Electric Cars Superior to Gas-Powered Cars? Ownership Rates Say Not For a Decade

-edited

An alleged "Hatchet Job" by the NYT stirred up a hornet's nest reaction from Tesla and EV lovers. Let's reexamine.

Yesterday, I posted Electric Car Major Headache: Waiting Hours for Charging Bay then Hrs to Charge

My article contained excerpts from the New York Times article L.A. to Vegas and Back by Electric Car: 8 Hours Driving; 5 More Plugged In.

A furious reaction ensued.

1: EVs Superior in 3,000 Ways

2: Tesla Comparison - Reader Robjay

"What a skewed story! I own a one year old Tesla model 3 long range battery (325 miles). In one year I waited only once for 10 minutes to get a Tesla charger. Each Tesla supercharger station has at least 8 chargers. I will continue to pay $10.02, at the highest rate, to fully charge my 325 mile battery car. I will drive knowing I AM helping the environment. I will ENJOY a spectacular performing car with features no other car has, including SAFETY, as long as you adhere to proper driving ."

3: Hit Piece - Reader Davetech

"Yeah...so the original article by the NYT Reporter is what we would generally call a "Hit Piece"...designed to attempt to show things (EVs) in a bad light. MOST people drive (average commute) less than 35 miles per day ROUND TRIP. A better headline might be: "Gasoline powered car owners CAN'T charge at home...or at work...or at a destination charger... So gas car owners are FORCED to spend hours per year pulling into smelly gas stations and pumping gas, instead of a few seconds every night at home."

4: Dumb Buyers - Reader Martin Archer

"Anyone so dumb that they drive a Bolt instead of a Tesla should be forced to wait even if a charger is available."

5: Test of Time - Reader RWG

"As a Model 3 owner, we've done an 8,000 mile road trip from Oregon to Maryland and back again. No problems with the charging and with 310 mile range it's nice to take a break every 3 to 5 hours. It was the most relaxing cross country drive we've done. Your opinions come across loud and clear but will not stand the test of time."

6: Stop Hating the Future - Reader Carlos

"I recommend you stop hating a future that is coming even if you do not like it."

Future is Coming

The curious thing about all of this is that I have commented repeatedly that electric cars own the future. I should have repeated the message.

I do not hate the future at all. But I cannot ignore the present.

Ownership Rates

In the US, there are 3.4 Electric Cars Per 1,000 People.

Global cumulative sales of highway-legal light-duty plug-in vehicles reached 2 million units at the end of 2016,[1] 3 million in November 2017, and the 5 million milestone in December 2018. Sales of plug-in passenger cars achieved a 2.1% market share of new car sales in 2018, up from 1.3% in 2017, and 0.86% in 2016. The PEV market is shifting towards fully electric battery vehicles. The global ratio between BEVs and PHEVs went from 56:44 in 2012, to 60:40 in 2015, and rose to 69:31 in 2018.

As of December 2018, China had the largest stock of highway legal light-duty plug-ins with over 2 million domestically built passenger cars. China also dominates in plug-in electric bus deployment, with its stock reaching 343,500 units in 2016 out of global stock of about 345,000 vehicles. As of September 2018, the United States had one million plug-in cars, with California as the largest U.S. plug-in regional market with 537,208 plug-in cars sold up until December 2018. More than one million light-duty passenger plug-ins had been registered in Europe through June 2018, with Norway as the leading country with over 296,000 units registered by the end of 2018. Norway has the highest market penetration per capita in the world, and also has the world's largest plug-in segment market share of new car sales, 49.1% in 2018. As of 2018, 10% of all passenger cars on Norwegian roads were plug-ins.

Math Test

3.4 vehicles per 1,000 people is a 0.34% ownership rate. And over half of that is from California which has extra incentive to make them affordable.

To be fair, the calculation is skewed to the low side because it includes a sizable number of people who are not old enough to drive, those who are disabled, etc.

We can improve upon that by looking at population groups.

Population vs Working Age Population

There are about 329 million people in the US. Of that number, there are about 207 million aged 15-64.

207 million is thus a better starting point than 329 million as a potential car ownership age.

207/328 is 63% but a lot of people over the age of 64 still drive. 63% is on the low side.

Population by Age Category

70% of the population is between 20 and 79. There are 18- and 19-year-olds who own cars, and some number of those over 79 tears old still driving.

70% of 329 million is 230 million.

After age 64, people might get away more easily with one car than two, but that is at least a very reasonable car ownership age range.

70% is probably on the high side.

A still better way to calculate ownership and EV percentage usage is to look at the number of licensed drivers.

Licensed Drivers

"In 2009, 87 percent of the driving-age population (age 16 and over) have a license. There are 685 drivers for every 1,000 residents. In 1960, just a few years after all states required driver licensing, there were only 487 drivers for every 1,000 residents."

All these numbers are similar but let's use 685 drivers per 1,000 population as the best representation of what's going on. The number conveniently lies between 63% and 70% so all the numbers realistically tie together.

Percentage of EVs Per Licensed Driver

In the US there are 3.4 plug-in electric cars per 685 licensed drivers.

(3.4 / 685) * 100 = 0.49%

A mere 0.49% of licensed drivers have a plug-in vehicle, and that includes hybrids!

In California, thanks to extra incentives, there are 13.2 plug-in electric cars per 685 licensed drivers. That percentage is a "whopping" 1.9%.

Basic Reality

If EVs were so damn superior, then usage would certainly top 0.49%.

Like it or not, the public does not believe EVs to be superior, taking price into consideration. There is no other possible conclusion.

We can debate the order, but at the top of the list has to be initial cost vs gasoline-vehicles, lack of charging stations, long trips, etc.

Now let's compare what I said.

When Do EV Vehicles Make Sense?

  1. Currently, nowhere, from a cost standpoint. People buy EVs or hybrids on the questionable belief they are doing something for the environment.
  2. For those who very seldom drive at all and for those whom walking, public transportation, or Uber is a viable option, no car of any kind makes economic sense. However, for those who demand the convenience of having a car, the points made below apply.
  3. If and when the cost of an EV is no more than the cost of a gas-powered vehicle (factoring in gas, insurance, life of car, maintenance costs) EVs become practical for those who seldom if ever drive more than 150 mile or so before a known lengthy stop that also happens to have a charger. For most, the charging station needs to be home or work.
  4. Until batteries charge as fast or nearly as fast fueling a gas-powered vehicle or readily available battery swapping stations exist, EVs will not make sense for a big percentage of drivers.

1-Revisited: "Nowhere, from a cost standpoint," is very accurate. At a 0.49% rate, the public agrees. Even with California's incentives the rate only gets to 1.9%. The rest of the country has a laughable 0.25% rate of acceptance.

In 2018 a the plug-in rate for new car sales was a mere 2.1% with most of that in California.

2-Revisited: "For those who seldom drive, buying a car of any kind makes little economic sense." My statement was accurate.

3-Revisited: If and when the cost of an EV is no more than the cost of a gas-powered vehicle (factoring in gas, insurance, life of car, maintenance costs) EVs become practical for those who seldom if ever drive more than 150 mile or so before a known lengthy stop that also happens to have a charger. For most, the charging station needs to be home or work.

My original statements are accurate. Those who demand the convenience of a car, especially those who make frequent, short trips, EVs are an option. A Tesla for short-haul trips makes no sense.

Readers might point out that driving a Bolt the distance the NYT stated is a mistake, but the point was missed: One should not drive a Bolt long distances unless one is prepared to suffer the consequences experienced by the NYT author.

A 2019 Chevrolet Bolt gets "Up to 238 mile of electric range on a full Charge". That is certainly pathetic and Tesla owners are right to laugh. I would not buy a Bolt, but some people do. If they do, they should not try to drive long distances.

4-Revisited: "Until batteries charge as fast or nearly as fast fueling a gas-powered vehicle or readily available battery swapping stations exist, EVs will not make sense for a big percentage of drivers."

That is my exact original statement but I did now emphasize "big percentage". The statement is entirely accurate.

I could have added that I believe it will happen.

In the body of the article, I stated, "For many, we are a decade away unless and until there are readily available super-fast charging or swapping stations."

That is certainly accurate, especially because I said "many", not most. However, "most" may very well be accurate.

Electric Vehicle Sales Forecast

Please consider Electric Vehicle Sales Forecast and the Charging Infrastructure Required Through 2030 by the Edison Foundation Institute for Electronic Innovation.

Key EEI/IEI Points

  • The stock of EVs (i.e., the number of EVs on the road) is projected to reach 18.7 million in 2030, up from slightly more than 1 million at the end of 2018. This is about 7 percent of the 259 million vehicles (cars and light trucks) expected to be on U.S. roads in 2030.
  • It took 8 years to sell 1 million EVs. We project the next 1 million EVs will be on the road in less than 3 years—by early 2021.
  • Annual sales of EVs will exceed 3.5 million vehicles in 2030, reaching more than 20 percent of annual vehicle sales in 2030. Compared to our 2017 forecast, EV sales are estimated to be 1.4 million in 2025 versus 1.2 million.
  • About 9.6 million charge ports will be required to support 18.7 million EVs in 2030. This represents a significant investment in EV charging infrastructure.

Mish vs EEI/IEI

The EEI/IEI forecast is that 7% of 259 million cares on US roads in 2030 will be electric.

Let's assume that forecast is off by a factor of 7. If so, the percentage becomes 49%.

My own forecast is 50%, so I am hardly an EV bear as accused. In fact, I may be a wild-eyed optimist.

Some People Can't Read

What Happened?

What transpired is a huge number of Tesla and EV owners are defending their purchases. Many of these owners are self-proclaimed, environmentally-superior human beings out to save the world from the evils of cheaper but polluting cars.

These environmental thumpers ignore the coal-burning to produce electricity (about a 30% share), the mining of Lithium, infrastructure costs, and cost of electricity if and when we do get to 50% EV ownership.

Spiraling Environment Cost of Lithium

Wired comments on the Spiraling Environment Cost of Lithium Addiction

Demand for lithium is increasing exponentially, and it doubled in price between 2016 and 2018. According to consultancy Cairn Energy Research Advisors, the lithium ion industry is expected to grow from 100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of annual production in 2017, to almost 800 GWhs in 2027.

“One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries,” says Christina Valimaki an analyst at Elsevier.

In South America, the biggest problem is water.

There’s also the potential – as occurred in Tibet – for toxic chemicals to leak from the evaporation pools into the water supply. These include chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, which are used in the processing of lithium into a form that can be sold, as well as those waste products that are filtered out of the brine at each stage. In Australia and North America, lithium is mined from rock using more traditional methods, but still requires the use of chemicals in order to extract it in a useful form. Research in Nevada found impacts on fish as far as 150 miles downstream from a lithium processing operation.

In Argentina’s Salar de Hombre Muerto, locals claim that lithium operations have contaminated streams used by humans and livestock, and for crop irrigation. In Chile, there have been clashes between mining companies and local communities, who say that lithium mining is leaving the landscape marred by mountains of discarded salt and canals filled with contaminated water with an unnatural blue hue.

“Like any mining process, it is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells,” said Guillermo Gonzalez, a lithium battery expert from the University of Chile, in a 2009 interview. “This isn’t a green solution – it’s not a solution at all.”

So much for the zero pollution idea.

About Tesla

To top it off, the Tesla owners make better-than-thou claims despite spontaneously-exploding batteries, laughable crash-prone automated navigation systems, poor paint jobs, bumpers that fall off, and a myriad of other reported problems that no one sees on any other car in existence.

Public Acceptance

Claims of hatchet jobs are by people who cannot read, don't understand the points made, and ignore car purchase costs. The group also includes those who mistakenly believe the EVs don't pollute and Teslas don't explode.

Public acceptance is where the rubber meets the road. In the US, it's 2% of new car sales, mostly in California.

If You Build It They Will Come

A friend who lives in DC just pinged me with this comment: "Even here in the East Coast, where it's non-stop city from DC to NYC, it's hard to 'fill up' an electric car. Until the electric infrastructure is built out, no chance."

Bingo.

I have a far greater likelihood of this happening than EEI/IEI because I expect a faster rollout. Regardless, two things need to happen.

  1. Truly convenient charging that the public accepts.
  2. Up front ownership costs in the ballpark of gas-powered cars, also that the public accepts.

States need to build the infrastructure. Imagine 30% EV share on the existing infrastructure. Hour-long waits except at home might just be the norm.

Factor in the fact that condos and apartments buildings likely don't have charging stations.

"Duh, charge at home". Yeah, right.

Gonna hang that power cord out the window of a 13-story apartment building?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (90)
No. 1-50
Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

"... people who cannot read" . You mean people who cannot or will not think.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"You mean people who cannot or will not think."

Yes, I do. Thanks

flubber
flubber

Many good points made. I have talked to a few owners of electric vehicles...Tesla, BMW, Bolt, Nissan...,.They love them, but most are for local commuting which is where most miles add-up. Most have a 2nd car, usually an SUV that utilizes gasoline. I think e-cars will catch on earliest with fleets for municipalities that provide cars to staff on the road such as building inspectors, property appraisers, etc.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"I think e-cars will catch on earliest with fleets for municipalities that provide cars to staff on the road such as building inspectors, property appraisers, etc."

Agree - Self-driving Ubers will be electric as well

Axiom7
Axiom7

Yep. Electricity is not generated by wind turbines and hydroelectric plants and lithium batteries are not filled with mineral water. See also the South Park Episode about the "smug-producing Prius".

msurkan
msurkan

I got a great lease on my Nissan Leaf in 2014 (for $300 a month). I bought it for $9,000 when the lease expired. I love it. I drive 30 miles every day (15 each way) and just plug it into my 110v outlet at home and it is fully charged the next day. I never have to go to the gas station or get it serviced. It merges and accelerates better than any car I've ever owned (I've never had an expensive car). I've only had to charge at station twice in the 5 years I've had the car. My wife has a cheap combustion engine car that we use when we have to drive anywhere further.

I love electric cars now. My next car will definitely be electric. I figure that in another 4 years used EVs with 150 mile range will be in the $10,000 range and I'll upgrade. At that point I will almost never need a combustion engine car. I can always rent a vehicle for those very rare occasions I need to make a road trip.

Sechel
Sechel

a decade is not a long time. i suspect we'll start to see rapid progress. a lot of money is going into this technology. the automobile manufacturers have stopped developing new gasoline engines and are sharing r&d on legacy platforms so they can devote full resources to electric

Ccfiiimd
Ccfiiimd

Upfront costs are falling Tesla Model 3 is a 40k car, 4 years ago the Model S was an 80k car and 10 years ago the Tesla roadster was a 125k car. TCO is in the Corolla price range. Yes Tesla owners are early adopters and there are plenty of circumstances where electric vehicles aren’t yet practical but that is changing rapidly.

shamrock
shamrock

You have to remember that people in America want SUV's, pickups, and minivans. That's like 2/3 of the market. The only one of that kind available is a $100,000+ tesla and only the 1% can pay that kind of cheese. Not too many people are interested in buying a golf cart like a Leaf or Bolt.

AlexSpencer
AlexSpencer

A little artistic welding to the roof of your Tesla and a folding solar panel array could be attached for totally free fueling. May take a week or so to charge though. For trips a portable gas powered generator mounted in the trunk should extend range. A fine project for an intrepid DIY.

bradw2k
bradw2k

Great follow-up, Mish. Right now most EV's, and all Teslas, are expensive LUXURY cars that are inconvenient in common situations. But there is a pattern to these things: Tech revolutions tend to start slower than the advocates expect, but ultimately blow past the most wild estimates. For example, computers in the 80's sucked; today, every teenager has a supercomputer in their pocket. If EV ownership is practical for the middle class in 2030, then yes 20% of vehicle sales seems way too low.

FelixMish
FelixMish

@Mish It might be a better metric to forget about the complexities of cars-per-capita and just look at the percentage of new cars bought.

FelixMish
FelixMish

@Mish You know better than to use those rising exponential curve graphs from various outfits who make their living producing such charts. Every start-up in the world puts those graphs in their pitch - showing the upswing going in to serious motion at the exact month the startup thinks they'll release their product.

FelixMish
FelixMish

It's odd that a @Davetech comment in the other post hasn't resonated among the other commenters here. He pointed out the association of oil with wars. Shouldn't the money to fund middle eastern military endeavors be billed directly to gas prices?

And, how much of the push toward electric vehicles is simply powered by a gut feeling of "I don't want to send money to the middle east!" ?

Mish
Mish

Editor

"If EV ownership is practical for the middle class in 2030, then yes 20% of vehicle sales seems way too low."

The article I quoted had 7% by 2030 which I believe to be absurdly low. Heck, it could easily be 40% or even 70%. I guessed 50%. But even at 70%, my statements were still accurate. 30% is a lot of people. By 2025 we will have a much better idea.

How fast is the rollout?

How much will charging cost vs what could be a huge drop in gas prices as the percentage of EVs rises?

Will California mandate EVs?

No one knows the answers to these questions but I expect a quicker rollout tham most. That is another oddity of the attacks on me.

Mish
Mish

Editor

" You know better than to use those rising exponential curve graphs from various outfits who make their living producing such charts."

I believe those charts are way too low, not high

Quatloo
Quatloo

It is the next generation of battery technology that has yet to be invented that will make the biggest difference in adoption rates. With so much money focused on R&D, I think it could happen very soon. Significantly lighter weight batteries that can be recharged much faster would make a huge difference.

Snow_Dog
Snow_Dog

“ ... In the US, it's 2% of new car sales, mostly in California.”

When the next round of wildfires burns half of California to the ground, my guess is the evil electric public utility will be blamed for it.

SantoshK
SantoshK

What are your thoughts for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle FCEV. I have heard that refueling takes only few minutes for fuel like ICE vehicles.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"What are your thoughts for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle FCEV?"

The market focus is on batteries. That will be the winner.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"If we reach a point where a 600 mile range EV costs as much as an IC then charging networks, or fast charging, becomes irrelevant."

True provided

  1. People have a charging option. Those in apartments and condos don't right now.
  2. The cost of electricity does not soar on the demand

When will that be? Again, I presume faster than the article cited, but it may not be universal that fast. 2030 would not surprise me too much. 2025 sure as heck would.

Point 2 is a little-discussed constraint

BillinCA
BillinCA

My comment on the last article started with “I don’t own an electric car.” I’m just restating it here for clarity in case someone suggests that I am defending my Tesla purchase.

This “response” post just made it worse with points not relevant to the points in the original article and the comments posted. Some superlatives are as silly as the NYT article.

I guess it’ll add this topic to my list of things to not discuss in polite company: politics, religion, diet/food, and electric cars.

Now back to my always-on, super-reliable typewriter...

doc3osh
doc3osh

The aspect that I don't understand in your article is: why are you basing current EV ownership as the metric for whether EVs are ready for mass adoption? It's a cultural paradigm shift. It takes time for people to be exposed to it, to drive it, to realize "gosh when I think about it, I hardly ever go on trips more than 300 miles and actually I really prefer to take a break for 20 mins anyway." When I finally drove a Model 3 Performance for a weekend, it was so glaringly better than any other car I'd ever driven that after I returned it every other car just seemed... disappointing. There is a certain tipping point where enough people have heard about and driven these things to understand that they are simply much better than ICEs. The game-changers are the Model 3 and Model Y, which should get out there in enough volume to really change some minds. so basing your article on how many people CURRENTLY own EVs doesn't make sense to me, since they bought their cars some time over the past ten years (or more). Also, to the guy who says "there are no chargers in big cities where people live in apartments"-- I live in Manhattan, where I have lived for over a decade. Finding a gas station in Manhattan was always a nightmare. There are currently THREE gas stations in Manhattan... and ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR public charge spots. Yes you read that right. They put them in parking garages. Do we need more? Sure, but let's not pretend it's easier to fuel up a gas car in Manhattan.

AlexJ
AlexJ

No doubt your numbers are well researched but your logic is faulty on so many levels. There are certainly challenges regarding long distance range and it's inevitable requirements of recharging but that seems to be your really big complaint, that and price. However, don't make the mistake that given the right incentive (I don't mean government) that someone can't or won't solve these and other issues quickly. I'm old enough to have watched technology such as film, computers, phones etc... fall quickly and unexpectedly to newer tech that was suppose to have taken decades or more before it had any hope of having an impact. In most cases those industries never even saw those changes coming. The fact that the oil companies are desperate enough to float all of the bad press they can regarding EV's and renewable energy while at the same time apparently iinvesting significantly in it only shows just how much of a threat this technology is to them.

Lithium mines certainly have some serious issues as well but so does oil drilling and processing. The problem I have with your arguments against this tech assumes that nothing can or will change. Who's to say that with in the next 5 years a suitable solutions to these and other issues won't come to market? Slow charging and insufficient charging stations may at times be a problem for long trips but as the market shifts to EVs that will change quickly. That certainly seems true locally. Just in the past year or so I've seen 3-4 changing stations installed at local retailers. These only took a week or so to install. How long does it take to build a new gas station. I would also bet that the capital layout for the charging stations were significantly less. It's not unreasonable that corporate America may also jump on this bandwagon as empolyees begin to start considering this a priority.

It may still be the bleeding edge for purchasing an EV in 2019 for the average person but if an EV really doesn't make sense for the average person yet why is every car manufacturer investing time and capital get their Tesla killer out to market ASAP? Why is retail installing charging stations? Do you really expect that given just these investments that market forces are not going make buying an EV even if only for local driving a no brainer? Once local driving makes sense long distance certainly won't be far behind for the average person! It may require some planning to begin with but eventually and sooner rather than later, the ICE will be a dinosaur. It may never totally go away just as there are those who still only shoot film but it will be a niche market. I certainly don't see this evolution taking the 40 years I've seen some predict. I don't doubt that the average person will be slower to adopt this technology but that will depend more on how quickly the price of battles will continue to drop but as with computers this is an exponential curve. Prediction never really account for these kind of curves like they should. It always is a surprise to those who just can't seem to wrap their brain around it.

At the end of the day the average person will invest in EVs when it's practical for them but don't think people are not considering a purchase even now. All it will take is the right circumstance, a jump in gas prices, a drop in battery costs perhaps something else even but EV technology is ready all it will take is the right spark.

hazy1
hazy1

First off. If you don't have a garage where you can install a charger to charge your Model 3, this isn't really the car for you. In fact, why would you own a car in an area like DC that has good public transit?

2nd. Why would anyone make their business model completely reliant on government fleets of operated vehicles? How many government cars are there in USA compared to the rest of privately owned vehicles? Also, have you known the government to jump on newer technology or be wise with environmental policy to begin with? No? So why would you expect Tesla to tether the entire company's success to the government vehicle fleets?

3rd, pointing out that our energy is 30% coal still. Yeah. Did you know that 50% of our energy was from coal just 20 years ago? Do you know that as bad as coal power plants are, because they are able to scale pollution mitigation in their generators, they are more effective than relying on millions of private owners of gasoline powered cars to do the same? But that's not even an issue. Coal power is going to be extinct in 10 more years as it's market share reduction has accelerated as renewable energy projects continue to be built out.

Did you you also know that an electric car by it's very design is 3-4 times more efficient? The only reason Tesla doesn't make hybrids is because they are unnecessarily complex for many people, but I guess if you're one of the dumb dumbs in NYC or DC that needs a car, perhaps the Volt is actually a better purchase for you than the Model 3.

4th. I don't understand you bringing up how many EVs there are by people's age. This is not a complicated metric to measure, but you decided to make it so. Just look at the new cars sold, that's simple enough. In places like California, the Model 3 is consistently in the top 5 of vehicles sold. It is nipping at the heels of the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic, cars that are half the price. The reason it is a viable purchase against those cars, is because of the reduced maintenance and energy cost to fuel. Look at any article by Zachary Shahan on Cleantechnica, he has many cost comparisons of the Model 3 vs. the Civic and Camry.

5th. Yeah I understand how other readers are attacking you. You probably have not even driven the Model 3, yet you make an article saying how it's not a viable purchase "right now" but then invalidate make an insincere offering of an olive branch by saying, "but electric vehicles are the future". Yeah, I see what you're doing, and it's a disingenuous thing to do.

How can you possibly have an opinion about the Model 3 when you haven't even driven it ONCE? Perhaps you should redo this article after driving a Model 3.

ZZR600
ZZR600

Cost of running electric vehicles don't currently include the cost of upgrading the electricity grid, nor the cost of new electricity generation that is needed to power all these vehicles. There's a limit on how much current the local distribution grid can handle. Beyond a few cars er street, and you overload the local power-lines. The cost of upgrading these hasn't been factored in I don't think. The cost of a kWhr of electricity might be quite low now, but will it stay low?

doc3osh
doc3osh

Mish, you seem to agree with your commenters who say that EV ownership is impractical for those living in apartment buildings. I’ve lived in Manhattan for over a decade. Manhattan has only three gas stations, but well over one THOUSAND public charge points. It’s far easier to charge an electric car in Manhattan than to get it to a gas station: https://chargehub.com/en/countries/united-states/new-york/manhattan.html?city_id=1769

Many people don’t realize that it’s already far more convenient to own an EV than one might think. It’s a matter of exposing people to it so they see that their preconceived notions are incorrect, and also a matter of getting the purchase price below $30K. It won’t take long.

everything
everything

It's all destructive, we are stuck in the steam age, the sun locked up allot of carbon, it's a big planet, but only one planet.

TyFawkes
TyFawkes

To be honest you have to admit the NYT piece was anti-EV click-bait from the outset. The pictures are Teslas, the actual car was a Bolt. LA to LV there are multiple fast charging options for Teslas and only one for the Bolt. That one L-3 charger is at the very hairy edge of an experienced Bolt driver's highway range for the trip in question at best. What was described as a inconvenient nightmare for EVs isn't a trip any non-Tesla EV driver in their right mind would actually attempt. It's like saying 'We drove from Miami to Seattle towing a trailer with 1,000 gallons of gasoline in 8 days, but it only takes most people 8 hours by plane!'. It's nonsense. There are two new Level-3 fast charging stations under construction between LA and LV. They should be ready in a few months. That should cut the travel time to under 7 hours including charging. I'm curious to see if the NYT reporters will repeat their Bolt trip then.

On the math question I've seen the 3.4 number thrown around a lot. However, if you dig deeper that number isn't actually EVs per 1000 population. It's total electric vehicles on the road as a percentage. That's 100% battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and full hybrids (Self-Charging). All of it. BEVs alone account for only about 1.0% add PHEVs and the total number is closer to 2.0% of all the vehicles on the road. Depending on who's numbers you trust or believe.

For perspective we also need to remember the modern mass-produced electric vehicle has only been around for a decade. The modern convenient internal combustion engine car has been around since the 1950s. Before then there were not enough filling stations around to reliably take a long trip without the need to carry extra fuel with you. Even today's common 24-hour gas station didn't exist before the mid-1970s, but that's decades of lead time on EVs. The American driving infrastructure has grown up and matured around and specifically for the internal combustion engine. The problem with EVs isn't the cars, it's the infrastructure. That is going to take time, and a lot longer than most think.

Finally, for a lot of us who drive EVs, they do make financial sense. Granted, not for everyone yet, but prices for the cars and batteries are falling. Range is steadily improving and the prices for charging are actually starting to drop in some areas. Much of the newer condo and apartment construction in our area offers charging stations along with other amenities. It is only a matter of time before older locations retrofit chargers on their properties. We currently drive a Nissan Leaf Plus SL we picked up in May. It's our fourth Leaf. The lease is about the same as leasing a Maxima and we can haul a lot more. The maintenance costs over the next 3 years are tire rotation and cabin air filters (barring any major break-downs). When we went fully electric back in 2015, we were spending about $40 a week for gas to do all the same running around and driving we still do now. Only now it costs an average of $38 a month and we are having way more fun.

KidHorn
KidHorn

I hope EV takes off. I think we'll see a much clearer picture in say 2022 than we do now. The number of EVs available for sale will likely be 10x what it is now.

I can see a big incentive for businesses to install charging stations in their parking lots. They can profit off them. And even offer incentives like spend $100 or more and get free charging.

Some things I'm not clear on...

  1. I've read you need a 240v charger in your garage. Which will likely cost $500 plus $500 to install. You can use a standard 120v outlet, but it will take several days to fully charge a car. So, do I need to spend an extra grand per vehicle or not?
  2. What happens if your car runs out of electricity in the middle of a highway? Does it have to be towed to charging station? Or is there a way to charge it where it stopped?
ronfellow
ronfellow

A recent op ed in USA Today with the title "Porsche thinks you'll want your next car to be electric". That does not seem to be a big deal itself until you learned author of that is the CEO of Porsche Cars of North American. It's coming you better believe it dude.

msurkan
msurkan

As the cost/density falls for batteries recharging becomes a non issue for greater numbers of people. Millions of people never drive more than 200 miles over a weekend, or do so on extremely rare occasions. As battery costs fall further we will reach points where EVs become practical for even more people, even without charging networks. With a 600 mile charge capacity there are many more millions who would find an EV fit in their lifestyle. With a 2,000 mile charge capacity there is almost no one who find an EV didn’t meet their needs, even without a nationwide charging network.

I predict that ten years from now we will be removing many of the charging stations currently being installed because few people are using them even though EV market share will be far greater. We will eventually hit a point of batter capacity pricing where the average EV comes with sufficient capacity that people can just wait to recharge when they get back to their homes, even if they are embarking on a long road trip.

stillCJ
stillCJ

Editor

2 reasons for the popularity of electric cars in CA immediately come to mind:

  1. CA has the highest fuel costs, with yet another tax increase scheduled for July 1. This despite oil wells all over.
  2. Solar panels are popular in sunny CA, making electricity almost free.
Cocoa
Cocoa

The virtue signalling by these EV purchases is astounding. Owners have no idea about the cost to the planet of mining these battery parts. Elon Musk.and Co. Don't see the damage and therefore it does not exist. Telsas are a fun gadget for the wealthy or California commuter. They do not handle snow and water well...sometimes collecting so much crud in the rear fender they have fallen off.

Je'Ri
Je'Ri

"I will drive knowing I AM helping the environment."

Yes, if you ignore the extra energy needed to produce an e-auto, the fuel burned and emissions generated to produce the electricity, and the disposal of the highly toxic battery materials at the end of the battery life.

Go ahead and feel smug, but joule for joule, diesel is more environmentally friendly.

Carlos_
Carlos_

@Mish

This article still misses the boat. You mention subsides for EV and yet fail to talk about subsides to the oil industry. We are in the middles east for a single reason and that is oil. If you want to compare apples to apples the add the war industry to the equation. As far as pollution you mention the carbon based generation. What you fail to mention is that those are being dropped at a very fast pace because they are no longer make economic sense or are you know like Trump a lets save the coal industry cheerleader?. You talk about the cost of lithium ion cost but fail to mention huge savings on making an EV when compared to ICE. Again, you talk about lithium mines being bad for the environment compared to what? Fracking? Oil spills? Really you should know better. Here is what I see

  1. Cost of batteries is dropping and represent a small fraction of the cost of an EV https://thedriven.io/2019/04/17/electric-cars-cheaper-than-petrol-diesel-from-2022-as-battery-costs-plummet/
  2. Adding EV charging stations is way cheaper than gas stations. I see them at parking lots in many places
  3. If that is not enough in many countries you can rent an EV by the minute for those pesky downtown commutes. This will increase demand of EVs https://www.car2go.com/ES/en/madrid/
  4. Battery technology is getting better by leas and bounds https://www.saftbatteries.com/media-resources/our-stories/three-battery-technologies-could-power-future
  5. ICE is dead. They just do not know it like zombies and the coal industry
  6. About Tesla. https://evannex.com/blogs/news/german-engineers-teardown-teslas-model-3-heres-what-they-found "The Model 3, which is intended to be the first truly mass-market all-electric car, will retail for between $35,000 and $78,000. But the cost of its material will amount to just $18,000, with production adding another $10,000." I expect those numbers to drop in time because of volume and automation.

Finally Tesla will change the EV and car space for ever. For the record I do not own an EV mostly because my needs for a new car are minimal because all the travel I do. However, if I ever need to buy it will be an EV.

JoeReal
JoeReal

Ownership is the wrong parameter to use bro! You should use EV OWNER SATISFACTION as indicator. We are in the early stages of EV adoption and the current owners will help spread EV adoption!

Haggemano
Haggemano

People hate gold and I can prove it. If people really liked gold, they would be covered in jewelry and would have solid gold bedposts. Does that argument make any sense? Neither does yours. Companies like Tesla are literally making EVs as fast as they can. There's a supply problem, not a demand problem.

You write a hit piece, get called out for it, so you write another?

Even on long trips it's rare for somebody to drive more than 400 miles in a day. With a Model 3, that's a 13 minute charging stop, when starting with a full charge at home. With a modest meal stop and a restroom stop, a 500 to 600 mile trip won't have any delay at all.

If logic fails, try name calling. Those EV drivers are environmental nut jobs. No, most people who buy a Tesla simply think it's a better car.

30% coal? Even if it were true, it would be so much more environmentally friendly than an ICE. I won't rehash science since you wouldn't understand it, so I'll leave it to people to Google what the Union of Concerned Scientists had to say.

Also, you said yourself that half of US EV sales are in California, where coal is almost unused, but you also left out that up to 40% of EV owners have solar panels. If you were right about EV owners being environmental nut jobs, it would be 100% since EV owners typically use more electricity for the house than for the car.

Not everyone can charge at home? Correct. Only about 70% of Americans could do it without major problems. Going by your crazy math, 70% of the US population is more than the number of cars on the road. But if we step away from nonsense for a while, it would be impossible to meet the demand of those 70% for years to come. As infrastructure builds up, it will open up opportunities to those who can't charge at home or work and never go shopping at any place with a charger.

By the way, instead of calling it lithium mining, you could use a less misleading term such as salt water evaporation rather than trying to make people think that people are digging or bulldozing.

doombuggy_
doombuggy_

Until alternative/renewable fuel sources are cost-effective and readily accessible, purely electric vehicles will ADD to our fossil fuel demand, not reduce it (that additional electricity demand has to be met somehow). For the record I drive a gas-powered Smart fortwo (which Mercedes stopped selling in 2017 for an EV version that only gets 50-ish miles on a charge, then pulled competely out of the North American market).

inhibi
inhibi

Everyone always forgets the #1 fact EVs are not bought or used: reliance on a home/younger generations rent apts. Its not the fact that 200 mile+ roadtrips are less convenient. People could easliy get over that fact (rent another car, etc). It's simply that, to really own a Tesla, one would need to have a house. The newer generations do not own homes. Let me say that again: THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS DO NOT OWN HOMES. They are drowning in debt (college, ACA), they cannot afford the down payment on a house, and the new work economy requires frequent moves from city to city (one does not simply get raises anymore). The fact that this is lost on so many, including Mish, NYT, Electrek, etc. is baffling. Tell me, how do you charge a Tesla when you live in a $1000/month apt? The answer is, you simply CANT. The younger generation, much more likely to go with green, is actually locked out of the market by the simple fact that home ownership is a pre-requisite to owning a plug in fully electric car. Ive lived in ONE luxury apt complex that had 2 spots out of 1000 that had Tesla/plug in charging available. That luxury apt complex cost around $3000/month, which is well out of the price range of the average millenial. And it only had 0.2% of all available spots w/ charging. Now id like to see some "I only read pro-Tesla & Electrek blog" Tesla owner combat that fact.

Din15118
Din15118

It's pointless to do this, but I'm going to do it anyhow.

  1. Electric vehicles aren't exactly a panacea. They seem clean simply because you cannot see the pollution they create easily. People only see cost of the energy and that energy isn't a whole lot more efficient to produce, transmit, store, and discharge than what you get with an internal combustion engine - especially in colder climates.

  2. The cost of any commodity when it reaches economy of scale is essentially proportional to the cost of the energy it takes to produce it plus some margin on the final product . EV's are subsidized, so owners don't see the true cost of the vehicle.

  3. Gasoline is taxed considerably, and few people aware of just how much it is taxed. EV owners are impressed with how inexpensive their vehicle costs to charge. This is because, at this point in time, electricity is not taxed at all for an EV, and is sometimes even subsidized. This will change with greater adoption rates.

I work in this area, but it doesn't matter if I tell people the truth. It's utterly pointless. It will be assumed I'm some propagandist for the oil industry, which in itself is heavily subsidized, by the US military. The US doesn't invade foreign countries to steal their oil, but to control the cost of the commodity, and what currencies it can be sold in, also to control competitors like Russia.

A better solution than electric is compressed natural gas. It burns very cleanly, and it's very clean to use.

It's pointless to explain all this though. I can give (any reader who has bothered to go this far) an analogue example though - ethanol. It takes more energy to produce ethanol than you get out of burning ethanol, it makes no economic, engineering, or scientific sense to do this, but 15-20 years ago environmentalists were convinced this was "green", and good luck trying to explain to somebody, who honestly was trying to do the "right thing", that it wasn't the right thing.

It's a pity that everybody that believes experts, never talks to any actual experts, except those that are allowed on the "news" that 17 years ago told us all that Saddam Hussein had a secret illegal weapons of mass destruction program.

Engh, it will take another 20 years before people will start to even suspect EVs weren't such a good idea after all. It's not as stupid to have battery powered cars than to use ethanol, but it's not what EV enthusiasts think it is, by a very long shot.

The_Q42
The_Q42

This is fairly flawed--not just from an informational standpoint, but from a logical one. Your basic premise, that current ownership rates somehow reflect the viability of EV ownership is not a good one. Why? Because there are dozens of variable impacting purchase decisions that do not directly correlate to viability (bad info/misconceptions being a primary problem). However, let me specific address your "When do EV Vehicles Make Sense" section.

  1. No, your cost analysis is not accurate. Doing the math, my Bolt EV is cheaper than a comparably equipped/performing vehicle (the closest analog being the VW GTI). Look at the current purchase prices, options, and cost of electricity vs gas here in Cleveland (and in a lot of the country), and the math tells the story just fine. Again, purchase rates to not mean people sat down to do the math like I did. Purchase rate and cost-to-own might have a correlation in some vehicles, but it clearly doesn't represent causation.

  2. This is debatable, but I'll leave it alone. :-)

  3. VW GTI comparably equipped to my car = ~$32k. My EV = $34k (and is cheaper to operate and maintain). Math.

  4. "Big percentage" is misleading and you know it. The LARGER percentage of car buyers (at least in the US) don't need fast charging when they can charge at home because the average commute, round trip, is around 35 miles. You're being purposely misleading by using non-specific language (and you're still defending it with strange, non-specific language). Your "big percentage" could be 5%, which does represent a significant number of people, but saying "5%" is much different than "big percentage."

Articles like this one are causing more harm to the purchase rates than any material problems with the ownership and operation of an EV.

That's why people got pissed off.

The_Q42
The_Q42

Oh, and one more thing: your "coal makes electricty" argument is just plain wrong. It's been disproved several times. You're not taking into account the fact that gasoline costs money to refine. It costs money/energy to mine the crude oil. It costs money/energy to transport it. It costs to run the refineries. It costs to transport the gas to the stations. It costs to store that gasoline at the station. Etc.

With an EV, you take the energy produced, put it right into the car, and drive off with it. The same can't be said of any gas-burning vehicle.

Here is just one example found with 5 minutes' worth of research:

Your arguments are biased, and uninformed, sir.

ReadyKilowatt
ReadyKilowatt

If you really want to reduce your CO2 emissions, ride a motorcycle. Or if your trip is short enough (or you have enough time), a bicycle.

Four wheels bad, two wheels good!

Jedediah
Jedediah

I think you are making the mistake of conflating market share with realistic usability and acceptance. If we assume the average driver is driving 15k miles a year, that's a round trip commute of about 60 miles a day. My 2015 Nissan LEAF handles that easily. I live in a rural area and rarely have to stop at a charging station (of which there a multiple).

Realistically I think the general population is just ignorant of EVs and are in the habit of purchasing combustion engine vehicles. Let's not forget that combustion engines have a 100+ year head start on EVs.

Quatloo
Quatloo

According to this article, in California EVs have an 8% share of new car sales. They point out that EVs will never be mass market with today’s technology.

CaliforniaSunshine
CaliforniaSunshine

Mish, you’re incredibly off the mark here. Let’s run numbers with knowledge that I own a long range AWD Tesla Model 3 that easily compares to a BMW Model 3 M340i XDrive.

  • BMW MSRP $56k plus $10k to reach Tesla features
  • Tesla MSRP $49,900 plus $1,500 for nicer wheels. No FSD upgrade to equal BMW. Tesla saves $14.6k off the bat.

MPG

  • BMW mpg 26 combined and premium fuel
  • Tesla miles per KWh = 4 mpkwh

Fuel cost

  • California premium fuel = $4
  • Cost per KWh at home = $.093 (advantageous pricing for EVs)

Fuel Cost per mile

  • BMW =$.154
  • Tesla = $.023

Cost per 15k miles

  • BMW = $2,310 plus $90 for oil
  • Tesla = $345
  • Savings = $2,000 per year x 5 = $10k

BMW price plus fuel cost over Tesla = $25k over 5 years. That’s half the price of my Tesla

EV incentives:

  • Tesla = $3,750 federal plus $2,500 state plus $500 from local utility

So by purchasing a Tesla over BMW I saved AT LEAST $31.5k over a BMW without the notorious BMW repair bills, in 5 years. That’s absolutely MIND BOGGLING.

Downsides? It takes 27 minutes at a non-shared supercharger to go from 5% to 80% or 15 miles to 248 miles.

How often are you driving very long distances away from home in SoCal where you can’t round trip back home assuming you started the day with 300 miles? (Hint, not very often at all)

You would do well to ask questions on Tesla forums, reading various electric car websites, and finding out that Tesla has built the best EV ever created with the model 3. Is it cheaper than a used Prius? Probably not, but I can go 0-60 in 4.4 seconds and beat high performance cars off the line and in turns.

Mish
Mish

Editor

CaliforniaSunshine - how affordable is a $50K sedan? 2% in California think it is, about 0.25% of the rest of the nation does.

Congrats on beating everyone else in 4.4 seconds off the line. I concede that performance point.

But what's the practical benefit when batteries explode and bumpers fall off? Heck, what is the practical benefit even if they don't?

Mish
Mish

Editor

To Jedediah who says: "Realistically I think the general population is just ignorant of EVs and are in the habit of purchasing combustion engine vehicles."

Q. What percentage of Chicago, LA, NY, Phoenix, Miami, etc etc lives in a single-family home with easy access to charging?

I don't know the answer but it will not be high. Next factor in up-front costs. Next factor in those who just want cheap transportation period. Next factor in those who tend to buy used cars.

That is how you get 0.50% EV acceptance nation-wide. "ignorance" is no part of the problem.

Jkennebeck
Jkennebeck

Using adoption rates to measure superiority is inane. Motorcar Superior to Horse and Carriage? Ownership Rates Say Not For a Decade

There are a lot of people that can afford a good EV right now but won't buy one because of ignorance-spreading FUDmongers like you.

I hope your progeny dies gasping for clean air on a dying planet.

Thanks for opening my eyes to this terrible thing: electric vehicles.

Tomorrow I'm selling my Tesla and buying a couple Hummers to help destroy your grandkids future.