Everything You Think You Know About Electric Cars Is Wrong

Last month, the electric-car industry passed a small but important milestone. There are now more than 100,000 electric cars on America's roads, including those that operate as plug-in hybrids. That's happened in just two and a half years, as electric-vehicle sales have only been tallied independently since the last month of 2010, when a mere 345 were first parked in customer garages.

Despite this milestone, there's plenty of pessimism to go around regarding the adoption rate of the plug-in EV, which have thus far made up only half of 1% of all cars sold in the U.S. this year. My fellow Fool -- and resident Foolish auto expert -- John Rosevear offered a succinct overview of that pessimism a couple of months ago, which I'll sum up as this: There's no charging infrastructure, and the batteries make EVs cost more than is justifiable.

Does that mean EVs are a failure?

From the perspective of the broader auto market, and when compared to the ambitious one-million-EV goal set by President Obama for 2015, EV hype seems destined for the junkyard. However, from a historical perspective, EVs aren't doing so badly at all. In fact, most of the common complaints about EVs are simply short-sighted or downright wrong when viewed through either a historical lens or one with a longer time horizon for the future. Let's take a look now.

Historical perspective on the auto industry
The American auto industry effectively began in 1896 with a 13-vehicle production run at the Duryea Motor Wagon plant (or garage, as the case might well be). Three years later, just before the start of the 20th century, there were roughly 8,000 cars on what passed for American roads -- virtually nothing was paved for vehicle travel. There were 8,000 EVs on the road after eight months of tracking. That's not really fair, though, because there are more than three times as many people in the U.S. as there were at the turn of the 20th century. Adjusted for population growth, there should have been 33,000 EVs on the roads after three years. That happened after 19 months, and we're now approaching three times that number midway through the third year of tracking. In fact, EVs are outperforming hybrids at the same point after adoption as well. Here's what that looks like:

Automobile Adoption Rates | Create infographics

I included battery-only EVs on the chart to prove I wasn't fudging the numbers on EV adoption by using plug-in hybrids -- battery-only EVs surpassed the population-adjusted sales pace of the earliest cars with eight months to go in their third year of tracking. It's also worth pointing out that battery-only EVs have outsold plug-in hybrids by more than 1,000 vehicles for each of the past three months and are on track to reach a cumulative total of roughly 68,000 sales at the end of the year.

Why compare EVs with the earliest cars? The "motor wagons" of the late 1800s faced similar challenges to those often attributed to EVs: minimal supporting infrastructure and a high price tag relative to the dominant (horse-drawn) transportation of the day.

The first gas stations wouldn't even be built until almost a decade after the Duryeas built the first 13 cars in America, and they had no drive-up pumps -- that innovation didn't arrive until 1913. There are already more than 6,000 publicly accessible EV charging stations in the country. This doesn't count interesting infrastructure developments such as Tesla's (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) battery-swap stations or its growing network of "superchargers" scattered across the United States. It's also worth noting that EVs, unlike early internal-combustion vehicles, can get recharged in most owners' garages.

A comparison between the price of cars at the start of the 20th century and the price of EVs today shows another advantage in electricity's favor: the average car in 1900 cost nearly twice the typical household income, while the average base price of the top three EVs on the market today -- Nissan's (NASDAQOTH: NSANY  ) Leaf, Tesla's Model S, and General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) Chevrolet Volt -- is about 90% of the median national income.

However, EVs have a hurdle that the motor wagons didn't -- the competition is already mechanical, and it has a century-plus head start. The earliest autos simply had to be better than a horse, which is limited by biology to a certain speed and a certain work capacity. A horse doesn't have an R&D budget or an assembly line, and you have to clean up after it, which is pretty gross. Its obsolescence was inevitable. EVs have to beat a competitor that's benefited from tens of billions of dollars in global research and development spending each year for decades , and which is a significant part of a worldwide oil-and-manufacturing infrastructure that creates trillions of dollars in annual revenue.

EVs have to overcome an entrenched culture, just as early motor wagons did -- but today's car culture is far more deeply embedded in the national psyche than horses ever were. There's one automobile on American roads for every 2.3 Americans today, compared with one horse for every 3.5 Americans in 1900. The average person traveled about 340 miles per year in 1900, compared with 16,000 miles per year in cars and airplanes today. Despite facing one of the most entrenched opponents in the history of capitalism, EVs are already outperforming the puttering internal-combustion pioneers in terms of market penetration, price, and infrastructure deployment at a similar point after introduction.

Let's sum some of that up visually:

Autos vs. EVs: a Comparison | Infographics

Hard to hold a charge
Of course, with all of that said, we come back to perhaps the biggest roadblock between EVs and mass adoption: Battery technology just isn't as good as gas. "A full tank of gasoline," according to American Physical Society Fellow Alfred Schlachter, "contains as much energy as 1,000 sticks of dynamite." It's accessible, portable, and (despite protestations over $5 gallons of gas) quite affordable. The New York Times' Green blog quoted IBM battery researcher Winfried Wilcke on the charging-efficiency problem three years ago:

[Wilcke] illustrated the challenge of building a battery with the energy density of gasoline by recounting that it took 47 seconds to put 13.6 gallons of gas in his car when he stopped to fill up on the way to San Francisco. That's delivering power at the rate of 36,000 kilowatts, he said. An electric car would need to pump 6,000 kilowatts to charge its battery in that period.

"The dream that we have today to have exactly the same car charge up in minutes and drive off hundreds of miles cannot happen," Mr. Wilcke said. "Or at least not for 50 years."

Schlachter points out that battery technology is not subject to Moore's Law-like efficiency gains, because "significant improvement in battery capacity can only be made by changing to a different chemistry." Computing hardware has improved on the same substrate by investing in miniaturization technology since the 1960s, but the energy density of a given chemical compound is essentially fixed -- it's only improvements in the surrounding machinery using that compound (whether engines or batteries) that makes more use of the same material.

However, it may not be necessary for EVs to charge in 20 seconds to make them a compelling alternative. Most people simply never drive far enough in a given day to need a quick charge -- 95% of all people tracked in 2009 by the National Household Travel Survey had a commute of less than 40 miles, and the average commute was less than 14 miles. The average total daily driving of urban dwellers was 37 miles, and that of rural drivers was 49 miles. The Nissan Leaf, which is the cheapest of the three best-selling EVs on the market, can drive at least 73 miles on a single charge. Battery quick-swap stations go a long way toward solving the problem of charging delays on the other 5% of those commutes, and the high cost of batteries -- widely seen as the biggest drawback to EV adoption and a roadblock to quick-swap ubiquity -- is not something that will persist forever.

The lithium-ion batteries used in modern EVs have more than doubled in energy density and have declined in price per kilowatt-hour of capacity by a factor of 10 since the early 1990s, when the modern EV movement began to gestate. A McKinsey research paper published last year projects that lithium-ion batteries will continue to decline in price from roughly $600 per kWh today to about $200 per kWh in 2020. Gas prices aren't likely to decline any time soon, so a two-thirds reduction in battery costs would make EVs a better value on balance than internal-combustion vehicles, according to the McKinsey analysis. None of this would account for another battery breakthrough that would make lithium-ion obsolete, and as the commercial impetus to sell EVs continues to gain steam, it only becomes more likely that intensified research will find something better.

Will EVs continue to outperform the original auto pioneers in the face of stiffer competition? I can't say. However, early results are indeed more promising than many pessimistic commentators would you like to believe. Just as autos replaced horses en masse once their technological superiority was undeniable, EVs will have to be objectively better than internal-combustion vehicles to justify widespread adoption. There are bound to be some bumps and bankruptcies along the way. After all, more than 1,000 automakers of all sizes were founded between 1896 and the mid-1920s. How many of them are still around?

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  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:02 PM, normgarry wrote:

    #1 Why should I spend extra money to purchase an electric vehicle when I could simply purchase a regular four-cylinder car that's more than half the price?

    #2 Electric cars are not better for the environment. Alll they do a shift the pollution from the vehicle emmisions to the vehicle production. It takes a lot more mining and energy use to produce an electric vehicle that it does to produce a regular four-cylinder car. Not to mention that all of the energy that's even usable on the surface of the earth is based on some sort of fossil fuel. Even solar power requires fossil fuels to build panels. Solar power is not enough by itself to sustain daily industry.

    #3 Electric vehicles do not save money because the cost of financing them is so much higher than the cost of financing a regular four-cylinder car. A Tesla model S is $15,000 more than an Audi A6 similarly equipped. The starting price of a Model S is almost $30,000 more than a Dodge Charger with a V6.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:17 PM, Finewheels wrote:

    This article makes some erroneous comparisons and a lot of assumptions. There are 3 things which prevent electric cars from replacing gas powered cars.

    1. Range

    2. Recharge time

    3. Cost

    Range needs to be closer to 400 miles to compare to a gas powered car. Teslas get around 230 miles but they cost $70,000 which is far out of the reach of average Americans.

    Recharge time is overnight on a regular plug in for all electric vehicles currently. Installing a 240 charging station cuts that down to 3-4 hours and costs $2,000+ depending on installation. Once again if you drive to the next city over you'll be stuck waiting for a recharge, might as well watch a movie. A 480 volt charging station cuts the charge time to 30 minutes which isn't bad, just be ready to pay $10,000 for it.

    As for cost... currently these vehicles are heavily subsidized and they still cost too much to buy. Leases are an expensive way to go so I always hesitate even on the subsidized ones.

    In short, the electric cars are not ready for the mass market yet. Eventually, just not currently.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:22 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Way too many issues to overcome for them to be practical anytime soon. As a second vehicle for rich liberal fools who can use it for only local commuter driving.....maybe. As a primary vehicle for the bulk of us; no way will it work. Even if they set up battery swap stations it is problematic. What is that going to cost? I don't buy this global warming crap anyway, and that is the ONLY way to justify these things.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:27 PM, TMFBiggles wrote:

    @ Finewheels -

    I addressed the range issue. It's in the segment below the second graph.

    - Alex

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:56 PM, poornamelessme wrote:

    @RHO1953

    I always wondered how electric cars somehow got tied in with a political philosophy (by some people, anyway).

    Unless as you say, you discount science and logic, and assume the melting icecaps are due to God's will or similar nonsense.

    Tesla is working on a more affordable car, so it will be interesting to see how that one shapes up. If they can get the price below 30K, and if it has decent range, it could sell quite a bit. The range issue isn't as big a deal as most people think ... unless they live in rural areas and need to travel very far distances.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:57 PM, jswap1 wrote:

    EVs are nice toys

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 2:59 PM, Riggerwo wrote:

    The simple fact is that electric cars will never become main stream until the battery situation is fixed..100 miles is just not enough range....Cost is another factor...The production of the batteries for these cars and the transport from factory to assembly site creates more green house gases than that of a regular gas powered car. The electricity has to be generated someplace...green house gases are released. Unless you charge your car with solar or hydro power green house gases will be released. So there is no benefit to the environment. If you live in a city or have a short commute they will work, but who has the cash to buy a car just to commute????

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:00 PM, JRP3 wrote:

    The infrastructure comparison is misleading. EV charge points that most people will use are already easily accessible in their homes. You don't need an external infrastructure most of the time.

    Additionally, the energy density and transfer rate of gasoline is equally misleading since the poor efficiency of internal combustion engines means that about 80% or more of that potential energy is simply lost in use, while an electric motor may only lose 10% or so.

    As for the "rich liberal fools" who buy Tesla's, they use them for all their driving, and with access to superchargers and soon to come swapping stations it will become even easier to do so. The Tesla Gen3 sedan coming in 2016 will bring the technology to the masses at a lower price point in the $30K range. When you take into account the lower "fueling" costs then ownership costs are more in line with a $20K ICE vehicle, running on American electrons to boot. Solar charged if you wish as well. This is the future, embrace it.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:07 PM, GuitarJim wrote:

    The article lacks sufficient historical research. By the start of the 20th century there were nearly 100,000 automobiles in the US; 40 percent were steam powered, 38 percent were electric, and only 22 percent were gasoline powered. In terms of market share, electric cars peaked in 1912.

    Tesla's newest proposal - swappable batteries - is also nothing new. The Hartford Electric Light Company created such a system in place for electric trucks that operated from 1910 until 1924.

    We've been down this road before. Yes, technology has improved, but some factors have remained for more than 100 years - batteries are very expensive, electric vehicles don't have the range of comparable gas powered vehicles, and batteries take far too long to recharge. These were the reasons why gas powered vehicles ultimately buried electric cars a century ago, and remain why electric cars will not gain significant market share now. Unless some radical new electrical storage technology comes along, electric cars will be nothing more than a fad.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:09 PM, TammiD wrote:

    The first part of the article comparing EV development to early 20th century automobile development is a useless comparison and doesn't give any meaningful results. If EVs truly were a success, you'd be writing a very different story, perhaps comparing them with how compact discs quickly succeeded over vinyl records and cassette tape.

    Most popular news articles barely or completely fail to discuss the energy density of gasoline, so bravo zulu to you.

    Average workday commute distance analysis is also weak. What do you do for weekend getaways, summer vacations, or evacuating due to natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, wildfires, etc.)?

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:11 PM, MarkGoldes wrote:

    Unlimited range is coming. When it arrives most future cars are likely to be electric. The reason is that such cars will be mobile power plants.

    They will be able to sell substantial electricity to utilities when suitably parked. Such cars and trucks may pay for themselves as investments.

    See the AESOP Institute website for a few examples of breakthrough technologies now being born that will make that possible.

    Imagine the positive impact on the economy!

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:15 PM, FlashGTA wrote:

    You missed a large and crucial point in this comparison. Where does the electricity come from for EV's? 40% of the electricity in the US is from mass polluting coal fired power plants. Until the electricity production is cleaner than an ICE, then I'll stick with my 450 hp ICE in my Pontiac TRANS AM!

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:20 PM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    "In short, the electric cars are not ready for the mass market yet. Eventually, just not currently."

    Eventually is 3.5 years from now, when Tesla starts rolling the Gen III cars off the production line. From an investment point of view, that's equivalent to today since it quite easy to transfer existing electric technology from the S car, which is real and is rolling on the streets, to the smaller Gen III car, and provide as good or better economics than shown below.

    "A full tank of gasoline," according to American Physical Society Fellow Alfred Schlachter, "contains as much energy as 1,000 sticks of dynamite."

    yes, that's true when its in gas form, not liquid. a typical 20 gallon tank holds 674 kilowatt hours of energy, using Dept of Transportation measure of 33.7 kilowatt hours per gallon of gas Since the average ICE is at best 25% efficient, that leaves 168 kilowatt hours of energy to use to move the car forward. The rest of your money ends up in the atmosphere as various poison gases. The Tesla S is rated 95mpg. Comparable cars are approx 22 to 25 mpg.

    20 gallons at $4.35 a gallon here in So. Calif at 25 mpg will cost a consumer $0.174 per mile. You can charge your Tesla at my home at $0.10 per kilowatt hour and go 265 miles on an 85 kilowatt hour charge, which is $0.032 per mile. Do the math.

    If you use San Diego Gas and Electric rates (per their website) to charge your Tesla S at $0.14 per kilowatt hour, then your per mile rate is 14/10 x 0.032 = $0.0448. (Still more than 300% cheaper than gasoline).

    "There's no charging infrastructure, and the batteries make EVs cost more than is justifiable." That author is completely wrong. Every home in the United States has electricity and can plug and charge the EV overnight while a person sleeps. Over

    90% of the trips we take in a car require only 100 miles of range or less in a given day.

    So EV ranges are already sufficient. So public infrastructure for EV's is only needed for travelers, and already, hotels, motels and restaurants are installing their own charging stations to cater to EV car drivers on their vacations. Tesla is already building public infrastructure for charging their cars and there are several public companies doing the same in a more generic manner. EV infrastructure is far less expensive or complicated to install than gas based infrastructure, since its only electricity outlets.

    Batteries are expensive, and their cost per car is declining. However, the battery is already shown above to vastly less expensive than gasoline which means the overall cost of owning an electric car is vastly less expensive than owning a gasoline car, and total cost of ownership is the only reliable measure when deciding whether to buy an EV or an ICE vehicle.

    Like I said, the Tesla S is rated 95mpg and the comparable cars in its class are 300-400% less efficient. In addition the Tesla S has far less maintenance costs over its lifetime because it simply has far fewer moving parts than an ICE car.

    Get used to it. EV's are better and ICE cars are dinosaurs. By 2025 all new vehicles sold in the world will be EV's.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:23 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    1,000 sticks of dynamite? Cool. But if you want to use those 1,000 sticks to move your vehicle you'll find 800 are duds. Internal combustion engines are very inefficient, wasting about 80% of the energy in their gas tank.

    EVs, on the other hand are about 90% efficient in turning battery power into kinetic energy.

    Now, do EVs need the ~400 mile range of gasmobiles to be "good enough"? I think not.

    The "good enough threshold" for popular adoption is around 180 miles. With rapid chargers, ~ 20 minute, 90% charging along the highways one can drive 500 miles with two modest length stops.

    People driving gasmobiles are likely to stop twice as well. Once to refill and once to eat/pee/walk the dog. With an EV you can charge and eat/pee at the same time.

    We reach the ~180 mile range threshold and few people would avoid EVs because they can't drive 400 miles non-stop in a day.

    Especially when they costs about 1/4th as much per mile to drive.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:24 PM, Ronmc2 wrote:

    Wow! How many Strawman Arguments can be squeezed into ONE article?

    "more than 1,000 automakers of all sizes were founded between 1896 and the mid-1920s. How many of them are still around?"

    How many of those old automakers went bankrupt after getting $Millions in Free Money from the Gov't?

    I guess a SmartPhone Comparison to AG Bell wouldn't help the writer's Agenda.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:29 PM, jimhillmeyer wrote:

    Two main objections, one of which you addressed in part, but no in whole: 1) original autos vs. horses were a matter of machine vs. non-machine; EV's present 'machine vs. machine', i.e., a choice of close proximity, but not different enough to decide a revolution in transportation. 2) the energy question; which is, moving from petroleum power to electric power merely shifts the economic drain from one source to another....what happens when electricity is strained and sources grow short, while costs go up? It's like the ethanol issue: corn is cheap now, but steal it away as a primary fuel sources and the depletion creates shortage and elevated (prohibitive, possibly) costs. Not every nation is Brazil, with its plentiful supply of ethanol sourcing.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:30 PM, studentprince wrote:

    I will buy an electric car when I can pull up to a gas station and exchange my low batter for a fully charted batter.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:30 PM, j1rose wrote:

    Where did the author get his GAS ?

    "gasoline by recounting that it took 47 seconds to put 13.6 gallons of gas in his car when he stopped to fill up on the way to San Francisco. "

    It takes me 5 -10 minutes MINiMUM for the gas and charge card etc . for 12 -15 gallons -

    ALSO my car range -an Altima is about 450 -500 miles based on 26 mpg - 30 mpg - in a 18 gallon tank .

    nything reasonable say 10 -12 minutes for a 100 mile charge I think would defineately be acceptable. Most people realize the Electric car is a commuter vehicle and not for long range .

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:31 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "Where does the electricity come from for EV's? 40% of the electricity in the US is from mass polluting coal fired power plants. Until the electricity production is cleaner than an ICE, then I'll stick with my 450 hp ICE in my Pontiac TRANS AM!"

    An EV charging with 100% coal-electricity would be slightly more CO2 'dirty' than an efficient ICEV.

    The US grid is about 19% nuclear and 13% renewable (including hydro). So EVs are right now much less CO2 intensive than ICEs.

    (Coal was down to 35% in 2012.)

    If you're an average 13,000 annual mileage drive you could put about $9,000 worth of solar panels on your roof. Your gas savings would pay the system off in about five years. And then you'd have 20, 30, 40 or more years of cost free charging.

    $9,000 / 30 years / 12 months = $25 per month.

    That's some seriously cheap driving.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:32 PM, j1rose wrote:

    Also a 3 -4 year cost differential is most people's break even point . IE save $ 1,500 a year in gas and I'll pay $ 4,500 -6,000 more .

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:39 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "what happens when electricity is strained and sources grow short, while costs go up?"

    The opposite is almost certain to happen.

    Onshore wind in the US tends to blow harder at night which happens to be when demand is lower.

    EVs will mostly get charged while parked overnight.

    More EVs on the grid will create a new market for onshore wind. Better selling price, more profits, more investment, more turbines installed.

    Bringing EVs on line will almost certainly cause wind capacity to increase. And that will mean that there will be more inexpensive wind available during the day for our other uses and will lower our electricity costs.

    --

    BTW, we have adequate capacity and transmission during offpeak hours, right now, to charge about 75% of all US cars and light trucks if they suddenly turned into EVs.

    There is a huge difference between off-peak and peak hour demand levels. We have to build our grid to cover peak demand which means that a lot capacity stays offline much of the day/year.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:46 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    " A McKinsey research paper published last year projects that lithium-ion batteries will continue to decline in price from roughly $600 per kWh today to about $200 per kWh in 2020. "

    Scuttlebutt is that we're likely already down to the $200 per kWh range.

    "On Wednesday this week at the annual conference of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ association, GM’s head of global R&D let his guard down slightly in saying prototype electric cars now being evaluated on U.S. test tracks have triple the energy density of a Chevrolet Volt, and close to double that of a Tesla Model S.

    A Volt has about 140 watt-hours per kilogram energy density in its LG Chem lithium-ion T-shaped battery pack. Tesla’s “skateboard” chassis now uses Panasonic cells that reportedly deliver as much as 240 Wh/kg, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said to expect more.

    And so has GM in so many words.

    “Today there are prototypes out there with 400 Watt-hours per kilogram,” said Dr. J. Gary Smyth, executive director of Global Research and Development, General Motors Company.

    Smyth added the mystery batteries will cost much less than batteries in today’s electric cars and they’ll have a “big impact” on the auto industry and “it completely changes the equation” on cost, range, and vehicle packaging."

    http://www.hybridcars.com/gm-rd-boss-hints-at-tesla-surpassi...

    GM owns a piece of Envia Systems who claim to have a 400 Wh/kg, $125/kWh battery that retains 91% capacity after 300 cycles.

    And here's an interesting read concerning how cheap Tesla batteries may already be...

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1084682_what-goes-into-a...

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:56 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "Also a 3 -4 year cost differential is most people's break even point . IE save $ 1,500 a year in gas and I'll pay $ 4,500 -6,000 more ."

    You can buy a Nissan LEAF for $21,300 (including the federal subsidy). That's less than a stripped down Camry. (You can buy an econobox for less, but it's an econobox.)

    Many multiple vehicle households could probably do fine with at least one "100 mile range" EV. Use it for the longest commute which is still in the EV range and use an ICEV for the longer trips.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 3:59 PM, wintersp wrote:

    I'd love to have an EV. The problem is that I would still need a second, gasoline-powered (or diesel) vehicle as well. Most of my driving is commuting four miles back and forth to work. An electric vehicle would be perfect for that.

    Here are my problems: I have a 10,000lb camper trailer to tow around. I also have four children. Show me an EV that can take my wife, kids, and camper across the Country, and I'll be all over it. I also have a 7,000lb boat to tow. No EV is going to handle that. When I'm not driving to work, I'm driving 300 miles (with the wife and kids) to visit the in-laws. My kids aren't going to handle the two hour stop while we recharge. Lastly, I live in the far nether-reaches of Wisconsin. Any EV I get needs to have 4-wheel-drive, and its batteries need to work when the temp hits -30. My other battery-powered appliances don't work well in the winter; why would I expect a battery-powered car to work well.

    My current solution is a diesel-fueled Ford F-350 monster. Yeah...it doesn't get great mileage, but it's not bad either. I get about 14 mpg when towing. Even if it got 6mpg, It would matter to me because I only put a few thousand miles per year on the truck. It serves all my needs.

    Why would I go buy a $30,000 to $40,000 EV to drive back and forth to work when I need something else anyways? If I'm worried about efficiency, I'd go buy a 1992 Honda Civic.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 4:23 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "My current solution is a diesel-fueled Ford F-350 monster."

    You're a one-vehicle family? You drive very few miles per year? You pull a bunch of stuff?

    You aren't a potential EV owner, given the choices right now. (I'm not either. I really need 4wd.)

    What would likely work well for you, when they come to market, would be a plug-in hybrid pickup. Do your daily short distance commute on electricity and the long runs on fuel.

    "Why would I go buy a $30,000 to $40,000 EV to drive back and forth to work when I need something else anyways? If I'm worried about efficiency, I'd go buy a 1992 Honda Civic."

    Well, you might want something nicer than a 1992 Honda Civic. Something with air bags, that sort of thing.

    Again, the Nissan LEAF is selling for $21,300. Not $30k to $40k. If your state also gives subsidies your cost could be as little as $15,300.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 4:24 PM, jimatmad wrote:

    First Motley Fool article about cars I've read in a very long time that was actually worth reading.

    The pro-Big Oil forces has a lot of people spouting their nonsense about EVs, and it's very unusual to get a balanced viewpoint.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 4:33 PM, airroll wrote:

    First of all The oil cars self destructed by making cars that are supposed to fall apart then Americans fought baqk with the Electiric car and GM gulped realized they had gone to far into the future and crushed them to the terror of all those Electric car owners Now they are back and Americans are all about the future No slow gas guzzler will stop Tesla especially when he enters his car in the Daytona 200 two years from now Big oil has done everything to stop Hydrigen cars with would clean upo the air and no engine changes are nessececome on the Physical Society fellow or as the rest call him mr Oil stooge comparing 47 seconds to fill an engine and 13.6 gallons to 36000 Kilowatts just proives that first of all the average tgas tank in america is 20 gallons and you just proioved that the Modle S is superior it is not so very wastful no gas ,no oil no transmission fluid stsystems no power steering fliud no No brake fluid no posion exhuast which several people have used to kill themselves you see these kind of comparisons are suilly when you use you head and realize most Americans are all about clean beaches clean air and no oil dripping across this country. We can have clean concrete in our garages and we can run our cars in the garage during warm up without holding your breath before getting in and going to work. No need to make sure that the kids are playing in the garage while the car is running for fear they may be over taking by fumes Plus You left out that many Americans are useing HHO and doubling their gas milage fuynny no mention of The last few years that lead to the end of the American auto industry was that they were making changes to the cars so that they couldn't be modifyed to udse Hydrogen which would have been easier without the fuel opump in the gas tank and we all knew that was not just stupid but Highly dangerous yet they would rather have cars exploding than to let the public drive for 100 miles per gallon which I understand being from Detroit that a car was made that could do that by adding Hydrogen.Its ashame that the main stream writers are under the thumbs of a gasoline world that is on its way out Yet they still hold on tight to these out dated Ideas pretty much like they held on to the Horse and if you check out the newspapers of the days horses were never going to be obsolete Funny how this idea makes us smile because of its sillyness soon the gas car will be in the same catagory

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 4:44 PM, digi1248 wrote:

    A lot of writing about nothing. The electric car would be the greatest invention ever, but the problem still remains the batteries. There still is not a battery that can hold enough electricity to keep a car driving for enough time to make the car reliable enough to be a viable choice over a gasoline car. Imagine running out of electricity in the middle of the desert. The batteries also have a problem of getting weaker and weaker every time you use them. Some day they will find a way to store electricity some other way that works, until then?????? They have been trying since about 1912. Good luck I am waiting to buy my ev.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 4:59 PM, lawrencerhodes wrote:

    We bought/leased a 2012 Nissan Leaf for $25,500. That's including all lease payments and payoff. It is the best new car I've ever owned. All the bells and whistles including navigation, climate control and quick charging. Also the best Bluetooth connection to our phones ever. We charge directly from our solar panels when possible. The city of San Jose gives us free parking. Adobe Inc. allows us to charge free at night. We are musicians and work after normal business hours. We get free charging frequently. We get in the carpool lane solo. Need I say more? My only regret is it takes 7 hours to charge and the less expensive 2013 Leafs charge in 4 hours roughly on level 2 6.6kw. Lawrence Rhodes/San Francisco

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 5:01 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    " There still is not a battery that can hold enough electricity to keep a car driving for enough time to make the car reliable enough to be a viable choice over a gasoline car."

    A 300 mile range with a 90 second battery swap does the job just fine.

    Tesla has that right now.

    Yes, the price is high but all new tech costs are high. My first computer hard drive cost $266,667 per gig. I only bought 30 MB worth at that price.

    Two years earlier Apple was selling a 5 MB hard drive for that much. Now you can get a gig for less than seventy cents.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 5:19 PM, CALNNC wrote:

    A total electric car has its range totally based on Ohms law. You car draws so many amps, the battery has so much capacity, when you reach your batteries amp hour capacity your done. The Prius is sort of a sucker car, it will only run on its battery for a very short time/distance, then the motor starts to carry on forward momentum and recharge the battery. It saves gas in stop and go driving up to a point. My friend experiments with his new Prius, trying to get up his 3/4 mile drive, on a 1.2% slope, and with a fully charged battery, makes it only about 2/3's of the way. There has not been any major breakthroughs in battery technology other than chemical makeup since the cell is still only giving 1.2 to 1.5 volts DC, and when added together to make a battery of a specific voltage, you get ampacity, and weight. One odd thing to me about using solar cells to extend battery vehicle range , why is it that the LED has been improved as much as it has and it is in lamps and flashlights, where as the solar cell, which is similar to an LED in reverse, is still so puny?

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 5:43 PM, ProgresivConserv wrote:

    Why do so many of the negative comments sound like some version of:

    "Them dang horseless carriages ain't never gonna amount to nuthin!"

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 5:44 PM, lyleg wrote:

    I foresee a future of "blended" car ownership for many American families. For example, in my family we own a Ford Focus and a Lincoln Navigator. My wife uses the Focus as a commuter vehicle around town and we use the Navigator for family trips across country.

    I don't see any reason why an EV couldn't fill the role of my wife's Focus but I will probably hang on to my gas-powered Navigator for a while.

    Why not own both kinds of vehicles and enjoy the best of both technologies?

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 6:20 PM, Mayers246 wrote:

    I have a 2013 Leaf and I love it!! It's fun to drive, has power when you need it and has all of the bells and whistles. I drive it to and from work, on errands during the weekend and periodically to the in laws. We also have a pickup for hauling and a Pathfinder for long trips. We're not rich, just smart. We save so much on gas and the E bill has not gone up that much. Luckily I can charge at work if I need to. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 6:23 PM, ScionIQuser wrote:

    The Spark EV is affordable at $27,000 before tax credits and has a range of 80 miles. It's stylish too. We may well see a blend of EV and gas in America in 10 years. I can see multi-car families having an EV for daily errands. But current EVs are not going to work in hot or cold climates at all.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 6:28 PM, lyleg wrote:

    @airroll - There are these things called "sentences" and "paragraphs". Your post would be much easier to read if you would use them.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 6:39 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    The only problem with EVs and hot climates that I'm familiar with is a loss of range if the batteries are recharged too often using a rapid charger on hot days. That's for EVs with air-cooled batteries.

    A liquid cooled system like the Volt uses could solve that problem. And the heat pump normally used to cool the passenger cabin could cool the batteries during charging. The EV would already be hooked to the grid. Just flood the pack with a bunch of chilled air.

    The cold weather and EV problem can be greatly eliminated by pre-heating the EV with grid power. This can be done remotely via cell phone/computer or by setting a "warm me up" time.

    Once in use batteries give off heat and would keep themselves warm. That heat can also be used to help heat passengers.

    The new heat pump system that Nissan is using greatly cuts down on power drain/range loss.

    Many of us who have lived in cold places are familiar with plugging our ICEVs in on cold nights so they will start in the morning. Block heaters or light bulbs under the hood.

    In the coldest of cold places there might be a need for outlets at work/school parking lots for drive home pre-heating.

    Mercedes did extensive of their EV prototype in very cold conditions and it did fine.

    Just have to think about the battery pack as a cranky old person who needs to be looked after. Warm them up when it's cold. Cool them down when it's hot.

    Remember, Henry's first Model T did not have windshield wipers, an electric starter, a fuel pump or lights. Those things were all possible, it just took a few years to get them in place.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 6:54 PM, kdtisdale wrote:

    For those that have said they have several needs for their vehicles, not just to and from work, but for towing and hauling as well, there is a vehicle that is supposed to be available this fall. It is called a VIA truck. They have a web site called Viamotors.com.

    I have been following their progress for several years and hope that there aren't any more delays. They are going to provide pickup trucks, SUVs and full sized vans. They are on Chevrolet platforms but thats OK.

    Ford was heading in this direction but for some reason dropped it. Ford put all the technology in the Fusion but not their trucks and SUVs.

    It is my opinion that the lack of full sized trucks and cars in a plug in hybrid version is the only thing keeping plug vehicle sales from skyrocketing. I can't haul or tow anything with a Leaf or other small EVs.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 8:15 PM, herky46q wrote:

    Are not electric vehicles also mechanically simpler? That is another advantage not mentioned at least in this article.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 8:28 PM, tslafan wrote:

    an ev range if your able to convert it to mpg for example the Tesla model s gets 280+ miles to the charge so coverting that over to mpg its around 87 mpgs which is way better than any gas guzzling car out there in the market. I dont know what the formula was used to covert the miles per charge to mpg but i saw it in a different article. so until the gas auto makers make a car that gets more that 87 mpg then it will be better but EVs will be outselling gas guzzlers in the near future

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 9:14 PM, 112340 wrote:

    I am retired and could use a small short range vehicle such as one with around a 50 to 75 mile range just to use around town and would be willing to pay not more than $6k for it. Any more and it is more practical to just use my existing vehicle. I know the tree huggers don't approve, but I do have a degree in this area.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 9:15 PM, spotz45 wrote:

    At 90k miles, my 14 year old 8 cylinder gas guzzler (paid off many years ago) is quite a money saver. No plans to replace it. I love the car. My daughter in law keeps pushing me to replace it with a hybrid....no way.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 10:37 PM, rumee52 wrote:

    A lot to consider: How long does the EV battery last? How many batteries per life of vehicle? How well do the other EV parts hold up? Is the price of the home charging system included in your EV costs? How many mechanics can service EVs? If my EV breaks down where will AAA take it?

    What is covered under EV warranty?

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 10:37 PM, Joncab5 wrote:

    Simply said: I am an EV driver for the past 10 months. I switched from a E350 to a Volt. It is a commuter situation for me as the family travel vehicle is a Honda minivan.

    My cost was $599 month, plus $180 in gas and expensive MBZ maintenance.

    Now I lease the Volt for $289 a month and my discounted electrical rate has raised my home electricity bill by approximately $20 a month. Yes this is correct ($20.00) with my EV Smartreader rate.

    Plus the Volt is very effecient and very well made. I still can't believe it is a Chevrolet. I am saving for a Tesla. I don't ever want to go back to ICE.

    It is so nice not going to gas stations. You don't realize it until you are in my situation. Plus my cost savings is incredible. Good luck.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 10:40 PM, Joncab5 wrote:

    PS: Volt range on EV is 44-46 miles for me. I know someone else that is getting 51. I have not yet used gas yet in my 10 months of usage.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 10:53 PM, bugmenot wrote:

    The article failed to address a key issue. Will Obama's shutting down of the coal industry cause electrical rates to rise by 100% which in turn makes charging an electrical vehicle massively expensive! And what is going to replace all of that coal electricity. The US doesn't have enough nukes, gas, or oil plants. The wind or solar require an active fossil plant running at 60% in order to take over when the weather changes. Obama could make a real mess of the United States this week with his attack on US Prosperity by killing electricity generation. You will have to burn trees to cook and heat your home.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 11:18 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    How long does the EV battery last?

    We don't actually know. We know what the warranties are. Nissan gives owners 8 years, 100,000 miles on workmanship and 6 years, 60,000 miles " against capacity loss below nine bars of capacity as shown on the vehicle’s battery capacity level gauge ". We're all pretty well acquainted with the fact that gasmobiles generally last a lot longer than their warranties. We'll have to wait and see.

    How many batteries per life of vehicle?

    I'd guess two. One set per 100,000 miles. Or maybe only one. People might decide to trade in their car after 100k and buy a new one. There are a lot of people whose budgets would like a used EV that could drive 50 miles per charge.

    How well do the other EV parts hold up?

    The electric motors should hold up very well. This is old tech. Putting a 300,000 mile motor in an EV wouldn't be expensive.

    Brakes will last at least twice as long. Lots of time the mechanical brakes aren't used, regenerative braking slows/stops the car and charges the batteries at the same time.

    Of course there's no fuel pump, water pump, oxygen sensor, spark plugs, air filter, belts, catalytic converter, radiator, ....

    Is the price of the home charging system included in your EV costs?

    EVs have built in chargers. They're good enough for most people's charging. If you drive a lot of miles per day then you might want to purchase a faster charger.

    That could cost up to $2k including installation. But if you're a high mileage driver then you'd be saving well more than that in one year of EV driving. I was just in an exchange with a guy who is spending between $5k and $6k a year for fuel and maintenance. He could drive a LEAF since he can plug in at work and save over $4k per year.

    How many mechanics can service EVs?

    Any dealer that sells EVs is going to have techs who can take care of battery/motor/computer problems. The other parts of the car (steering, window operators, AC, etc.) are like any other car.

    If my EV breaks down where will AAA take it?

    Most insurance companies tow/haul to where it can be fixed. That would probably be the nearest dealer.

    What is covered under EV warranty?

    Bottom of this page is where I found the battery warranty stuff. I'd guess the non-EV parts are covered like any other Nissan.

    http://www.nissanusa.com/electric-cars/leaf/charging-range/b...

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 11:34 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    Battery life. Again, we don't know.

    GM has said that the Volt batteries were holding up better than they expected. That was an offhand comment, so take it as semi-reliable.

    Apparently there's a Prius hybrid that's put 300,000 on its battery.

    BYD, the Chinese EV maker, has had a number of their EVs in taxi fleets for a couple of years. They are getting 'rapid recharged' daily, perhaps more than once. Their highest mileage EV has now gone over 250,000 miles on its original battery.

    BYD states that the battery will retain 75% of its original capacity after 1,000,000 kilometers (621,000 miles). They are using an iron-phosphate battery.

    Honda is using Toshiba SCiB lithium-ion batteries in their FiT EV. That is supposedly a 4,000 cycle battery. In a 100 mile range EV one should be able to drive 400,000 miles before the range dropped below 80% of original.

    Of course it will be a few years before we know how much, if any, of that is true. But I think what we can count on is that replacing a battery pack after a few years is going to be cheaper than replacing an engine in a ICEV. Battery prices seem to be falling fast.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 11:39 PM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Thanks but no thanks. Still way too many issues. Batteries that last 50k miles and then start to drop off, that could mean 3 to 4 for the life of the car. Plus I don't by battery prices will continue to fall, I've noticed that the Lithium batteries for cordless tools have actually gone up in price, not down.

    Swapping batteries is not an option until every mfg uses the same style battery. Could you imagine if each brand of car needed it's own gas pump? Plus once these batteries start to age why would I want to replace the brand new battery in my car with someone else's 6 year old battery?

    The commute distance is not my only driving. What about trips? I take a half dozen a year. Rent a car lately? They have so many add on charges that it costs you an arm and a leg. They also nail you for every dent or scratch unless you get their extra insurance. Charging stations, yea right. Why would I want to wait a half hour for a half of a charge sitting in a Tesla owned coffee shop every 150 miles.

    Someday yes, today no, and tomorrow isn't looking good either. Maybe in 20 or 30 years things will be different.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 11:41 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "Will Obama's shutting down of the coal industry cause electrical rates to rise by 100% which in turn makes charging an electrical vehicle massively expensive!"

    No. And your claim "wind or solar require an active fossil plant running at 60%" is bogus.

    There's a need for standby power, regardless of the generation source. Supply and demand constantly rise and fall.

    Using spinning reserve is one way of dealing with changes, be they from clouds going in front of the Sun or any other change in supply like a coal turbine failure. Hydro is better since you can let the turbine spin at speed without load and use very little water. Even better are the battery and flywheel systems we're moving to.

    Be patient, grasshopper, fossil fuels are going away. We're going to have all the electricity we want, when we want it. And it will be cheaper than what we pay now.

    (I bet you don't even know what coal-electricity costs.)

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 1:36 AM, WildestEmu wrote:

    Half the comments talk about how great EV ownership is because of all the great benefits like free charging, car pool lane with only 1 occupant.

    What a joke! The government is paying people to drive cars that run on COAL! A giant portion of the country's electricity comes from COAL. I guess it helps support American jobs in the coal industry, but with all the impending coal regulation electricity prices "will necessary skyrocket."

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 1:47 AM, WildestEmu wrote:

    Hey BObWallace you think shutting down coal plants wouldn't cause electrical rates to rise? You know 45% of electricity production in the US comes from coal?

    Wind and solar don't work all the time. You can't have gaps in electrical production.

    There is no ability for spinning reserves when the sun isn't out and the wind isn't blowing.

    Fossil fuels aren't going away. There is a giant boom in natural gas right now. If anything electrical production from fossil fuel is about to jump.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 2:14 AM, BobWallace wrote:

    Nothing works all the time. Nuclear plants have about a 90% capacity, coal plants about a 85% capacity. We have to design our grids to deal with very large plants going down, sometimes without warning.

    Wind and solar are much easier to manage. They don't fail catastrophically like thermal plants do. And they are more distributed which means that they ramp up and down more evenly rather than abruptly.

    We've got quite a bit of dispatchable generation on our grids. Gas and hydro are dispatchable. We've got 21 GW of pump-up hydro and CAES storage that we built in order to use nuclear on our grids.

    We've got quite a bit of ability to operate around the variability of wind and solar. Our grids could be converted to about 40% wind and solar before we'd need more storage or dispatchable generation.

    Coal certainly is going away. We're down from around 55% coal to 35% in 2012. And we've got somewhere between 100 and 200 coal plants targeted for closure. Coal, as a large investment bank stated, is a dead man walking.

    Natural gas will linger on for a while. Largely because it is dispatchable. But we're seeing battery technology coming on line that should start replacing some of our gas peaker plants.

    Rates will fall. Wind is decreasing the cost of electricity already in places like Texas which have a lot of wind capacity installed.

    We need more solar before it starts to cut electricity prices. Germany is way ahead of us and in 2012 solar cut the wholesale price of electricity by over $5 billion. Solar eliminates purchasing very expensive peaker power.

    One thing you may not realize. Coal is our most expensive electricity generator. Not based on what we pay at the meter. But what we pay in tax dollars and health insurance premiums due to the health damage from coal pollution. Coal-electricity is close to twice as expensive as solar.

    (A wise investor recognizes all the costs.)

    The boom in natural gas is pretty much over. We've found that many of the wells drop very significantly in output about a year after they come on line. That means that we have to drill new wells or re-frack the old ones. That's driving up the cost of NG. It's more than doubled off its bottom of a year or so back.

    Wind and solar keep on getting cheaper. For a while our grid will use wind and solar when they are available and fill in with natural gas. As time goes on we'll replace NG with storage. We've got battery storage that's only a little higher than NG generation and battery prices will almost certainly drop.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 2:42 AM, BilFoxsoapbox wrote:

    I'm betting on the Jetson's flying car and fusion power to happen before electric cars are practical.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 3:09 AM, TMFBiggles wrote:

    @ BobWallace -

    I'm really glad you decided to contribute to the comment thread here. Thanks for bringing all this information to the table! I might just have to write an update for next week based on all the stuff you've posted.

    - Alex

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 6:07 AM, vrazmov wrote:

    Has any research been done/published for current EVs (or for hybrids) about the health impact on the passengers from the (low-frequency) electromagnetic fields generated when electricity moves from batteries to engine(s) and back (during regenerative braking)?

    After all, a few hundred volts can be transferred back and forth depending on the workload, as I understand it -- which seems significant for the strength of the generated EM field, and even more so if the transfer cable passes literally inches under your seat (as is the case with Toyota Prius, for example).

    Thanks for any pointers or information!

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 10:28 AM, atkinskd wrote:

    Until Nuclear power adopts the many smaller plants vs few Enormous plants the Greenhouse gas issue is virtually untouched. The net savings would be emissions from idling alone. The 'greenest' energy is nuclear by measure of emissions. A ton of research needs to be done on recycle and reclamation of nuclear waste products. By using smaller plants that have clearly defined commission-decommission cycles that can be readily and comaparatively easily done, the bias of greenhouse emissions is moot. IMHO the idea behind EV's is that their product life cycle is far shorter than an ICE making the # turns on repeat purchases higher and making driving a luxury for those who can afford it, ultimately 'clearing' the roads of congestion.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 11:52 AM, Johny205 wrote:

    Exchanging a battery sounds pretty risky to me. As expensive as these batteries are, I would be very reluctant to swap a new, or newer, battery for another battery that could be in worse shape or a lot older.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 6:04 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "Exchanging a battery sounds pretty risky to me."

    With the Tesla model you would exchange your own battery for a "rental" at some point in a long trips. You would be required/expected/whatever to return and swap in your own battery at the end of the trip.

    You'd just be renting a different battery during long trips and leaving yours "at home".

    I suspect battery swaps are not going to be a big part of EV driving. The Tesla model has owners paying $80 for a 1.5 minute swap in order to not have to spend 20 minutes getting a free charge.

    Not many of us would do that, especially considering that we could eat/pee/check our messages while our car was charging.

    --

    If batteries did not improve enough to reach the "threshold of acceptability", about 180 miles, then swapping would be a very good way to solve the long distance travel problem.

    Better Place's swapping system was even faster than Tesla's, 73 seconds vs. 90 seconds.

    To make battery swapping work the best approach would probably be to greatly standardize EV batteries. At least only a few different sizes/shapes. Keep inventory levels low at exchange stations.

    Then, lease batteries rather than selling them. That way there would be no concern about losing control of your battery and ending up with an inferior one.

    You might pay a 'mileage fee' for the distance you drive on a leased battery which you charge on your own and an 'exchange fee' when you do a quick swap.

    Leasing would make the initial purchase price of EVs lower. As long as the cost worked out to about the same cost as owning over the life of the vehicle there should be no complaint.

    But I think we'll see "200 mile" EVs that can be recharged to 90% capacity in less than 20 minutes soon. In less than three years is my best guess.

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2013, at 6:10 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "Until Nuclear power" - let it go.

    Nuclear is not cheap, has never been cheap, and no one in the industry seems to think that it could be cheap in the foreseeable future.

    Nuclear's lifetime carbon footprint is a bit higher than wind's and a bit lower than PV solar's. All three are low enough that there's no basis for picking one over the other based on CO2. They all have lifetime carbon footprints less than 5% of coal's.

    Wind is cheap. Solar is getting cheap and should be as cheap as wind in very short years.

    Wind is a very excellent way to charge EVs.

    Neither wind or solar produce dangerous, radioactive waste.

  • Report this Comment On June 25, 2013, at 4:28 PM, BobWallace wrote:

    "I'm betting on the Jetson's flying car and fusion power to happen before electric cars are practical."

    Back in the very early 1980s I switched my business from ledger books, paper tape adding machines, and typewriters to Apple II computers.

    Around me other business owners were saying things like "I'd never trust a computer", "They're too expensive", "Computers will never replace paper records". And look at us now.

    Yes, EVs are still expensive. Without the federal subsidy they wouldn't pay for themselves.

    And yes, ranges are low. They have enough range for about a third of all drivers but not 100%.

    The Apple II was incredibly limited and expensive 'back then'. Technology marched forward.

    (I won't be using your advice for any of my investments. ;o)

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2013, at 5:49 PM, JadedFoolalex wrote:

    "The earliest autos simply had to be better than a horse, which is limited by biology to a certain speed and a certain work capacity. A horse doesn't have an R&D budget or an assembly line, and you have to clean up after it, which is pretty gross. Its obsolescence was inevitable."

    I'd like to see your vehicle find it's way home after you've been out for dinner and drinks! Or get it's fuel from your lawn! Besides, a horse will keep you warm for days! Let's see your vehicle do that without refills.

    Mr. Wallace:

    You have punctured your own arguments for EVs. They require SUBSIDIES!! The Germans are moving away from Solar and WInd because they are just too damned expensive to support. Guess what they are moving to? That's right, COAL!!!

    As for fossil fuels going away, that remains doubtful. There is just too much demand for them. They are still by far the cheapest form of energy known to Man and you can argue for their demise all you want, they are not going away in your or my lifetime!

    What this article also doesn't mention is that all batteries lose their charge-holding capability in cold weather faster than in warm weather. So, for colder climes, you'll be buying batteries at a faster rate. Maybe in a few decades from now, but not now.

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2013, at 6:41 PM, stevedb wrote:

    We are in the MF community because we are, presumably, smart investors. Many of these very impassioned comments are tinged with political bias, one way or another. The question for us is not whether EVs are good or bad or the inevitable future or not but only - would you invest in Tesla stock? All you folks out there who are so encouraged about the future of EVs, have you invested in ANY of the companies in that ecosystem? If not, well stop boring me. BTW, I have not done so.

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2013, at 7:09 PM, BarryInLA wrote:

    I have been very happy with my Prius hybrid since 2005. A plug-in hybrid could be the best of both worlds, with a broad selection of range/cost for many different driving patterns. I am considering one for my next vehicle. My commute is only 2 miles, but I often take MUCH longer trips for both business and pleasure. A lengthy recharge would be, for me, a deal-stopper.

    One factor that often gets missed in the analysis of EVs is the inefficiency of the electric grid.

    Depending on how far one is from the generation, losses can exceed 50%, on top of the relatively low efficiency of most fossil fuel plants.

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2013, at 8:11 PM, todamo13 wrote:

    Fossil fuels are only "cheap" because so many of the costs are externalized onto the public- disease caused by toxic pollution in the air and water, contaminated water from pipeline spills and fracking, mercury spread over the land from burning coal, wasting millions of gallons of water fracking each well, etc. The biggest externalization would be global warming.

    Put the true costs into the price for fossil fuels and they make solar and wind cheap by comparison.

    Solar is getting cheaper and more capable all the time, and some day soon we'll all be able to have little power plants on our rooftops. As batteries improve, we'll be set.

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2013, at 11:53 PM, ThorsteinVeblen wrote:

    I just drove my cousin's Tesla S and all I can say is wow, what a car. Crazy acceleration, super quiet, refined, tons of room. It leaves a BMW M5 in the dust. He loves it and I can see why. The giant iPad on the dashboard works very well for all controls, interior is classy, seats super comfortable and adjustable. I can't wait to see what they can do with the lower cost model. I didn't think Tesla would pull it off, but they have.

  • Report this Comment On June 29, 2013, at 12:27 AM, wammoorm wrote:

    No one has talked about batteries providing heating or air conditioning and how that affects their range.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2013, at 5:09 AM, thidmark wrote:

    "Wind is decreasing the cost of electricity already in places like Texas"

    As a Texas resident, I can assure you that this is complete bulls--t.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:58 AM, KeytoClearskies wrote:

    Aesop Institute is an elaborate fraud, operated by Mark Goldes.

    Mark Goldes, starting in the mid-seventies, engaged for several years in the pretense that his company SunWind Ltd was developing a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-powered "windmobile," based on the windmobile invented by James Amick; and that therefore SunWind would be a wonderful investment opportunity.

    After SunWind "dried up" in 1983, Goldes embarked on the long-running pretense that his company Room Temperature Superconductors Inc was developing room-temperature superconductors; and that therefore Room Temperature Superconductors Inc would be a wonderful investment opportunity. He continues the pretense that the company developed something useful, even to this day.

    And then Goldes embarked on the pretense that his company Magnetic Power Inc was developing "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on "Virtual Photon Flux;" and then, on the pretense that MPI was developing horn-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on the resonance of magnetized tuning-rods; and then, on the pretense that his company Chava Energy was developing water-fueled engines based on "collapsing hydrogen orbitals;" and then, on the pretense that he was developing ambient-heat-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES." Goldes has even claimed that Jacob T. Wainwright already patented an ambient-heat-powered engine 100 years ago - even though Wainwright himself certainly never made any such claim, at all. Wainwright's only patent for a turbine or engine was not for any ambient-heat-powered engine, but for a pressurized-gaseous-fluid-powered engine. The innovation of the patent was the use of water to reduce speed - not any use of ambient heat.

    Goldes' forty-year career of "revolutionary invention" pretense has nothing to do with science, but only with pseudoscience and pseudophysics - his lifelong stock-in-trade.

    I have spent months investigating the career of Mark Goldes, Aesop Institute's Perpetual Scam Machine.

    1976: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims to have developed a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-propelled, wind-rechargeable "windmobile" that could reach 60 mph. Goldes has never developed any roadworthy windmobile.

    1998: Goldes fools the gullible US Air Force with his "room temperature superconductor" scam, receiving over four hundred thousand dollars in "Innovative Research" grants. Goldes has never produced any superconductor.

    2005: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims that his company, MPI, is developing "Magnetic Power Modules" based on "Virtual Photon Flux."

    2008: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims that "MPI is also developing breakthrough magnetic energy technologies including POWERGENIE (Power Generation of Electricity by Nondestructive Interference of Energy)." The basic idea of POWERGENIE is to generate electricity from sound energy, by blowing a horn at a magnetized tuning rod. Goldes claims to have "run an electric car for more than 4,800 miles with no need to plug-in." According to Goldes, "[MPI] Revenues from licenses and Joint Ventures are conservatively projected to exceed $1 billion annually by 2012."

    2009: Goldes seeks investors with fraudulent claims that his latest scamporation, Chava Energy, "has been developing enhanced theoretical and practical paths that lead towards commercialization of energy conversion systems that utilize hydrinos." He now claims to be "developing a Self Powered Internal Combustion Engine – SPICE(tm) powered by hydrinos." ("Hydrinos" are pure fiction and do not exist.)

    "For over 20 years Mark Goldes has claimed his company MPI has been developing machines that generate energy for free. In over 20 years his company has not presented one shred of evidence that they can build such machines...

    "For the past five years Mark Goldes has been promising generators 'next year.' He has never delivered. Like 'Alice in Wonderland' there will always be jam tomorrow, but never jam today."

    - Penny Gruber, December 2008

    - Gruber's comment was written almost five years ago - but it's just as true today - except that MPI, Goldes' corporation that he claimed would bring in one billion dollars in revenue from his horn-powered generator in 2012, is now defunct, having never produced any "Magnetic Power Modules" - just as his company called "Room Temperature Superconductors Inc" is also now defunct, having never produced any "room temperature superconductors." Evidently there's a limit to how many years in a row the same company can claim it will finally have something to demonstrate "next year." Now Goldes has a new scamporation, Chava Energy.

    Goldes' current favorite scam is an engine that would run on ambient heat - which is clearly ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But of course, the laws of physics always make an exception for the scams of Mark Goldes.

    Mark Goldes is a textbook-ready example of a highly talented con artist who clearly takes pleasure in fooling people with his ludicrous claims, artfully peppered with pseudoscientific rubbish.

    Make no mistake: Mark Goldes' scamtastic Aesop Institute is a ZERO-STAR nonprofit.

    Let's look at just one example of Goldes' offerings in "revolutionary new technology:"

    Most Ludicrous Scamvention: Mark Goldes' "POWERGENIE"

    One of the most laughable of Mark Goldes' many invention scams is his "POWERGENIE" horn-powered generator. The brilliant idea of this revolutionary breakthrough is to blow a horn at a magnetized tuning rod, designed to resonate at the frequency of the horn, and then collect the electromotive energy produced by the vibrations of the rod.

    I'm not making this up.

    POWERGENIE tuning rod engine explained - from the patent:

    [The device incorporates] "an energy transfer and multiplier element being constructed of a ferromagnetic substance... having a natural resonance, due to a physical structure whose dimensions are directly proportional to the wavelength of the resonance frequency..."

    "In this resonant condition, the rod material functions as a tuned waveguide, or longitudinal resonator, for acoustic energy."

    "Ferrite rod 800 is driven to acoustic resonance at the second harmonic of its fundamental resonant frequency by acoustic horn 811, resulting in acoustic wave 816 within the rod having two nodal points... Bias magnet 801 produces magnetic flux 802 extending axially through both nodal points developed within rod 800... The sum electromotive force of coils 820 and 821 develops electrical current and power in resistive load 830."

    - But the patent doesn't tell us who is going to volunteer blow the horn at the rod all day. Perhaps it will come with an elephant.

    Goldes claimed in 2008 that this wonderful triumph of human genius would bring his company, Magnetic Power Inc, one billion dollars in annual revenue by 2012. Magnetic Power Inc is now defunct, having never produced any "Magnetic Power Modules" - just as his company called "Room Temperature Superconductors Inc" is also now defunct, having never produced any "room temperature superconductors."

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