Think Electric Cars Will Rule The Road Soon? Think Again.

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We’re not talking about hybrid electric cars but pure electric plug-ins.  You probably remember my rant on the Tesla in my July 22 posting: Tesla, Tang and Tetherball.  After 40 years of putting a man on the moon with an electric car and 100 years after serious electric cars by Dr. Porsche, we still haven’t cured what ails them.

1. Not enough range
2. Takes too long to charge
3. Not enough remote charging stations
4. Cost too much for batteries
5. Car out of reach for the average nine-to-fiver who needs A-to-B cheap

These are just some of the obvious reasons we all talk about.  Since you are reading this blog, you probably expect a little more out of the old man.  So here we go.


First, let’s look at batteries.  Currently, they run about twenty-five large per car and we still haven’t put wheels  and a motor on them yet.  If we manufacture through cheap, non-quality controlled countries that are not as good as USA and the average cost of an electric car gets under $20,000… are we there yet?  Nope.  Consider who will then buy this inexpensive car.  College student?  Maybe.  Do they own or rent?  Most likely they rent.  Garage or park on the street?  Probably the street and there in lies the problem.  How many issues can you foresee running extension cords to the street?

1. Hooligans cut your cord
2. Someone steals your power, let alone your cord
3. The sidewalk becomes a noodle fest for slips and trips
4. Jim the gardener mows it down, gets 110 through the system

Ok so you have a garage, which Tesla already assumes, and you want to commute.  Charging stations are not readily available but even if they were, you can not resell power in this country.  It’s illegal.  So your local gas station has no incentive to provide you a fast charging station when all you might do is buy a Coke in return.

Don’t worry though, Walmart is looking into offering charging spots for customers when they drive and park their electric vehicle at their stores.  May you rot in hell if you support the ways of Walmart and actually shop there.  In case you don’t, other chains are looking at this venture as well.  I’m not really sure how they see this working.  When I’m close enough to home and need to go to the store, a park and plug isn’t going to make me change shopping habits.  If I’m traveling long distance, I’m pumping gas.  

Progressive folks might be looking ahead to the future of battery swapping stations.  A single battery block would be developed that fits all cars.  When it is running low you simply pull over to the station, they pull out the retired pack and replace it with a fully charged one. 

Things that can go wrong in this scenario that jump off the page to me:
1. Junior damages your car when making the switch
2. The battery compromises your car in some way voiding warranty
3. Charges are inconsistent or not available
4. Manufacturers would all have to build to a standard spec. Yeah right, just look at today’s batteries
5. There would have to be a lot of stations

This scenario assumes batteries are leased and not owned.  This dramatically reduces the overall cost of the car to entry segment but the stations are not cheap to set up.  Estimates of $200 million to get 100 stations off the ground may deter many investors.

All said and done, I think car and truck fleets will rule the electric car day in this country while consumers are going to be forced into hybrids.  Fleet vehicles, like the US Mail, have the control over distance, road time and charging on a regular basis.  The average Joe might need to go to a meeting, drive Janey’s friend to soccer practice or hit three different bars before finding that special someone.  And what if that special someone wants to go to Lafayette Coney Island in downtown Detroit at 3AM?  Are you going to trust your electric car to get there and back? 

3 Responses

  1. wetnoodle

    Don’t forget the extra cost of charging a car at your home..that would really raise your electric bill. People often forget that aspect as it will suck on electricity that our grids can’t support either.
    And, with the talk of the Cap and Trade legislation expected to raise rates alot more (don’t get me started on that whole mess and bs) is it really/or will it ever be more cost effective to own a electric car???
    Better off to just make government cars electric and let us drive gas if we choose.

  2. Paul "Groosh" Grusche

    Good points wetnoodle. I’m trying to remember the calculation but TopGear did an episode on the Tesla (I’m sure I could find it on YouTube) where they looked into charging it with your own windmill. It would take something like 56 days for one charge. I really should find that show… begs the question though… what could solar panels do for you?

  3. earned911

    Hi Paul, great blog topic. I agree, the Post office should use electric cars – in fact, if there was one good use for Government Motors it would be to replace all the mail trucks with electric vehicles and just give them to the government as repayment.

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