Will the electric vehicle survive in the US?
'Zero Emissions'— Not as Green as It Sounds
You can buy bumper stickers for your EV pointing out that there's no tailpipe on your car, and therefore no emissions, which truly is great, except that the finished car represents just one step in the life cycle of the vehicle, and buyers have become hip to this. The materials used to make the batteries for electric vehicles — including, in most cases, copper, nickel, cobalt, tantalum, tin and tungsten — must be acquired through earth-unfriendly mining processes, much of which takes place in the conflict-addled region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not to mention that much of the power grid in the United States is coal-fired, meaning that even while charging a zero-emission EV you are likely burning fossil fuels. And in some cases, charging an EV can create more emissions than driving a fuel-burning car.
The high price of EVs means it's nearly impossible to recoup the vehicle cost against fuel savings. In fact, a recent New York Times article noted that the initial cost of a Chevy Volt could take up to 27 years to pay off, assuming it was regularly driven farther than its battery-only range allows. That number drops to eight years, or two years longer than the average American retains a new vehicle, if "gas costs $5 a gallon and the driver remained exclusively on battery power."
At the same time, the battery packs used in EVs are not only expensive — Ford CEO Alan Mulally was recently quoted at pricing a 23-kilowatt-hour battery pack for pure electrics at "around $12,000 to $15,000" — but their performance degrades over time. Whereas a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle will continue to perform as advertised with regular care and maintenance, a Nissan Leaf could be running at just 80 percent of its original capacity after five years, and a mere 70 percent after a decade — and that's by Mitsubishi's own estimates. That's a hard pill to swallow when you're shelling out $35K for a bug-eyed hatchback.
The Good News
Electric vehicles in their current incarnation are specialists, good for densely populated urban areas where emissions are of greater concern and where gas prices tend to be highest. In fact, for all of our land, the U.S. is one of the most urbanized populations in the world, with more than 80 percent of its people residing in urban and suburban areas. That means the oft-cited issue of EV recharging infrastructure — that is, there's nowhere to charge the things — could be solved relatively quickly with proper planning. In other words, solving the bulk of the recharging infrastructure issue doesn't mean putting a charging station on every street corner in America — a daunting task given the scope of the country — but rather by concentrating on the densely packed urban and suburban areas where the limited-range, highly efficient vehicles make the most sense to begin with.
And while we chide the Obama administration for focusing almost exclusively on electric vehicles at the expense of other alternatives — notably, compressed natural gas and hydrogen-powered vehicles, which have their own benefits and limitations — that singular focus and financial support has allowed automakers and others to continue making technological breakthroughs. Batteries will become lighter, costs will drop and driving ranges will increase as charging times decrease, all while a reliable recharging infrastructure is put in place. Meanwhile, recent studies show that Americans are making their new-vehicle purchases based mostly on fuel prices, an obvious advantage for vehicles that use no gas and can be fully charged for just a few dollars' worth of electricity.
Any car, even a futuristic, zero-emissions technological marvel, is still the second-largest purchase behind a house for most people. At this stage, electric vehicles are more proof-of-concept demonstrations of a manufacturer's green bona fides than affordable and viable means of transportation, and EV sales demonstrate this. But luckily, EVs will continue to be developed in parallel with — not as an immediate replacement for — internal-combustion-engine vehicles. Given time and technological advancements, who knows? They may even turn out to be the future.
Josh Condon is the editor of MSN Autos' Exhaust Notes. Based in Los Angeles, his work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Esquire, Popular Science, Men's Journal and Ralph Lauren RL Magazine.
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Yes the electric car will survive. Remember when a computer was bigger than a Greyhound bus...Cost more than most people make in a life time...Used more electricity than a small city...Took the smartest people in the world to operate...And was only good for a few tasks...Now forty or so years later the computer is smaller than a deck of cards...Costs less than a concert ticket...Uses a battery smaller than a baseball card...Any three year old can operate...And can do thousands and thousands of tasks... Now lets go to the TV...It wasn't to long ago when you had to spend 1,700.00 to buy a 200 pound 32 inch TV...Or spend over 5,000.00 to buy a 40 inch flat TV...Today that same 5,000.00 will buy you 10 or so 40 inch TVs... Or how about the battery powered drill? Not to many of the old timers thought that was a good idea. .. I've heard stories that when cars were first coming to market in the late 1800s people thought they were useless, because the horse was cheaper and faster...
This simple answer is NO. They won't survive in their present iteration.
There are many reasons, but one answer is obvious. I am a 'car guy'. Most proponents of EV's are elitist, environmental snobs who 'know' better than we do about what is 'necessary' for the survival of the earth. (I refuse to use the code word 'planet'). If it were up to them, some of them would FORCE us to purchase EV's. Why? Because they said so!
What is the ONLY 'feature' that will allow pure electric vehicles to survive? PRACTICALITY!
Hybrids are barely useful. They are small, expensive for their size and features, do NOT offer compelling reasons to purchase, and require your home electric bill to skyrocket if they are 'plug-ins'.
I recently read a story about the owner of the very first Nissan Leaf (we call it the Nissan 'Laugh'). He thought the car was 'great' and had put 25k miles on it. However, what is not emphasized in the article is the fact that the owner has never needed to drive it more than 30-35 miles round trip to and from work - NEVER. Why? Because he owns an alternate vehicle that runs on... wait for it... GAS!
How many of us have that same situation? What if you're stuck in a massive traffic jam on a freeway? Call the tow truck! EV's will NEVER be practical until they have a significantly extended range. They are also, unbelievably, NOT environmentally sound investments. Why? Because Lithium-Ion and other types of batteries are POISONOUS to the environment! How do we dispose of hundreds of thousands of batteries when they fail? Where? I know, how about your backyard?
Also buried at the end of the article is the fact that his electric bill has increased by over $60 per month! How is that power produced? You got it: Coal/Oil fired generating stations. How unbelievably foolish and counterproductive does this sound? He could have owned one of many fuel efficient, compact cars that would use about the same amount of gas for the driving he does.
So, I ask you, why buy an EV?
I will likely never own an EV. I can't. I'm a consultant who drives sometimes 100 miles to visit a client. How will I ever be able to trust an EV? And, WHY would I pay $45,000 for a Chevy Volt, without Govt. subsidies, (we call it the Chevy 'Dolt' for anyone who would actually purchase one at that price) when I can buy a brand new BMW 328i for LESS that gets approx 35mpg on the highway??? WHY? Please spare me the environmentalist psycho-dogma. The enviro-lunatics will deny all these facts, or 'explain' why I'm wrong, because they 'care' more than I do. It makes NO difference to them if they have no compelling argument for plug-in EV's. Talk about being in denial...
I'm a fanatic about new technologies. It's my business. But, we're a LONG way from an affordable, practical, EV. Probably not in my lifetime...
When you have to buy a new battery pack you will wish you didn't have it.
Our power grid is not up to the demand. During the summer areas have rolling brown outs due to high demand of industrty and cooling add in everyone charging cars equals failure
Honestly, I would LOVE an electric car....but in what universe is purchasing $40,000 car over a $20,000 car going to happen??? I have seen the VOLT up close. A very cool looking car, but it's too expensive AND you have to purchase the recharge station separately! REALLY?!?! For $40,000 they can't include it?! On top of that, it has two batteries (what I'm told) and they are $8000 each to replace! On what planet is that a smart buy???
No one will EVER convince me that we can't build and sell a better electric car...it's just that no one will step up to the plate and do it. At present, they are wasting more money producing the ones they are now. So, instead of focusing on these money pits they call electric cars....just figure out a way to get the oil that we have in our country's soil WITHOUT HARMING THE ECOSYSTEM!!! Now THAT IS possible...I"m sure of it! I love nature more than electric cars. If we can make a phone that talks back to us, surely we can get oil out of the earth without killing every piece of nature out there.
Although I am all for conservation, I feel that politicians deliberately oversell green because of the blank check they can take to the bank. Anyone with a little common sense can see that these cars are not even practical at this time. At present there is a SMALL niche for EV's and that's fine. What I don't like are the tree huggers and politicians trying to shove their way of thinking down my throat.
I live in an area where you see more Prius than you can count, so if EV's were practical at all these folks would be sporting them with all of their bumper stickers plastered on the back. What I want to know is do these greenoholics realize that while they display the "Hunting is Cruel", or the Save the Planet Boycot Plastic" bumper stickers, that their sneakers are made of synthetic rubber and leather, or that their so called green car has a LOT of plastic, chemicals, hazardous waste in the batteries, etc.
Buy your Prius if you want, but let me decide what I want to spend the money that I worked for on. I've done the math and hybrids don't add up when all things are considered. My Honda Civic gets 37 highway and 30 city and is ULEV rated all for under $20.000.00.