QOTD: Is Your (Green) People's Car Already Here?

qotd is your green peoples car already here

A reader linked me to an article last week that started off strong but went downhill near the end. I agree with the main thrust, though.

Mainly, that Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3, in yet-unattainable base form, is wholly unnecessary. We’ll leave the company financials aside — Musk claims high-zoot Model 3s are necessary to keep the cash-burning company afloat, and there’s little reason to doubt it — and focus on the broader argument.

Electric cars are nice, but you don’t need one to save the planet.

Most of the public’s driving duties are easily accomplished by a plug-in hybrid with a Honda Clarity or Chevrolet Volt-type range, the author states, and this is certainly true. The vast majority of driving miles — commuting, running errands — can be handled with a vehicle that doesn’t entirely dispense with gasoline, but doesn’t need it for trips of roughly 50 miles.

If those trips suddenly went electric, we’d all be breathing easier, Mother Earth would smile (maybe less in areas with mineral extraction), and drivers could feel good about themselves. There’d also be gas left in the tank for those longer drives.

Last fall, while testing Hyundai’s all-electric Ioniq variant, I got to talking with a soon-to-be-retired man who lived with his wife in a downtown condo. Super keen on electrics, this man wanted a battery-powered vehicle as his next ride (his current car of choice was an entirely sensible Toyota Corolla). There’s a neat factor at work with EVs, sure. But the man’s wife didn’t want to spend her golden years figuring out the distance to the nearest public recharging station, nor did the idea of kiboshing certain road trips due to lack of infrastructure strike her as appealing. Also, no one wants to cool their heels next to a highway as a 240-volt connection slowly replenishes their battery’s juice.

My entirely predictable advice? “Get a Volt.” The husband would get his EV kick without sacrificing the range needed for a trip to Boston or Stowe or New York City, and his household would still end up about 90 percent gas-free.

Yes, it’s a pain to battle with the condo board for a hookup point in your urban parking spot, but outfitting an ordinary home with a Level 2 charger isn’t the Apollo 11 mission. You’ll just need to upgrade your breaker panel, probably, and run wire to the garage. Depending on a number of variables, it can be done for less than $1,000.

While the author of the piece advocates dumping the cost of electric vehicle charging infrastructure on every new home buyer and parking lot user, that’s simply not my policy cup of tea. Feel free to disagree on the urgency of the matter. What I do agree with, however, is that the base Model 3 — still months away from production — is only necessary for PR purposes. Consumers already have plenty of choice. It’s likely that more than a few $35,000 Model 3 reservation holders have taken notice.

What’s your take?

[Image: Kia Motors]

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on May 29, 2018

    "Electric cars are nice, but you don’t need one to save the planet." Your underlying premise - that EV buyers are a monolithic bunch of tree-huggers - is false. I like EVs for the instant torque, low- to near-zero maintenance, quieter ride, and substantially lower operating cost. Personally, I am unconcerned with GW, CG, ACG, or whatever the latest eco-panic is called. My only concern with EVs is depreciation. Rationally, there is no doubt that keeping an economy car in running order makes better sense from a microeconomic perspective. But car buying often isn't rational, which is easily observed in the volume of trucks sales in the US. If we're going to argue that the best green choice is to simply stick with economy cars, let's open the discussion to include all vehicle choices.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on May 29, 2018

    Absolutely. Replace the awd Escape Hybrid with an Outlander PHEV. The Mitsubishi has electric range for city use, battery capacity to recapture energy during long descents in the mountains, store/hold/discharge control, variable regeneration braking, and it can't possibly be less reliable than the Escape. The only downside is the Outlander's poorer gas-only mileage.

  • MaintenanceCosts I don't and realistically won't drive on track, but I think the performance characteristics of EV powertrains are just plain superior on the street. You get quicker response, finer control over the throttle, no possibility of being out of the powerband and needing a time-consuming shift, more capability in the speed range where you actually drive, and less brake heat. The only "problem" (and there are many situations where it's a plus, not a problem) is the lack of noise.
  • JMII After tracking two cars (a 350Z and a C7) I can't imagine tracking an EV because so much of your "feeling" of driving comes from sound. That said you might be able to detect grip levels better as tire sounds could be heard easier without the roar of the engine and exhaust. However I change gears based mostly on sound so even an automatic (like a C8) that would be a disappointment on track. Hearing an engine roar is too important to the overall experience: so tracking an EV? No thanks!I've driven an electric go-kart around a track as my only point of reference and its weird. It sort of works because a kart is so small and doesn't require shifting plus you still hear the "engine" whirring behind you. The sensation is like driving cordless drill, so there is some sense of torque being applied. You adapt pretty quickly but it just seems so wrong. With a standard ICE car, even a fast one, RPMs raise and fall with each shift so there is time to process the wonderful sounds and they give you a great sense of the mechanical engine bits working to propel you.I feel track toys will always be ICE powered, similar to how people still enjoy sailing or horseback riding as "sports" despite both forms of transportation being replaced by superior technology. I assume niche companies will continue to build and maintain ICE vehicles. In the future you'll have to take your grand-kids to the local track to explain that cars were once glorious, smoke spewing, noisy things. The smells and the sounds are unique to racing so they need to stay that way. Often a car goes by while your in the pits and you can identify it by sound alone... I would hate to lose that.
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh "20 combined city/highway"...sigh
  • MaintenanceCosts Not sure this is true for electrified products. The Pacifica Hybrid continues to have its share of issues and there have been some issues with the 4xe products as well.
  • Ajla I'm probably not going to buy an EV performance car. I just don't think the power delivery and silence are going to do it for me.Most likely is that I'll have an EV/PHEV "premium" vehicle, (which is where I think EV attributes make the most sense) and then have a "classic" ICE car for Sunday trips to Culver's.