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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd is your green people s 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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2 of 64 comments
  • 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.

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )