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10 Signs Your Next Car Won't Be Electric

A new generation of plug-in vehicles designed for mainstream U.S. consumers is slated to roll out over the next five years — giving car buyers more electric options than ever before. But while automakers are racing to develop models that could eventually see mass market adoption, car companies’ inaugural electric efforts are widely expected to make up only a small portion of the auto market. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently predicted that all cars will be electric by 2030, but most forecasters anticipate a slower rate of adoption for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Electric vehicles on the world’s roadways could number in the hundreds of thousands by 2015, as Pike Research put it last week, but “the full effects of this automotive revolution will take years to be realized in the mainstream market.” What are some of the factors that could keep prospective car buyers from going electric in the coming years? Here are 10 signs you probably won’t be first in line for a gen-1 EV.

  1. Your budget’s already tight. A $7,500 tax rebate will be available to help bring within reach some of the earliest electric vehicles targeted for mainstream consumers. (The government will reduce the max credit offered for a given manufacturer’s vehicles after the company has sold at least 200,000 vehicles.) But with prices falling mostly into the $40,000-and-up range, first-gen plug-in models will be too expensive for many.
  2. You live in an apartment. While homeowners with a personal garage can have a charge point installed and see the electricity costs added to their regular utility bill, apartment complexes will require a smart charging system with secure login and billing features so that residents are charged accurately. That means renters will be at the mercy of building owners’ enthusiasm (or lack thereof) when it comes to having access to a charging station at home.
  3. You’re waiting for a gas tax hike. General Motors’ (s GM) Bob Lutz and Ford (s F) Executive Chairman Bill Ford have suggested that gas taxes may need to be hiked up for U.S. consumers to cough up the extra dough for an electric car. But at least two factors counter the idea that a jump in gas taxes will push a typical consumer in the next few years to invest in a plug-in vehicle. First, it’s unlikely that in this time frame we’ll see a gas tax hike — most politicians would rather keep a safe distance away from taxing Americans’ fuel. Second, fuel makes up a relatively small portion of the total cost of ownership for personal vehicles. So a gas tax hike probably won’t be the last straw that spurs purchase of first-gen electric vehicles.
  4. You just threw down for a Prius. Consumers who just joined the hybrid bandwagon and invested in a third-generation 2010 Prius this year have a car that should last well beyond the introduction of plug-in models in the 2010-2015 time frame. The new Prius starts at around $22,000, and fully loaded costs a little over $32,000. Most electric models coming out in the next few years will likely start around $40,000, with luxury models running up to more than double that price.
  5. You don’t live in California. Some of the earliest plug-in vehicle models will roll out to customers and fleet operators in California. The Los Angeles area in particular has attracted interest from EV developers for its high population density, notorious air pollution problems, large car market, affluent consumers and history of adopting new technologies early on. California has some public charging infrastructure from its first attempt at spurring EV adoption in the 1990s, and thousands more are slated for installation over the next few years. Plug-in vehicle developers eyeing California as their lead market range from Coda Automotive to BYD Auto to General Motors.
  6. You want a truly zero-emission vehicle. All-electric vehicles may lack an exhaust belching tailpipe, but they’re only as green as the source of their electricity. If you’re waiting for an electric vehicle that can plug into a zero- or low-emission grid (powered mostly with renewable energy sources like wind and solar), keep waiting. Cleaning up the power grid will take many years after the launch of the earliest electric models.
  7. You want an “all-American” model. The earliest electric models to hit the market will be largely international efforts. General Motors is getting the battery cells for its Chevy Volt from South Korea’s LG Chem, for example. And Tesla Motors, the poster child for a new American auto enterprise, gets its lithium-ion cells from Japanese suppliers and has contracted manufacturing out to the UK’s Lotus. If stimulus-funded projects go according to plan, more manufacturing will be done stateside for later models, but factories for models like the Tesla Model S and Fisker Nina aren’t scheduled to begin producing vehicles until 2011. Other companies, like Think and V-Vehicle aim to set up manufacturing in the U.S., but they have yet to secure financing.
  8. You demand triple-digit MPG. If you expect to test drive a Chevy Volt, Nissan (s NSANY) LEAF or Tesla Roadster and experience miles per gallon in the triple digits — as advertised — you may be sorely disappointed. Measurements of a car’s efficiency in terms of how far it can go on a gallon of gasoline, when it really runs (at least in part) on electricity, have dubious relevance. More realistic shorthand for how much you will end up spending on electricity for different plug-in vehicles may come in the form of electricity per mile ratings.
  9. You’re not on the list. Some electric vehicle makers are already taking reservations and pre-orders for upcoming models. Not every vehicle slated for production has been spoken for — but some models in small initial rollouts could go quickly. BMW fielded at least 1,800 applications this year for the 450-vehicle field trial of its electric Mini E.
  10. You’re so over ownership. If you (and your city or college campus) are really ahead of the curve, your next set of wheels won’t come in the form of vehicle ownership at all — you’ll buy mobility as a service instead, taking advantage of car- and bike-sharing networks and improved public transit, plus smartphone apps and online tools for managing it all.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user CoreForce

53 Responses to “10 Signs Your Next Car Won't Be Electric”

  1. Paul Appleton

    IF these 10 are the strongest arguments you can make, you have no argument. People are not stupid and this will happen so quickly, your head will spin. Sell your Exxon Mobil stock while you can.

  2. Whistleteeth

    Here’s one sign you neighbors next car will be electric.

    A poll just finished by Consumer Reports shows that 7% of car buyers most likely to buy this year in the US would” very likely” purchase a plug in car right now. 2009, the worst year in actual numbers(not percent of population mind you) since 1982 saw approximately 11.5 Million cars sold in the US alone. We all know 2009 was a horible year but if the Chevy Volt hits 7% of that year it would sell 805,000 Volts. That’s just in the US! That’s a huge market. Some would even say GINORMUS! Multiply 805,000 by $30,000= $24,150,000,000! That’s over 24 BILLION dollars! Yeah I think GM wants some of that market. And remember that’s just in the US! What about the rest of world?

    The only bad news here is I can’t go buy stock in GM.

  3. I can give me reasons why my next new car won’t be an EV

    1) I’m an Enthusiast. The only sporty EV is 2 seater (both of them). One is horribly expensive, the other is limited supply and expensive for what your getting, not value at all.

    Major Industry long bypassed cars as the main source of emissions.

    2) Because of this why get a boring penalty box? The Volt is cool, I like it, it should be very preppy and with the rumored sport package be darn sporty for a EV sedan, but how much will that cost $45k? See reason #1

    3) I’m a die hard Enthusiast. The internal combustion engine has a long life ahead of it. Cars are running cleaner than ever, the problem is mostly what it runs on, its dirty. Because of this my next new car is likely to be Flex-Fuel, not pure Electric.

    4) Because I have started my “life” late, likely won’t have my first child until I’m maybe 40-42 years old (39 now), the cost of having children in the Untied States, when Health Care Reform won’t kick in in earnest until 2014? Sorry getting another gas burner!

    5) Greenies need to focus on coal!

  4. Kyle,
    The EV + renewable energy mix is the future of motoring, especially for folks who relish green driving and/or complete auto-fueling independence (including libertarians who might not care about being green). Would be interested in doing a feature piece on you for SolarChargedDriving.Com — – If you’re interested, please surf on over, find our contact info, and drop us an e-mail.

    And keep on logging those Sun Miles!

  5. On point number 6 you really missed the mark there.

    I have built 3 electric vehicles and they are easy to build and easy to maintain. The solar system on my workshop keeps the EV I am driving charged without problem.

    I live in Utah and the grid is 95% coal. Just because its there does not mean that I have to buy electricity made from coal. Rocky mountain power also offers wind power at a small surcharge.

    Getting off of oil and coal is not as hard as most people think.

    Kyle Dansie
    Salt Lake City, Utah

  6. Phil Blackwood

    I drive MINI-E #411 and follow the news.

    Items 1,5,6, and 7 apply to me, but I am busy trying to make sure I can drive an all-electric car when the MINI-E program ends next June.

    Google “green power network” for a good answer to the grid concern. A few extra cents per kwh lets me buy green power that includes low-impact hydro-electric that is generating clean energy while I have my car plugged in at night. I’m not just plugged into a lump of coal or a nuclear reactor.

    The demand for all-electrics is difficult to estimate. I believe MINI had 8,000 people show interest in the MINI-E but the drop-out rate was so high that as they approached the date for getting the cars on the road they were actively searching for people to fill the 450 slots in the U.S. On the other hand, if you asked the 450 people who are driving these MINIs (and their friends and family) what their impression is now, you would probably find a lot of people who never want to go back to ICE technology.

    Bottom line seems to be that once people experience driving a well-built all-electric car, they find it a superior driving experience (aka the “electric grin”). That suggests that demand will grow exponentially as the LEAF, Tesla S, and other efforts start to roll out. Time will tell.

  7. Jonathan Wilson

    With regards to apartment complexes (i.e. any dwelling with a shared car park), the way forward is for apartment complex owners to install (or contract out to a 3rd party to install) cash/credit card/etc operated charging systems. Trying to link EV charging systems to apartment electric bills doesn’t make sense IMO.

    Many apartment complexes I have seen (especially those with smaller sized apartments where there is no room for a washing machine in the apartment) already have cash/credit card/etc operated laundromats/laundries for use by residents so this would be a logical progression.

    • Bob Wallace

      Jonathan – I suspect that a bit further in the future each EV/PHEV will have its own identifying code and ability to communicate with the grid. There will be no need for meters, card swipes, special outlets, etc. Just regular GFI outlets like are common in newer construction.

      The driver will set a desired charge level (including the percentage of capacity he/she is willing to rent to the utility for V2G use) and plug in to any open plug.

      Plug in at a friend’s house, apartment, fast food joint, etc. and your account will get the bill, not the host meter.

  8. I’m good with the article. Dreamers don’t always consider inconvenient truths. I remember when we were all going to use jet-packs to travel and live in all electric homes. After a few years in the computer business, I learned that, just because it can be done and it’s a cool idea, doesn’t mean that the market will want it.

    The article correctly points out that this whole culture shift cannot happen without government intervention and incentives. Which means it is not currently viable now or in the near future. Will China keep buying our debt as we sink even more money into economically unsustainable flights of fancy? I’m just asking…

    • Bob Wallace

      “The article correctly points out that this whole culture shift cannot happen without government intervention and incentives. Which means it is not currently viable now or in the near future.”

      That the government will not support the transition to EVs is an assumption on your part. And, based on what we’ve seen so far, a false assumption. The government is making large amounts of money available for battery technology improvement and has offered a substantial subsidy for EV purchase.

      “Will China keep buying our debt as we sink even more money into economically unsustainable flights of fancy? “

      Yes, China will keep buying our debt. They badly need our market, even if they have to help maintain the spending. Your “economically unsustainable flights of fancy” is, well, not worth an response.

      Just answering.

      Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, some people do live in all electric homes. I’ve lived in several….

      • And how’s that jet pack working out for you?

        And all electric houses were supposed to come with super cheap electricity from nuclear power. Some thought we wouldn’t even need to meter the electricity. Anyone heating their house with electricity today is crying for good old fashioned natural gas heating.

        My concern is that sustainable energy needs to also be sustainable economically. Government guarantees (incentives) for mortgages led to the current economic crisis. Government intervention distorts the market – which is okay if you are willing to accept the consequences. Blithely assuming that China will keep buying our debt is like many homeowners in S. CA that assumed housing values would keep on rising.

        There is a cost for social and environmental engineering – we need to be confident we can pay the price. I tend to support policy that is economically sustainable. Spending billions of taxpayer money, or government debt that must eventually be paid by taxpayers, to encourage manufacturing and purchase of an electric car, has consequences. I would prefer that the average car buyer spent his or her own money on their car instead of making the American taxpayer dependent on Chinese loan sharks. We didn’t need incentives for personal computers and smart phones. Let the market develop vehicles that people are willing to pay for and you will get a better result than government central planning can ever achieve.

      • Bob Wallace

        How’s that absurd comment stuff working for you Charles?

        As for affordable power try this on for size…

        “The investment banking company Lazard Ltd. released the following comparison among generation technologies. The levelized costs include production tax credits, investment tax credits, and accelerated asset depreciation as applicable. Assumptions include: busbar costs (cents per kilowatt-hour) in 2008 dollars, 60% debt at 7% interest rate, 40% equity at 12% cost, 20-year economic life, 40% tax rate, 5-20 year tax life, coal at $2.50 per million Btu, and natural gas at $8.00 per million Bt.[2]


        * Gas peaking: 22.1 - 33.4
        * IGCC: 10.4 - 13.4
        * Nuclear: 9.8 - 12.6
        * Advanced supercritical coal: 7.4 - 13.5 (high end includes 90% carbon capture and storage)
        * Gas combined cycle: 7.3 - 10.0


        * Solar PV (crystalline): 10.9 - 15.4
        * Fuel cell: 11.5 - 12.5
        * Solar PV (thin film): 9.6 - 12.4
        * Solar thermal: 9.0 - 14.5 (low end is solar tower; high end is solar trough)
        * Biomass direct: 5.0 - 9.4
        * Landfill gas: 5.0 - 8.1
        * Wind: 4.4 - 9.1
        * Geothermal: 4.2 - 6.9
        * Biomass cofiring: 0.3 - 3.7
        * Energy efficiency: 0.0 - 5.0"

        Now, if you like you can add back in the 1.8 cent per kWh production credit that wind and new nuclear get. I don’t know if those subsidies have been extended to other new forms of generation such as biomass, landfill gas and geothermal.

        Before or after add back it looks to me like sustainable energy is going to be economically sustainable.

        There is no way that we can know for a fact whether an emerging technology will be successful until we try it. We spent massive amounts on nuclear only to learn that it is terribly expensive and brings unusual risk to the table. We spent quite a bit of money on hydrogen transportation before realizing that it just doesn’t work, financially, based on the current or near-expected state of the technology. We spent a lot of money on wind generation and it’s paid off.

        BTW, I don’t think you know the history of the move from mainframes to personal computers. There was a lot of government money spent along that route. If there hadn’t been those garage guys would not have been able to afford the pieces they cobbled together. (About 35 years ago I personally spent somewhere around $120,000 (2009) government dollars on a refrigerator-sized computer that wasn’t as smart as a cheap cell phone. Just part of the evolutionary path taken.)

      • Bob,

        Thanks for the information on the cost of power, but we’re talking about electric cars. It would be more useful for us to have a table showing the increased cost of running an EV compared to a natural gas powered or gasoline powered vehicle. And the table should show the cost subsidized by the taxpayer for each option.

        I appreciate your comment on computer history. But I would argue that government spending back then was for necessary equipment for the government, like military or NASA or your application, not to accelerate the mass deployment of personal computers. Let the garage guys of today figure out a way to make electric vehicles economic and valued, instead of spending “massive amounts” on political pork programs that may stifle real innovation. That is the only way we will develop the “cheap cell phone” equivalent of an electric vehicle.

      • Bob Wallace

        Cost of running a car on electricity. EVs use approximately 0.25 kWh per mile. Average cost of electricity in the US is $0.105 per kWh. Cost per mile (based on those averages) is $0.026 per mile.

        Cost of running a car on gasoline. Using the US average mileage of 24 MPG and $3 gas, the cost per mile $0.125 plus other costs which are higher for ICE vehicles (oil changes, filters, more frequent brake repairs).

        When we return to $5 gas the cost of running a 24 MPG car will rise to $0.208 per mile.

        Natural gas. I don’t know a mileage cost, but from what I understand the cost of installing a natural gas infrastructure would be extremely expensive.

        You might want to look at how Utah has handled this fuel, they do have some of their vehicles using NG.

        BTW, Panasonic has just announced a new battery which will boost range a bit over 50%, giving the Tesla Roadster a 340 mile range, the Model S a 470 mile range and the Nissan Leaf a 155 mile range.

        And on the computer issue, no, the government gave us the money for the purpose of creating a market for mini computers. We bought a PDP-8E with 16K of RAM, a teletype input and data storage was on punched paper tape.

        We had exactly no reason to request one. Once we had it then we had to invent ways to use it. Our department got a dozen or so and all of us sat around scratching our heads wondering what use we could make of them.

        There is an immense amount of private (corporate) money being invested in EVs and batteries. But there is a cost problem, an economy of scale problem with batteries.

        Car frames/bodies/running gear and electric motors are old hat. We can pop them out at competitive price. But energy compact batteries are a new technology and can’t be made cheaply when you’ve got to set up a factory, create a lot of expensive machinery, carry out a testing program, and create a supply stream.

        This is where the government is stepping in. The federal government and some state governments are offering subsidies to buyers to help offset the very high price of batteries.

        Most manufacturers state that once manufacturing volumes hit 100,000 per year costs will drop to 50% of what they now are. What the government is doing is helping to build that volume to the point where normal market forces can carry the load.

      • Good comments, good information, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on government intervention. 100,000 units per month is a lot, more than Volvo and Isuzu combined and almost as much as the total production of Chrysler (worldwide) – and how well are they doing?

        The infrastructure for natural gas is as ubiquitous as electricity. Almost every home has natural gas. There may be a cautionary lesson here – if we couldn’t get a compressed NG car in 100,000 homes per year, how will we get 1.2 millon EV cars in homes per year? I guess we just needed more government incentives. But if we’d been successful on that, or on hydrogen fuel cell cars, then we would have had a huge disincentive against moving to EV’s. I’m just leery of politicians picking the winners based on the current fads.

        Massive government intervention can create (distort) a market, but will we be happy with the result? And the cost? If I spend Your money on Other People, I probably won’t care how much money I spend or the results. However, if I spend My money on My needs, I’ll probably spend less money and get closer to the result I want. If I was in the EV business, I guess I would be very happy to take Your money and spend it on Me!

      • Bob Wallace

        That’s 100,000 a year, not a month.

        Gas is not as ubiquitous as electricity, in my experience. I’ve lived in a lot of houses around the country over my many years (and many moves) and I’ve owned several rental houses. I’d guess that less than 50% had gas available. All had electricity.

        “Massive government intervention can create (distort) a market, but will we be happy with the result? And the cost? If I spend Your money on Other People, I probably won’t care how much money I spend or the results. However, if I spend My money on My needs, I’ll probably spend less money and get closer to the result I want. If I was in the EV business, I guess I would be very happy to take Your money and spend it on Me!”

        How do you fell about police and fire departments? Think we should do away with them and each of us establish our own services? We could design our own uniforms if we don’t like the police blue used today….

        Roads, airports, trains, ports, and on and on. We at time pool our money to create services and infrastructure. You want to build your own so that you get the result you want?

        Now, it’s pretty clear that we have a looming oil supply problem. We’ve already used the easiest to extract and highest quality oil on the planet. And we’ve got millions of new automobile owners coming to our world’s roads. I don’t think anyone can make a case for the price of oil not greatly increasing in the near future.

        So why not spend some pooled money now so that when gas rises above $5 a gallon we (each) have the option of buying an affordable car that we can plug in at night and fuel our next days driving for less than a buck rather than $6.85 for gas.

        That make sense to you?

      • Sorry about the 100,000 month – it seemed too high…

        You are proving my point. We’ve spent so much of other people’s money on other people – when it comes to fire departments and the like – that some municipalities are going broke!

        And don’t get me started on the State of California budget “crisis”! The point is that there are limits.

        “Roads, airports, trains, ports, and on and on. We at time pool our money to create services and infrastructure.” Yes, I agree, but I don’t think we are talking about infrastructure, we are talking about cars. Which people like me may or may not buy – the point of the article. Unless the end point of all of this is for the government to mandate the use of EV’s and to force people to buy them, whether they want them or not.

        I’m not saying that government (taxpayer) spending doesn’t have a role, just recognize the consequences and ask if we really need to go there. One could argue that it is a public good to have Local taxpayer spending on Local fire departments, even if there is some inefficiency. But would you want the much farther removed and more distant Federal government dictating how Your money is spent on Your fire department? And some people think all the taxpayer forced spending on highways in Los Angeles killed a popular mass transit system and replaced it with cars and smog. So now the solution is more government intervention to replace gasoline cars – which are becoming more efficient, economical and less polluting – I like hybrid cars – with an EV solution that may become practical someday – with enough taxpayer money – as long as we can find enough lithium to to keep building them…?

        I’m leery of central planning and I feel warm and fuzzy toward personal liberty. We may need to strike a balance between the two upon occasion, but central planning is an evil that we should avoid unless absolutely necessary. And that’s the issue I have with the current $Billions in taxpayer debt spending on electric cars. So that may be the point upon which we agree to disagree.

      • Bob Wallace

        I doubt that any of us like paying taxes. And I imagine that all of us would like to make all the decisions about how we lead our lives. But the days of striking out into the wilderness and building a log cabin are behind us.

        Now, you seem to be OK with spending money on things like protecting ourselves, the military.

        We’re spending billions upon billions in Iraq ($750 million a day?) and I doubt that many would argue that sending our military into that country was mostly about protecting “our” oil supplies. That’s the basic reason we have any involvement in the region – oil.

        As oil gets more scarce, more expensive, we’re likely to be even more in the position of having to “protect our interests” in order to keep our cars running. Or we could get off oil.

        Given that we know that we could generate all the electricity we need within our boarders, stop spending billions of dollars overseas to purchase oil, stop spending billions on maintaining military force in the region, and cut back on our CO2 emissions it makes sense to me to spend some of our money to jump start an replacement technology.

        If we were to give the $7,500 supplement to 100,000 EV purchasers (probably a lot more than we need to hand out) we’d be investing $7.5 billion

        What do we import a day in petroleum, 8-9 million barrels a day? $60 bucks a barrel, 9 million, and we’re shipping over a half billion of our dollars across our boarders every single day. In two weeks we spend that $7.5 on some black stuff that we just burn up and for which we get no residual value. (Or ten days in Iraq.)

        Move from petroleum to electricity and each of our personal fuel costs drop to a quarter of what they now are and what money we spend to ‘tank up’ stays in the country. It creates jobs here manufacturing. installing, and maintaining renewable energy systems.

        And it makes us more self-reliant. We wouldn’t have to kiss up to people we don’t like simply because we need their oil to keep ourselves moving.

  9. I thought this list is a good quick way of bringing expectations back down to earth. As someone on (1) a tight budget living in (2) an apartment outside of (5) California/Arizona/Oregon/Washington/Tennessee who (10) appreciates the freedom – and cost savings – of not owning a car, I don’t see myself buying an EV anytime soon. And I’m a 30-something urban liberal.

    Regardless, the EV market is going to depend on informed consumers – so Paul, if you expect a buyer to do their homework on the tax credits available, you should also expect them to take a good look at the MPG or (as with EVs) other appropriate cost-per-mile measure…which this journalist has been doing for some time (, It’s not reasonable to expect consumers to research one aspect of the cost and not the other.

    Of course there are some (many) would-be EV buyers who won’t be stopped by any of these factors, but others will be, and that will limit the market – to an extent that remains to be seen.

  10. Steve Simitzis

    On point #6, in many states (like in California), coal is a very small part of our grid. Only 6% for PG&E. And even for dirtier states, simply charging at night can take advantage of idle power in the grid.

    But the most important part is that all-electric cars allow us to break the link between vehicle and fuel source. So if the grid isn’t clean enough or if we don’t like the energy source, we can change the power mix without having to upgrade every car on the road. This kind of modularity isn’t possible with gas or diesel engines.

      • Bob Wallace

        Emily, I don’t see how presenting incorrect information brings expectations back to earth unless you agree with the FUD approach to changing behavior.

        And I get your overall point. Costs am costs. Right now the car industry is trying to figure out the best way to compare ICE, hybrids, and EVs. I don’t think there will be a single number (or small set of numbers) as there now is for ICE to ICE comparison.

        I expect that we’ll see software in dealerships (it’s already on line) for plugging in your personal driving pattern and local fuel/electricity costs to get an annual cost of driving figure.

        Annual cost of driving is only one number that has to be considered. There’s also expected cost of service/repairs, government subsidies, dealer incentives, registration/licensing fees, cost of financing. (One of our local credit unions is currently offering lower rates for people buying more efficient cars.)

        That’s where computers come in very handy. And most people can use simple software or fill out a spreadsheet.

  11. Josie,
    First, I think it’s great that you get into the ring with readers. I’m surprised at how many journalists in the Web 2.0 age still refuse to do this.

    Second, I will concede that my own predictions are partially driven by wishful thinking. But it’s not naive thinking.

    I think price is the major hurdle for EV adoption with range anxiety next. Then, comes the general human (often irrational) fear of the “new” — no matter what it is.

    But there are significant counter-vailing forces. The imminent and radical rise in the price of oil is the most significant of these. When demand exceeds supply, and supply is finite, something’s got to give, and we all know it’s going to be price — it’s going to go up, up, up.

    Also, as Bob points out, price points are always high initially. The early adopters eat those costs — on digital cameras, Blu-Ray, DVDs, computers, cell phones, etc. — and, by eating those costs, bring down costs for everyone else.

    Finally, EVs are barely on the radar right now, even for most greenies. I firmly believe that when more greenies — who despise Big Oil and Dirty Coal — realize they can power a car with solar on their home roof, or in some cases, wind-turbines in their backyard, they’re going to be all over it. Not very many people know about this possibility, because, well, EVs aren’t out yet.

    Finally, with solar leasing ( quickly and completely erasing the whole problem of “upfront” solar costs, I think we’re going to see many, many more folks, especially in the sunny southwest, go solar — and marry solar to EVs when EVs come out.

  12. Good way to drive traffic to a website — but list is, as many others have noted, suspect on many fronts.

    I’ll add a few I haven’t seen:

    1. Peak Oil. We’re at peak right now, with global consumption growing exponentially. Oil prices will skyrocket in the next ten years, possibly five. Oil production grew by just .4% last year, BTW —

    2. You completely underestimate how many greenies, as one poster puts it above, are “ready to take one for the team.” There are millions of hard-core greenies in the U.S. and around the world, and they tend to be, on the whole comparatively affluent. They also understand that humanity is toast if the capitalist bottom line is the ONLY thing we value, care about.

    3. The renewable energy EV mix. The appeal of powering one’s EV completely through renewables — and there are most likely millions of homeowners around the world who could do this — is HUGE. No more money to Big Oil, no more trips to the gas station — ever. Complete fueling independence and the incredible satisfaction of driving a truly Zero Emissions Vehicle. I got so stoked about this mix when I “discovered” it in July, I put up a web site —, devoted to covering and promoting it — and this is a “hobby” for me, not my FT job.

    In sum, the author of this column completely underestimates — overlooks multiple key factors. Because of this, the predictions will be wrong, wrong, wrong.

    • Yes, affluent, “hard-core greenies” probably will be among those first in line for electric vehicles. And there’s a lot of them — but they don’t exactly make up the majority of car buyers. I think it’s worth considering how quickly an average consumer will be able and willing to invest in this technology and what might keep them from doing so in the near future — not because I’m anti-EV, but because I don’t think it helps anyone to pretend there aren’t challenges. That’s great if you think I’m wrong: by all means, weigh in on what you think the real hurdles are.

      • Bob Wallace

        The only real hurdle – the price for decent range.

        We can buy a car right now that gets ~240 miles per charge, but it’s a small two seater and costs over $100k.

        It might be possible to upsize the Tesla to something the size of a Camry and maintain the range but it would likely involve using more expensive light weight materials. At least the materials might be more expensive initially until economies of scale were reached.

        Battery price will come down. The Tesla packs are built on a very small scale. Ramping up to 100k units should greatly drop price. Panasonic has said that they can cut cost in half within four years.

        Tesla is stating that their 4-5 seater Model S will have a 300 mile range and sell for $60k. That indicates that the present range/price situation won’t hold.

  13. You seem to say that a zero- or low-emission grid is one “powered mostly with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.”

    I just want to point out that you’re missing something vital in that definition.
    Right now, and for the forseeable future, ‘most’ of our low emissions energy in the US comes from nuclear and hydro. Nuclear is 70%. The fact is, wind and solar are nowhere near that, and even in some distant future when we might have a totally low-emissions grid it would be absurd to imagine that nuclear and hydro won’t be a huge part of the low-emissions mix.

    • Bob Wallace

      Present percentage holds, but won’t over time.

      We haven’t built a new reactor in the US for decades and are very unlikely to build more than one or two in the next decade plus. (And people are getting cold feet about those two most likely plants.)

      We’re installing wind turbines like gangbusters and with solar taking a huge cost drop over the last year or so it is also taking off.

      With solar now close to $1 per watt and installation dropping to $2 yielding a $3 per watt price we could stick about $5,000 worth of solar in a sunny part of the country and outright purchase a lifetime of “fuel” for the average 12,000 mile EV driver. Fifty years, $100 per year, $8 per month.

  14. Bob Wallace

    I agree with Paul. This one is a stinker.

    The Nissan Leaf sinks lots of the points.

    1. Price. Close to $20k after the federal kick in.

    2. Plug in points. Nissan is installing 12,750 plug ins prior to the release of the Leaf. Some apartments are already installing charge points in their parking areas.

    3.You’re waiting for a gas hike. Oil rose above $80 last week. You probably won’t have to wait long. The world’s economy is starting to heat back up

    1. You just bought a Prius. Stupid space filler. I suppose the goal was to have a 10 point list.

    2. You don’t live in California. The Leaf is being introduced in not only CA, but also Washington, Tennessee, and Arizona. Perhaps another state or two. Rapid charge stations are being installed between a couple of cities in Washington and Arizona, perhaps more.

    3. You want truly zero emissions. Really bogus. Set that stupid stance and you could be waiting for decades. We’re likely to have some natural gas in our grid at some level for a long time. If for nothing else, CAES.

    4. All American. Dream friggin’ on. Nothing is All-American any more. And it’s a stupid demand anyway. My Ford pickup is half Mazda.

    5. Triple digit mileage. You have poor math skills. The Nissan Leaf will use 0.25 kWh per mile. At $0.105 per kWh it will cost $0.026 to fuel. You could drive 115 miles for $3 and $3 is what we’re paying for gas around here.

    6. You’re not on the list. What kind of crap is that? There’s some secret list that would keep one from buying an EV in the next few years? Just because the Mini is subscribed for the first 1,800 units do you think releases will be 2,000 or less units? 450 is their real world test fleet.

    7. You’re so over ownership. Another piece of stinky space filler.

    So hope this piece is not a warning of the quality of pieces coming to this site in the future.

    And Glen, you piece of junk post fits right in.

    Someone is going to release a hydrogen car with a storage tank smaller than the battery packs that fit below the seats in EVs like the Leaf?

    And a hydrogen car that is going to be affordable in five years? And anything more than a handful of places where you could fill up?

    OK, you haven’t kept up on battery tech. I’ll fill you in on this one. Cold weather is no longer a performance problem.

    Perhaps you a Josie should have a discussion about not making this site a joke.

    • Hi Bob. Those 12,750 chargers are being installed in just 5 states — great for prospective LEAF buyers in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington, but not much help for drivers in other states. I think we’ll see more apartments installing installing charge points in their parking areas in coming years. As you’ve noted, some have already begun to do that, but they’re really the early movers. It will take time before most apartment dwellers can count on their buildings to offer this.

  15. A few of these reasons need to be commented on:
    1. Not only is there a Federal $7500 tax credit, many states also offer a tax credit- Oregon’s will be at least $1500. I would guess that from Nissan’s Statements, their top of the line Leaf will be priced close to the top of the line Prius. With the tax credits and a base model Leaf, you are looking at well under $20,000

    1. In Oregon, we already have progressive Condo Owners associations already wanting to know what they need to do to support tenant’s interest in EVs. Some are preparing to install electrical equipment to make it easy for tenants. They see it as a way to attract and retain tenants.

    2. You don’t have to wait for a gas price hike. In most areas It is already much less expensive per mile for the fuel to operate an electric vehicle than an internal combustion engine. With the maintenance savings, that makes it even much more affordable.

    3. I agree, If you just bought a new Prius, then you shouldn’t consider buying a replacement vehicle just because a new model came out.

    4. California isn’t the only market for new Electric Vehicles. Nissan and eTec are launching in 5 different markets (see )
      Oregon; Seattle,Washington; Arizona; Tennessee; San Diego, Ca

    5. In many studies, even running an EV from a coal plant will still be lower in GHG than the average car on the road today. In many cases though, the fuel mix is not 100% coal, so you still will have significantly lower emmissions with your EV.

    6. If you want a 100% all american made vehicle, you might be out of luck anyway. Are there any US vehicle manufacturers that every part is 100% US made? I don’t know, but I don’t think there are very many available.

    7. Granted all electric vehicles don’t use gallons of gas for fuel, but trying to make a rating system to compare fuel economy of vehicles needs to start somewhere. And if they used BTUs per mile or some other energy unit, people would be equally confused.

    9.Well, this one may be true. But when the Toyota Prius came out, not everyone could get one of those either.

    1. This is correct, if you have other, better, more affordable transportation options, then you don’t really need to buy any vehicle. Unfortunately, the first places the EVs will be coming out will mainly be the environmentally progressive areas where people vote with their environmental concience and support renewable power programs, mass transit, sustainable transportation options, promote safe bicyling with bike lanes, bike parking, etc…. Hmmm.. sounds like Portland, Oregon will be the most likely place to buy an EV.
      Go to to see more about Oregon and EVs
  16. Josie,

    Great article!

    Here is #11…

    1. You are waiting until 2015 to buy an “affordable” hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from Toyota, because you prefer driving range, fueling time, cold weather performance, and trunk/passenger space that is far superior to battery-only cars.

    “7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles”

    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    “Hydrogen Car Revolution” blog

    • Greg Blencoe,

      Are you serious…… Have you even been keeping up on the media or tech specs of the Hydrogen cars? Seriously now! Driving range is less then that of a ICE car. I give you the fueling time. True its like pumping gas, but hopefully EV cars will get that newer quick charge times down soon. Cold weather is doing just fine for Tesla. They are driving across the US as I type to prove this. Trunk/Passenger space…. have you not seen a 10,000 PSI compressed Hydrogen tank taking up 80% of the trunk in a new fuel cell car….. oh wait… I’m sorry. Your promoting yourself and your company…. ahhhhh. Trying to get your foot into a possible new market to sell Hydrogen technology so we Americans can keep paying all our hard earned cash at the pump. Im sorry but Electric cars where the first and the infrastructure is everywhere in the US.

      Sorry if this blog seems rude but I cant stand when people will push non accurate information to self promote.

  17. What sort of shit stir commentary is this?!

    “You want a truly zero-emission vehicle” what’s the solution there, a push bike? LOL

    “want an “all-American” none Asian battery powered model” Yep… that’s the criteria we all use to buy consumer electronics isn’t it? If that were the case there wouldn’t be a PC, iPhone or plasma TV in the country. LOL

    “You demand triple-digit MPG” look, according to the energy content of gasoline, ALL Battery EVs get 180 mpg.. and that’s before the EPA bias gets involved. AS-IF car marketing is going abandon those EPA-MPG formule for something consumers have no concept of like wh/mi.

    The actual most likely reason your next car wouldn’t be an EV is because your current ICE car will probably pass it’s increasingly short use-by-date before EV volume builds to the point where manufacturers can even come CLOSE to satisfying demand.

    As those that have driven the Nissan Leaf say “The only question is can they build enough of them”

    You have NO IDEA how much demand there is for EVs.

    • Hey I share your enthusiasm but the currently planned EV’s just are very expensive and not practical. The wealthy can have one for a toy, and the very green will take one for the team, but the rest of us will wait for something useful.

      • Bob Wallace

        100 mile range.

        You’re the “average” driver which means that you average 33 miles a day. You’d need to plug in every 2-3 days.

        You’re someone who rarely takes long car trips. For the amount saved not buying gas and paying for oil changes you might decide to rent for that once a year longer vacation/holiday trip. You might even be an older driver who uses a car for around town shopping, etc. but uses public transportation for longer trips.

        You’re part of a multi-car family and at least one of the cars is used for nothing more than reasonable commutes to work/school. You’ve got another car for the occasional long distance trip.

        I think I’ve defined a large group of people who are non-wealthy and might find an EV useful.

    • Interest and excitement about EVs doesn’t necessarily translate to someone buying one of these cars as soon as they become available — I think it’s fair to say there’s still a long way to go before plug-in models become the default choice for most consumers. I gather that you disagree and I actually hope you’re right, but I’m not too optimistic on this one.

      • Bob Wallace

        Nissan has stated that they will have a battery by 2015 which will double the Leaf’s range from 100 to 200 miles and cost will be the the same. A car that can go 200 miles between charges and get fueled back up to 160 miles in 20 minutes at a rapid charge point takes range concern off the table for most drivers.

        Battery makers agree that production levels of approximately 100,000 units per year will bring about a 50% decrease in battery cost. We should easily be at those levels by 2015.

        If new car purchasers go to the showroom and see a 2015 30 MPG ICE Whatever and an EV Whatever sitting side by side for about the same sticker price what decision do you think they’ll make?

        You think they’ll pick the car that requires them to buy 400 gallons of $3 ($1,200) or $5 ($2,000) gas a year vs. one that will require $312 of electricity?

        Think they’ll pick the car that requires them to stand out in blazing sun and freezing rain to fill their tanks rather than doing a quick plug in when they get home?

        (Remember, the average driver accumulates about 12,000 miles a year, 230 miles a week. People who drive at that level will only need to plug in a bit more often than once a week.)

        Think they’ll pick the car that requires a couple of oil/filter changes a year, air cleaners, more frequent repairs, more frequent brake pad replacements?

        Even knowing that they are contributing to CO2 levels and shipping our money overseas to oil producers will drive some people away from buying an ICE vehicle.

        I don’t know what the time line will be, but I expect the changeover to be very similar to what happened with photography. In 2000 we had expensive digital cameras capable of making good small prints. Ten years later we have digital cameras which cost less than what those earlier digitals cost and are outperforming 35mm film. In less than a decade film became a niche product.

        Same with typewriters, ledger books and computers. Between 1980 and 1990 computers moved from hobbyist devices to office domination.