Are You Clamoring for an Electric Car?  |  Ricochet

(With my apologies to Gary McVey, prepare for one of my incendiary posts.)

Is a Tesla or a Chevy Bolt, or a Nissan Leaf on your Christmas list this year? Can you hardly wait to ditch that gas-guzzler in the driveway and replace it with a vehicle that you can “fill up” from an installation in your garage, at a lot less than a tank of Regular?

Well, if that’s what you see in your future, so do most of the world’s car manufacturers. There probably isn’t a car manufacturer who isn’t working on designing and building an electric car, either purpose-designed or just replacing the internal-combustion engine in a model they already build with a big battery. General Motors has already announced their coming “All-electric future.” The European Union is mandating more and more strict emissions rules for vehicles sold there, and their carmakers like BMW, Renault, Daimler, Fiat, and Volvo are all touting their electric vehicles.

But you might wish to wait a moment before you go all-in on electric, especially if you live in the United States outside of a central large city. First, let’s check out the price of that electric car versus its gas-powered brother. The Nissan Leaf retails for about $30,000. Its near twin, the Nissan Versa, costs about $19,000. An electric Chevy Bolt will set you back about $36,000. Its similar brother, the Cruze, is about $17,000. See a pattern developing here? In the past, you could rely on a nice Federal tax credit for your electric car, to help mitigate that huge price differential, but not anymore. Most carmakers have sold enough cars that they don’t earn any tax credit now. So, it looks like GM’s All-Electric Future will be a lot more expensive than its Internal Combustion Present.

That nice home charger in the garage will set you back another $700 or so. However, unlike the five-minute fill-up of your gas-powered ride, it will take you up to 3-4 hours to recharge that electric car. And the “range” of an electric car is a lot smaller than the range of miles you can get from a tank of gas. So, you’ll probably want to forget those long road-trips in your new electric car. And if you get caught in an unexpected traffic jam, that electric car’s range might just shrink. If you get caught with your battery down in the middle of a busy street or freeway, it might be pretty embarrassing to have AAA send a truck to hoist it up and carry it to the nearest charging station. And there’s no guarantee that there will even be a nearby charging station! They are still pretty few around the country today.

Also, what about that wildfire in your area, when the police or highway patrol comes to your house and tells you to evacuate? What? Your electric car is out of charge? It won’t get you very far when you need to evacuate? Too bad, it becomes a hunk of junk when the fire reaches your house, and you really can’t carry much on your back. Then, what about that power failure in the next thunderstorm? Your car needs a charge? Impossible with no power! That’s especially worrying when you are a rural resident, where you are already far from most services.

Now, I’ll bet that new electric car might not seem like such a good investment. And electric cars are so new, there’s really not much of a market for used ones. And big Li-ion batteries don’t last forever, and eventually need to be replaced, at a cost far above that of an internal-combustion engine. So your electric car might not be worth very much when its battery wears out, and you might be out one-third the price of the car for a new one. Oh, and batteries don’t perform very well in the cold, so if you live in a northern state like Minnesota, your car will need to be kept indoors so its battery doesn’t freeze or get drained by the cold weather. And beware of the company parking lot while you’re at work — your car might not run when you come out to go home at the end of the day.

My own viewpoint is that I will never, ever, buy or drive an electric car. I appreciate being able to get in my gas-powered car, and go wherever I want, whenever I want, with no “range anxiety.” I like long car trips, without the worry of how long I have left before my car dies. Gas stations are everywhere, and if you keep a full or close to full tank, you can even drive around during a power outage. And when you are forced to evacuate, you can fill up the trunk with your goods and just drive away. I’m betting that most Americans aren’t clamoring for an electric car, and that GM’s future might not be so prosperous if it expects most Americans to want one.

An electric car will not be in my future.

Published in Economics


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