amount of time it takes to have a sitdown meal at a highway exit. But the fact remains that the niche works for some people. And I’m a real person who happens to be one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “The range is just fine”

      If the range was fine, then people would happily buy EVs and producers would happily make them. The roads would be filled with electric vehicles.

      The lack of sales suggest that the range definitely isn’t fine. Consumers don’t particularly want them.

      This should not be a political issue. On the other hand, the technological issue is very clear. If EVs are going to become commercially viable for a mass market, then they have no choice but to meet the benchmarks for range and refill times that are available in the market.

      Somebody needs to figure out how to either improve upon the battery, or else find a replacement for it. Demanding that a substantial number of consumers change their demands in order to match the limitations of the technology is unrealistic.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “Somebody needs to figure out how to either improve upon the battery”

        We’re seeing incremental improvements in batteries, software, motors, materials and so forth, so this will, eventually work it’s way out.

        In the meantime, we have hybrids (I refuse to countenance “EREV”) that offer the best of both worlds.

      • 0 avatar
        JustDon

        We’ve been seeing incremental improvements in battery technology since batteries were invented. Sadly, the pace of that improvement seems to imply that the technology is inherently limited in its ability to meet the demands for this type of work. I think before EVs are really viable for the majority of society, there will have to be a quantum leap breakthrough in energy storage technology, not small incremental improvements.

        Unfortunately, I do not see that type of change on the horizon.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I will happily buy an EV, now that Nissan is happily producing one.

        EVs are a niche, but I happen to fall in to the niche. I also happen to believe several things that make me willing to pay extra for an EV. I also have a geeky fascination with new technology, which also makes me willing to pay extra for an EV.

        All I need is a raise. The Escape that I just bought was less than $5k out of pocket. It’s cheap enough that it won’t preclude me from buying a new car. But I won’t be able to afford anything other than used cars until I finish my MBA.

        The question, of course, is whether to get my wife the new Prius V she wants, or to get us the LEAF that I want. We’ll sort that out among ourselves.

    • 0 avatar
      JustDon

      There may be some people that “hate” EVs and hybrids.

      I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from such a person. I suspect (and again, I may be mistaken and am open to correction) that what you perceive as a hatred of EVs and/or hybrids is really a visceral reaction against subsidies that seem unjustified, and a very natural reaction to feeling pressured to move to an EV that simply will not meet their needs.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Nice article, spot on about the freedom of transportation. If we were re-writing the bill of rights, freedom of movement across, as well as into and out of the United States would be something I would like to see included. With the do not fly lists and the recent passport restrictions of movement into and out of Mexico and Canada, I feel like we are potentially losing those freedoms.

    I think we are on the right track with electric range extended cars such as the volt. The volt would have been a game changer if they would have been able to price it right, unfortunately, it’s out of reach of the average car buyer. Even better than the volt is the honda FCX clarity which uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power an electric motor to direct drive the wheels, unfortunately, the cost of the platinum catalysts makes it obscenely expensive. What I would like to see would be an electric motor driven car with a small battery pack combined with a gas-turbine generator for range extension. I’m not sure an all electric is ready for prime time yet.

  • avatar
    dts187

    It seems like we’re going to end up with a mixed-bag of fuel sources. Which IMO, is the best way to go. It helps keep the market from being too invested in one energy source.

    I often wonder why CNG does not get recognition in the US as a viable option. Granted, it has less energy per volume than gasoline but the price and abundance of it make it very attractive. The industry is already in place in the US, urbanized areas already have most of the infrastructure, and current ICE’s can utilize CNG with a conversion. The increased demand would also help stabilize the price of CNG in the US. This would give companies the confidence to increase production and produce jobs in Marcellus and Utica Shale areas that could definitely use them.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      I had a propane truck that was converted in the 80s when propane could be siphoned from the farm tank for 10 cents per gallon. It made a lot of sense then, today, we’re probably better with compressed natural gas over propane because of the all time record supply and the lowest cost in over 10 years.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    If you on a Leaf here in The Capital of The Free World, it runs on coal. The Nissan ads fail to mention that. If you drive one here in the summer, it runs on coal and JP-5 turbine fuel (because the peaking generators are powered by gas turbines). If I owned a Leaf it would not even take me to visit my 85-year old dad in Annapolis, which is about 40 miles away from DC (I live in the city of Washington.) True, the Leaf would take me to work, take me to buy my groceries and probably take me to my doctor out in the suburbs.

    For that, I would not pay $40,000 or $30,000 or even $20,000. If other people want to pay $40,000 for that, that is their right and privilege. But I don’t see why my tax money should be involved in the deal.

    Your thesis that hybrids show that cars are moving in the direction of electrification is wrong. Outside of the U.S., including in fuel-expensive Europe, hybrids are not big sellers.

    More to the point, in a hybrid, the battery and electric motor is simply a means to an end. The end is recapturing the energy used in accelerating the vehicle and pushing it up hills, instead of dumping it into the air as heat from the brakes. Hybrids make great commuter cars because communting and other urban driving wastes a lot of energy in stopping and accelerating vehicles. Try driving a hybrid up the Grapevine Hill on I-5 north of Los Angeles, or west from Denver on I-70 and you will experience the limitations of the concept (at least as implemented in fuel-sippers like the Prius): once the battery has been exhausted it simply becomes a dead weight drag in the small gasoline engine. The Prius has been successful by, among other things, getting people to accept the performance envelope of a 1970s “economy car” even though they won’t accept that level of performance in an ICE-powered car. I’m talking about reaching 60 mph in, say, more than 10 seconds. That’s just marketing.

    There are certainly other ways of implementing the hybrid concept: I recall decades ago seeing an article in Popular Mechanics where someone had fitted a heavy flywheel to the underside of a double-decker English city bus. The flywheel was in a sealed, vacuum compartment. When the driver applied the brakes, the drivetrain engaged the flywheel and spun it up. And, when the driver needed to accelerate, the flywheel was engaged to assist the engine.

    One could use compressed air in the same way.

    And the Volt proves that, once you move beyond the concept of using a battery to recapture energy dumped in braking and actually try to use the battery as a principal motive power source, you lose a lot of efficiency — because the motor-generator combination in the Volt is not particularly efficient at converting gasoline into electricity.

    So, all of these electric cars still run into the problems that killed electrics 90 years ago: the inadequacies (and inefficiencies) of batteries as an energy storage device.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @DC Bruce:

      Lots of nits to pick with your comment.

      “If you on a Leaf here in The Capital of The Free World, it runs on coal.”

      Yes, though the mix varies by where you live. Also, the LEAF is still pretty efficient on coal — roughly comparable to a Prius. It’s also agnostic about its fuel, so you don’t need to buy a new car when the electrical generation mix changes.

      “The Nissan ads fail to mention that.”

      Of course they do — they’re advertising. Does anyone outside of the marketing industry take advertising seriously?

      “If you drive one here in the summer, it runs on coal and JP-5 turbine fuel (because the peaking generators are powered by gas turbines).”

      Typically peaking power plants in the civilian world are powered by NATURAL GAS. JP-5 isn’t even used for civilian aircraft engines — it’s JET-A. They may be similar, but your assumption that every turbine runs on JP-5 isn’t accurate in the civilian world.

      “If I owned a Leaf it would not even take me to visit my 85-year old dad in Annapolis, which is about 40 miles away from DC (I live in the city of Washington.) True, the Leaf would take me to work, take me to buy my groceries and probably take me to my doctor out in the suburbs.”

      Fair enough. The LEAF doesn’t seem to match your driving pattern, so it’s probably not the right car for you.

      “Your thesis that hybrids show that cars are moving in the direction of electrification is wrong. Outside of the U.S., including in fuel-expensive Europe, hybrids are not big sellers.”

      That’s because Europeans and other places with high gas prices have a lot of cars that get better mileage than the Prius, and cost a lot less. The tradeoff is that they drive a smaller vehicle, and Europeans are willing to do that to save money. The Prius is a surprisingly large vehicle when you get inside it, which is why it’s popular here. Also, cars like the Nissan Micra just aren’t for sale at any price here, though that’s starting to change a little.

      I was really bummed when I showed up in the UK for a holiday and discovered that Ford and GM were making the car I wanted, but just not selling the good/small stuff to me at home. Grrr! Ford’s starting to come around, though.

  • avatar
    redav

    There’s some wording in the article that I see as problematic.

    Cars are like guns – merely tools that have no intrinsic value. They are not “tools of freedom” unless they are used as such. They can just as easily be used as “tools of oppression.”

    Thus, “proponents of the car as a tool of freedom” have misplaced vision. It is not the tool that matters, but how it is used. There is no reason that other tools cannot be used for freedom, and if the proponent really cares about freedom, they would whole-heartedly support that, regardless of the car’s involvement. But if they insisst on the car being involved, their cry of “freedom” is a sham because what they really want is the car (with the freedom angle being no more than their justification).

    The article hints at this with the excellent point that EVs can support freedoms that ICE cars cannot. However, the idea doesn’t seem fully developed because tools of freedom are not the car, nor the EV, nor even the bicycle–they are the purpose and method of use.

    There is a notion that microgeneration is too expensive. For decades that has been true, but soon it will be out-of-date. Ford is selling a 2.5 kW solar PV system to buyers of the eFocus for $10k. A 2.5 kW system will produce (on average) 3000 kWh per year, and such systems typically last over 30 yrs. That works out to $0.11/kWh, which is actually a competitive electric rate. And considering recent trends, it is reasonable to think that PV cell costs will drop by 50% over the next ten years (removing the need for govt subsidies). Thus, the actual cost of solar isn’t the problem, but the up-front capital costs are.

    That is a situation like a mortgage. How much debt (bondage) do you put yourself in to enjoy the benefits now and later? Is it worthwhile for the govt to front money for EVs now, given that doing so is a debt that limits our freedom? In this case, I believe it is worhwhile, because the benefits (freedoms) that can be enjoyed now and for decades in the future are worth more.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    In most of the country, private transportation is indeed a symbol of personal liberty. But in a big city where the streets are constantly clogged, it’s more of a liability; even a nuisance, practically speaking.

    I personally always feel a sense of increased liberation when I use public transportation, especially when it’s a good system. I’m free from having to drive and constantly having to make life-and-death decisions. I’m free to read or sleep or work.

    I’m free from having to find a valid parking space, paying for it, and avoiding the meter maids’ BS. I’m free from the prison of gridlock. And I’m free from the direct cost of fuel.

    Instead, I’m paying a price in privacy and control. But in a big city with good, clean, reliable public transport, that’s a small price to pay compared to all the disadvantages of cars I listed above.

    Public transport doesn’t curtail freedoms – it merely shuffles them.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    Hilarious, car owners & drivers thinking they are “free”. They are nothing more than the tools of society. There was a period of time when personal mobility was somewhat under your domain (not to mention feet) and that was when horses provided the bulk of mobility (they might eat your grass, but it still takes a farrier to keep ‘em moving). Sure, you are “free” to roam with in the system but that’s the point. Few cruise outside those boundaries (sailors, vagabonds, walkers, some cyclists).

    It is so delicious to hear a libertarian scream about gas prices.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      Wut?

      Sailors are limited by water, weather and vessel. Cyclists are limited by the same roads that move cars. Walkers are limited by their speed, distance, hunger, fatigue and all the other trappings of a living organism.

      If you intend to sail to work, just make sure you setup your inbox to notify people how incredibly late you’re going to be.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Before the advent of the Model T, 90 percent of Americans had never travelled farther than 20 miles from their home. So, yes, cars did increase personal mobility greatly, which added to a person’s sense of freedom (in not being as tied to one place).

  • avatar
    George B

    Electric vehicles have had a century to gain acceptance and they have always failed because of the cost of the batteries and the time to recharge. I have a much different vision for the future of the automobile. The viable path is to gradually replace gasoline made from oil with cheaper methanol made from coal and natural gas. The marginal extra cost of hardware to make mass market cars flex-fuel is low and methanol allows fast refueling. As a bonus, methanol is a viable fuel for use with electric fuel cell vehicles. The transition from gasoline-only ICE to flex-fuel ICE to methanol ICE to methanol fuel cell EV maintains backwards compatibility at least one step back and the possibility of less expensive driving to drive the process forward one step at a time.

  • avatar
    JustDon

    > Those who believe in the market’s wisdom can not deny the steadily increasing electrification of the car market, nor ignore its implications

    Sadly, no.

    Those who believe in the market’s wisdom can not help but be appalled at how much the market has been distorted by outside influences over the past decade, nor ignore the implications of that meddling on the car market as well as the overall economy.

  • avatar
    john lynch

    I don’t understand why so many people keep getting taken in by electric cars.

    They don’t have the range that most people need. Today I drove 60 miles and used my defroster all day long. It was cold and snowing. Guess what? No EV on the market could have handled it.

    Nor is the charging time something any sane person would put up with. Filling up at the pump takes a minute. Eight hours to charge the car? What if I need to go somewhere? I already have to plan my day around taking my dog out. Now I have to plan around my car, too?

    Furthermore, why can’t people can’t do simple math when it comes to solar energy? Due to the arcane nature of our planet’s rotation, something called “night” interferes with the operation of solar panels. Added to this is the mysterious nature of the planet’s axial tilt, which leads to a period, months long, where the “night” is longer than average. Often a substance consisting of crystallized water will fall from the sky and cover everything with a reflective covering, preventing sunlight from falling upon it.

    All of these complex planetary maneuvers mean that solar panels generally aren’t available when you need to charge your car, i.e. when you are home after work. Such a simple problem seems obvious to me, so why isn’t it obvious to people who are much smarter and higher paid? Perhaps they have solved the problem of going to work in the daytime.

    “But, but batteries!” you say. Fiddlesticks, I say. You want me to put a giant toxic pile of heavy metals in my garage? A giant flammable toxic pile of heavy metals? A very expensive pile? No, I don’t think so.

    It’s far cheaper to buy gas than it is to install solar panels that will probably never pay for themselves and won’t even be producing power when you most need it.

    None of this is about independence– it’s a fetish. We all use roads built by other people, and I don’t see why having to buy gas is any different. Especially since everyone will need grid power for their silly cars, anyway. And what do you do when the power goes out while your EV is charging? My gas-guzzler doesn’t care- I’ll still be able to go anywhere I need to. EVs are actually more dependent on public infrastructure than a gas powered car.

    A tank of gas that can carry me 300 miles costs $30 (in my unhip Toyota Corolla.) Currently I can buy a conventional used car for ten thousand dollars less than a hybrid, let alone an EV, and use the money I save to buy gas for the lifetime of the car.

    No one saves money from buying hybrids. They are a hobby for the upper classes of society. A much better idea is what we’re doing, which is making better gas engines that deliver mileage comparable to a hybrid for far less money.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Well then you’re not the person for solar or EVs.

      Let me tell you how the people I know who are using it work with it. EVs as we know them may not have the range for your needs but they exceed the needs of hundreds of thousands of Americans. I suggest to people that they just reset their trip odometers each morning for a week and see if they can drive round trip home and have a Leaf’s range meet their needs. I drive 15 miles per day. With after school activities for my kids I might drive 25 miles. Week in and week out my mileage is about the same. It’s a boring route I’ll gladly give over to a Google car someday. The weekend is when I take the 60 mile long route through the country to go buy a quart of paint or some Gorilla glue from the hardware store 1 mile away.

      All my regular errands fit within the Leaf range – even with the a/c, heat or defroster on. But that’s here. It might not meet your needs or desires. If I needed to commute to the next county down the intestate it might not work for me. I do have a coworker though that drives in from the next county each morning and has for the past six months or so – rain, shine or snow. No charging at work.

      If I need to drive further than the Leaf or the coming FocusEV allows and need to do it on a regular basis – I’m not an EV customer. I’m a Volt customer instead. Or if I strike it really rich – I’m a Tesla S customer with the longest range battery.

      If they still don’t meet my needs (say if I haul 3-4 antique cars on a trailer regularly) then I don’t buy an EV. Simple as that. Personally I’d like to have a 90s MR2 or a 914 or a Miata two seater but I need, really need on a daily basis, a four seater car b/c our kids are part of the daily commute – so I don’t buy a two seater. Same reason I don’t have a motorcycle anymore. If an EV doesn’t work for you then don’t buy one. Doesn’t mean the whole concept is a bad one for everyone.

      Filling up isn’t done while you wait with an EV. I figure you know this though. The local Cracker Barrel has a charger and you could get a charge 80%+ from empty during the time it takes to eat. And it’s cheaper than gasoline. Like $2 for a full charge.

      The method that the people I know around the country that drive EVs is to charge at home at night. And there are a lucky few that can do so at work too if they want or need to. No standing around and waiting for it to fuel like a gas powered car. Works just like a laptop or cellphone. Charges while I sleep or do something else.

      Your comments resemble the TopGear episode where they showed everything an EV couldn’t do and few things an EV can do.

      Solar energy – it works and it’s ALOT cheaper than it was just a few years ago. When I looked at a solar system back then large enough for a suburban home with the typical electric amenities the systems were priced in the $45K range. It took some creative accounting to justify it but our local power provider helps. Around here we buy electricity for 9 cents or so per kWh, and our power provider will buy any electricity made with wind or PV for 12 cents per kWh. So, your solar is set up to feed into the system everything it can make at 12 cents and your buying electricity at 9 cents. To go this route took alot of time for a payback and it had to be a choice important to the owner. It’s not immediately and automatically the cheapest solution. It’s a long term investment.

      I looked last night at package systems from Backwoods Solar and I can buy a huge solar setup probably larger than I need for about $13K now. BIG reduction in price from $45K. For another $5K I could buy a battery bank and be totally off the grid if I wanted to be. Or be the only one in the neighborhood with lights when a storm knocks out the power – again.

      The panels are warranted for 25-30 years and simple math says without any gov’t tax refunds or credits I could expect a payback in about 104 months. Then I have ~$125 (how much I pay each month at 9 cents with electric appliances) back in my budget for the next 30 yrs minus 7 yrs = 23 years.

      Since even 1970s solar panels are still out there and still making power, I suspect that these newer panels are going to last longer than just their warranty period. Everything is modular so it would be easy to replace or upgrade parts.

      How do you charge a car with solar? You make more power during the day than you need and sell it back to the utility. At night you buy back whatever you need to power the house during that period and recharge your EV batteries. You size your solar array at something larger than your home and car needs. Again $13K ought to about do it. Call the experts for the final word.

      And still – you’ve got to care about all this to want to go through the hassle. The same mentality that leads people to buy a new(er) car when the old one is a bit of trouble is the same mentality that is going to keep a good number of people from bothering with EVs or solar panels until they are dirt cheap and it’s going to be a while even though the math works out now. People in America are all about convenience. No shifting gears, no manual labor chores – and absolutely – the cheapest wares on the planet. Even if we need to buy them twice as often as a quality item. We sure like a deal here in America. Except when we need convenience. Then spending 4 times more on dinner at a restaurant than at home in the kitchen is good. So is a luxury SUV that leads them to complain about the cost of fuel each summer. Automatic transmissions that cost an extra $1500+ at purchase time and then another $1500+ to rebuild at around 125K miles. Etc. etc. And I encourage folks to spend like they want to. It’s a free country. I choose to not completely emulate those people around me. I keep my cars forever, row my own gears, grow my own veggies, go to the mtns instead of the beach on vacation, etc. I reject Windows viruses in favor of free Mint Linux KDE. LOL!

      The non-EV people compare the Leaf to a Versa in cost and say – see – the EV math doesn’t work, nobody is going to buy them. The EVers compare the Leaf to a Chevy Equinox which costs about the same and slurps gasoline at 20 mpg for the life of the vehicle meaning the owner paid $30K for the vehicle and then another $37,500+ worth of gasoline over it’s lifetime while the Leaf used about 1/5th of that in energy and was cheaper in the long run to own.

      Again you’ve got to care to want to go through the motions. Personally I think buying as much oil as we do from non-American interests is bad for us politically and economically so I’d love to quit buying gasoline. I also don’t believe that drill baby, drill is going to solve anything long term either. Just like the ANWAR hot potato that was tossed back and forth for so long polarizing voters when ANWAR represented such a small drip in the vast lake of oil that we consume. We’d ruin our environment drilling and consuming all the oil in America and still have a supply problem.

      Of course if we quit importing oil at this time we’d have shortages. Yes no shortages now but there are alot of pressures on supply from India (1.3B people) and China (1.5B people) and the rest of the world too.

      We can sit back and keep doing what we’ve been doing or we can wait and the Chinese will arrive in our markets with PV systems and EV cars and you’ll hear more Americans say – gee, I wonder why American companies don’t make anything anymore?

      I’d prefer to leave our oil right there in the ground for a rainy day when we needed to fight a war to defend ourselves and couldn’t get oil from someone else.

      Keep driving that Corolla. I’m not lecturing you about it. I’m anxious for this technology to be adopted in larger numbers here. The people in control of the markets today want to make as much money as possible b/c they don’t care what happens in 20-40 years. They’ll either be rich and retired or rich and gone from this world. What these interests don’t want is for the technology to be adopted too quickly. They want to finish getting as much money out of their investments as possible before moving on. Fossils are a cash cow. When it’s cheap we buy alot of it. When there is a war our government consumes massive amounts of it and if the consumer’s price goes up, oh well. The market folks are still making buckets of money. The only thing they need to do is stay below whatever that magic price is that leads the average American consumer to consider changing how they live their life (distance of home to work, what they drive, electric vs gas vs diesel). Eventually though I think world demand will push price increases beyond what opening old oil wells can tame.

      We can stop imports and try to exist on our own reserves but we consume too much. We can consume less or never be energy independent.

      Since “we” is such a difficult political and social concept these days because “we” is quickly twisted to mean some terrible ‘ism like communism and socialism and a half dozen other ‘isms – I’m happy to just make choices that lead to solar and EVs at my house with or without any gov’t subsidies.

      I know from experience that people around me learn from example better than they do from any long winded rants I might deliver over beer and pizza so perhaps I won’t be the only one in my social circle that has solar and an EV in time. We led the way on several topics and friends and family have quietly followed. Nice feeling. We’ve “sold” three CR-Vs for example just by keeping our CR-V so long. Whatever works for them.

      Anyhow back to solar – either a person needs a battery bank or the utilities need to continue to exist and they will. The utilities are where the power comes on cloudy days without a battery bank. The great thing about solar is that it shades my roof so it doesn’t get as hot, the shingles last longer in the shade, and the baseline load on the utilities is reduced. When it’s really hot here in the summer, some employers have agreements to close up shop so that the grid doesn’t overload and fail due to all the air conditioners running across the region. Solar PV is making it’s max power at the very same time there is max consumption. If my house can make more than it is consuming then great. I made a choice for the better (in my mind) that didn’t involve any sort of gov’t assistance via any dreaded political ‘ism. I benefit and so does everyone else.

      As for that pile of batteries in your garage – most battery banks today are sealed lead acid. The Lithium battery banks might be coming eventually but not until they are cheaper than the lead acid or last longer. I wouldn’t put the batteries in my house either. I’m going to put them in a 10×12 shed. Or a root cellar behind the house where they are shielded from temperature swings. As for the EV – I’m not too keen on having it in the attached garage either at this stage of the technology. I’m more keen to put it in my detached garage. If it burns so be it. My house remains standing.

      That said, current Lithium batteries have some new tricks since the laptop fires of a few years ago. One is a polymer layer inside the battery that seals the battery internally in case of excessively high temps making the battery inert.

      I really need to get a Corolla b/c my old CR-V cost me $47.50 to refill after a 315 mile tank of gasoline last night at ~$3.60.

      I like the idea of not being as big a part in of the oil consumption in America. That’s Independence from the oil economy. Yes my food comes via a diesel powered truck but I can – with current tech – cut all but my out of town fuel consumption out with an EV as they exist now. Sure my EV freedom wouldn’t allow me to do cross country travel but in the last year I haven’t traveled more than about 150 miles in any direction. Your mileage may vary. ;) I like not contributing to the coal consumption of my utilities provider. The coal industry is knocking down mtns across the southeast these days and they aren’t going to slow or stop until the demand tapers off. I also don’t want to contribute to nuke waste that needs to be monitored for the next 1000 years. Way to kick the can down the road people! Japan’s disaster and the New Madrid Seismic Zone (look that one up) tells me that TVA’s nukes aren’t immune to potential disaster either. Removing myself from those economies has a value to me as well. Yes the effects of my individual choice is a tiny thing but it adds up. I spent time living overseas in a region where it was common for folks to toss their trash out of their moving vehicle. The place was rough looking. My friends there thought I was goofy not just tossing it out but by the time I left they weren’t either I noticed. When I was a kid here it was common for folks to toss their drink cans and wrapopers out of the car too. It’s mostly trash free here these days b/c folks made personal choices that added up and made a difference over time.

      EVs now are like 52 inch flat screen TVs were a decade ago. Expensive. Not for everyone yet. Maybe the price will remain the same, maybe it will drop but I’m eager to put the technology on the road for me in a year or two. I’d rather have an EV for commuter duty than a new Harley motorcycle (expensive for a bike) or a skiboat plus big tow vehicle (also expensive). I’d rather spend my time and money somewhere else and despite the high initial cost – both EVs and PVs pay for themselves – eventually.

      My current $20K commuter car has paid for itself in two ways – the fact that I can get to work to earn a living. And when compared to the 16 mpg options, this is cheaper. However it has consumed 1 gallon of gas every 25 miles for the past 230K miles and will always consume another gas every 25 miles. I’d rather not consume any more gas than I have to on the daily run to school and work and back again.

  • avatar
    HeftyJo

    Until there is a massive improvement in battery technology EV automobiles are a none starter. Lithium Ion batteries just aren’t robust and reliable enough to make for a dependable car that will last you any appreciable amount of time. In general my faith in Li Ion batteries isn’t too strong because I’m a computer technician and I see Li Ion batteries in laptops and cell phones turning into bricks all the time. In fact I scrapped a large box full laptop batteries a while back and not a single one was more than 10 years old. Not to mention that latest news that the battery in the Tesla roadster turns into a brick if you let it sit unplugged for more than a few weeks is pretty disappointing.

    Which brings me to the second point that the electrical grid just isn’t efficient enough to make it worthwhile to switch to EV cars; particularly if saving energy and reducing pollution is your primary concern. In the U.S. our power plants are pretty efficient and clean running but that comes at an enormous cost. When everyone comes home from a busy day and plugs in their cars to charge over night we would need a lot more power generation to handle that additional load. So, that means having to build a bunch more expensive and heavily regulated power plants everywhere. Something tells me the Nimby crowd wouldn’t be too happy about that. Then, our power grid is nearly single fault tolerant in some areas of the nation because it is already being pushed to its limits. We would need massive upgrades to the power grid to not only handle the load but to also reduce the power inefficiencies of sending that much juice over the power lines.

    Third, we would just be shifting over from the consumption of fuel to the consumption of Lithium and rare earth metals to build all these battery packs and electric motors. In other words instead of sending piles of money to the Middle East we will instead be sending all our money to Bolivia and China. Not to mention it actually takes a great deal of energy to ship all these materials around from the sources of where they are mined, to areas where they can get refined, and back to areas where they can get assembled. This all just makes the idea that we could just build battery packs that could be swapped out at a battery station all the more silly. We would need an incredible number of battery packs sitting on hand in order to keep everyone’s car moving. And then what happens when this mountain of battery packs goes bad and needs to be disposed of? Well there goes more toxic materials back into the environment. The whole thing is just to give everyone warm tingles that they are saving the planet but upon closer examination is just doesn’t make any sense.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      So what’s the difference – a BUNCH of tankers comes from Saudi Arabia or some bulk haulers come from China or Bolivia with materials for a battery that lasts X number of years. The oil is here and gone, send more soon.

      Oil gets burned. If battery and motor raw materials are expensive enough to generate a profit do it somebody will start recycling them.

      I think the difference between the laptop battery and Leaf battery (for example) is that a laptop battery gets run to a very low charge state to get max user time out of a battery capacity (weight) before it conks out. The batteries in an EV get run to maybe 50% of charge and the car tells you the battery is empty. It makes the battery last longer.

      Yes Tesla has some kinks to work out but I am confident they will get it right. Personally if I could afford a Tesla I’d be adding solar to my garage rooftop to keep the batteries charged. I expect Tesla will fix the car’s parasitic drains rather than risk their reputation or add some protection so that the battery can’t be allowed to brick itself.

  • avatar
    mark@pluginrecharge

    I own a Nissan Leaf and absolutely love the thing. I drive around Orlando about 1100 miles a month and spend about $28 in electricity. I had range anxiety for the first 3 weeks I had the car when I was figuring it out, but now it’s no big deal. Everyone I’ve taken for a ride is impressed with the performance and silence of the car…try it, you’ll probably like it.

    The Leaf is a “100 mile” EV and not for everyone…but by the time “regular folk” will ever get brave enough to buy them in a couple of years, they will be 250 mile EVs and cheaper. Then they’ll be a good fit for most city drivers.

    My Leaf displaced a 21mpg gas car, taking the need for 620 gallons/15 barrels of gasoline a year out of the market. Most cars don’t get 21mpg and some get better mileage, but if 66 million 21mpg cars switched to EV, this would drop gasoline usage by 33% or 1 billion barrels…that’s a big reduction in oil imports and would buy us freedom, healthier air…and maybe…just maybe, less wars and messes to clean up.

    If you’re an EV skeptic that thinks EVs are stupid, that’s fine with me – someone has to buy the Saudi Prince a new Ferrari Berlinetta made of Platinum…and it might as well be you!


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