The Two Reasons Why People Buy Electric Cars

1.  They want to say something about themselves.  This is the Leonardo DiCaprio buyer, using the electric car to pronounce that he cares about his carbon footprint.  And it looks great parked next to his Gulfstream V.

2.  There is no meter on the electric line you plug into the car.  When you fill your car up with gas, you get to stand there watching the spinning money dial.  There is no parallel experience for plugging in an electric car.  The costs and fossil fuel use of an electric car are not necessarily less than the same size (e.g. subcompact) gasoline-engine car, they are just better hidden.

Owners of electric cars are not smarter about managing the energy costs of their driving, they are substantially more ignorant.  I know exactly how many dollars of gas I have put in my car this month.  How many electric car owners have the first idea how many dollars of electricity they put in theirs?

  • Mark2

    I have heard that Electric car owners do a lot of sneaking of other people's electricity.

  • Agammamon

    That's one of the reasons I (almost) got an electric bike - It would have had enough range to get me to work where I could charge it on someone else's dime.

  • gn

    The same people excited about plug-in cars probably turn up their noses at neighbors with central A/C running at night. But the plugins draw 20-30 amps during a 4-hr charge time, as I understand it, making it very comparable. No son and no wind at night means they are burning something, or splitting something (nuclear).. hope they are okay with that, too.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> 1. They want to say something about themselves.

    Yeah, the car-as-statement notion.

    A car is for transportation.

    You want to make a statement, buy or rent a freaking billboard.

  • Sam

    3. You want to drive one of the torquey electric sports cars like a Tesla Roadster.

  • A Critic

    What about the people who actually believe they are helping the environment? I used to work with such an altruist who drove a hybrid, very lovely lady, very nice person, but not so much sense.

  • Ted Rado

    If you run the numbers, it works out that if you burn natural gas to generate electricity, transmit the power to the home, and charge and discharge the battery, the overall result is about the same as if you burned the NG in an engine in the first place. Thus there is little or no saving in carbon foorprint, all at huge expense.

    The whole electric car thing is a scam created by the enviroloonies and the idiot politicians. Many years ago, California mandated that 10% of cars must be electric by 2000. A lot of money was wasted on design, and as expected, the whole idea foundered. Can you imagine thousands of cars stranded on the LA freeways out of juice? A good idea will fly by itself without USG intervention. Bad ones will sink with or without Washington's ministrations.

  • Sam L.

    Ah, the Tesla. Seem to recall Consumer Reports having trouble when testing one.

    The real Greens would have their own windmill to charge their cars, and happily pay for all the birds and bats it kills.

  • David

    I see the following possible benefits:

    1. It's easier to clean up the emissions from one big plant than zillions of little mobile ones.

    2. Using electric does allow us to leverage the cleanest, most reliable power source we have today: nuclear fission.

    3. Coal is (I believe) cheaper than gasoline, so there could theoretically be a savings here (although in practice I somewhat doubt it).

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    Yeah, David, except that
    a) they're trying to kill coal and oil fired plants
    b) most analyses ignore the issue of battery disposal issues with regards to toxic chemicals produced as a "side benefit" -- this is hand in hand with the same for solar panels.

    As noted, if it was even close, it would not require subsidy, much less endless substantial subsidy... there'd be a fairly large market of econitwits who'd adopt it for even CLAIMING it is better for the environment.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> Ah, the Tesla. Seem to recall Consumer Reports having trouble when testing one.

    Probably the warranty-breaking battery-zeroed problem that Warren already noted in a previous column.

  • sean2829

    The battery disposal costs may not be as bad as you think. I believe lithium ion batteries contain a lot of nickel and cobalt. Nickel is about $15 per pound and cobalt is between $20 and $25 per pound. I suspect there we a pretty strong incentive to recycle these batteries. Lead acid batteries, whose components are not near as valuable, have a very high recycling rate.

  • Bram

    1. There is an electric meter on the side of my house. I could go out and watch it spin after plugging in an electric car.

    2. If my employer was giving away free electricity, I would consider an electric car. If they gave away free diesel, I would definitely buy a diesel car.

  • Anonzmous

    Yes, there is little/no change in carbon footprint, but the cost per mile is much lower to due obscene gasoline taxes.

    A rough rule of thumb is that 10 kw-hr in a battery is a transportation equivalent of 1 gallon of gas in a gas tank. Yes, Carnot has already has his way with the 10 kw-hr, and it took 30 kw-hr more or less in natural gas/coal/what-have-you to get 10 kw-hr in your "tank."

    But that 10 kw-hr will push an electric car about the same distance as a gallon of gas would have all else being equal (same car weight and body).

    So a Nissan Leaf, with a 24 kw-hr battery, has a gasoline equivalent of a 2.4 gallon tank, and a real-world range of 70-75 miles, more or less. (i.e., about 30 miles per gallon or 10 kw-hr).

    But the cost to fill the Leaf's tank is only $2.40 (assuming 10 cents/kw-hr retail), compared to $10 if it was gasoline-powered.

    Note that the cost does not include a new charging station.

  • Slocum

    3. There are no road taxes on electricity, so drivers of electric cars freeload on everyone else.

    The authorities are not exactly forgiving about people who skip out on road taxes by other methods:

    http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/illinois-man-fined-thousands-and-threatened-with-felony-prosecution-for-using-untaxed-biodiesel.html
    http://www.worldsweeper.com/Legal/DyedFuelFine.html

  • Mark2

    @sean, I agree with you, the disposal cost is not what hurts the environment. It is the mining of the Lithium nickle and cobalt that do the damage. We don't allow mining for these things in the US, to dirty, so we get them from China. China has created a toxic waste land where they mine the stuff.

    There are also cost to manufacture. Latest generation batteries are $500 - $600 per kilowatt hour.

  • me

    The environmental impact of creating the batteries is pretty atrocious. If you really care about the environment, drive a natural gas car (I know, I know, harder to do in the US)

  • eddie

    "China has created a toxic waste land where they mine the stuff."

    Great! A toxic wasteland is exactly where you want to do your mining!

  • Bill Drissel

    @Slocum: When electric car use becomes significant, gov'ts will collect road tax ... special cable connections ... separate metering ... crime to plug a car into an untaxed source ... new bureaucracy ... new class of criminals ...

    Bill Drissel
    Grand Prairie, TX

  • Sam

    Sam L: You're probably thinking of the Fisker Karma, which had a widely reported failure. I don't believe Consumer Reports has acquired a Roadster for testing (from their website, it looks like one of their editors test drove one at a press event, but that's about it).

  • VanessaElizebeth

    It depends on the customers.Mostly they want to save money which they are spending for petrol and other in keeping in mind the environmental pollution.

    Shop almost everything you want