Green Update: Electric Naysayers

Fiat 500 Electric engine bay

Last week’s Green Update covered some of the roadblocks ahead for EVs—and we had a good discussion going in the Comments section. It’s very clear that none of the issues ahead for electric cars will be easily solved. But there is a lot of skepticism and naysaying in the car media that isn’t going to help.

One kind of naysaying is saying nothing. That’s what Chrysler did at the recent Automotive News Green Car Conference. Senior Vice President Paolo Ferrero, when asked about the company’s strategy for EV development, said: “We have an electrification strategy, but we cannot yet disclose it.” Ooh, top secret.

Besides the Fiat 500 Electric (not coming until 2012; engine bay above), Paolo said they are going to test some kind of Ram plug-in hybrid pickup and fill the gaps between these two oddly assorted vehicles. That of course is neither a strategy nor a comment to convince us that Chrysler has one.

Newsweek (also without a strategy for survival) ran an article entitled, “Five Reasons Why Tesla Will Never Make Money, According to Tesla,” in which they quote some of the “risk factors” from the company’s recent filing for an IPO.

Tesla Model S EVAmong these were: low production of the Roadster, no production of the Model S until 2012, continuing net losses, dependence on government funding, gossip about Elon Musk, who’s going to buy these cars, and so on.

Now the whole reason for a company to cite risk factors in such a filing is to alert potential investors to problems ahead. And, you can be sure, the rest of the document will put these factors in a context of how they can and will be solved. Otherwise, why bother?

CNET’s Car Tech blog ran a headline that the Nissan Leaf “has 100-mile range—give or take 40 percent,” citing scenarios with stop-and-go traffic on a cold day (range 62 miles), hot weather cruising with air conditioning (70 miles), and normal driving in perfect weather (138 miles).

In other words, your mileage may vary—a lot. Why, yes, EVs will do that, being battery-powered. In terms of the Car Tech headline, such performance is one big negative.

One writer for the Chicago Tribune took it upon himself, however, to explode some of the myths and half-truths about EVs. He tackles five, among them: EVs are slow Nader-esque cars, expensive, unsafe, and difficult to charge.

Well, you and I know that these charges ain’t so. Expensive, yes, until you factor in federal and state rebates, plus cost of operation over time. As to the myth that they won’t produce zero emissions because they use energy from coal-fired plants: Recent studies show that EVs, depending on the type of power plant generation involved, will still reduce CO2 emissions by 11 to 100 percent (hybrids, 24 to 54 percent). Gas-engine cars can’t compete.

So there, you nattering nabobs of negativism.

Do you think stories like these have an effect on potential EV buyers?

—jgoods

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5 Comments

  1. http://www.sherryboschert.com/Downloads/Emissions.pdf
    this is the reference for her collected data but it is not definitive on these numbers by any means. Some of the studies she referenced completely contradict that EVs will reduce Co2 emissions. For me it is a toss up and we could only find out by actually changing the car industry to at least 50 percent electric.

  2. thank you. that study was informative but i couldn’t find those numbers exactly. i will look at Boschert’s references to see what she cited.

  3. @ Will
    I think the Argonne study you want is: Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology Assessment: Methodology, Analytical Issues, and Interim Results, which is online at: http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/TA/244.pdf. However, I didn’t take the time to read through and find these numbers. You could also find the source in Sherry Boschert’s Plug-In Hybrids book that was cited.

  4. i followed the hyperlink to the “recent studies” and it lead me to an article with a reference to an author who wrote a social action piece and it said that her primary source was from argonne national laboratories, but it didn’t list the study in which she referenced. Which study says that ev cars reduce co2 emissions by 11 to 100 percent,or 24 to 54 percent for hybrid vehicles? it goes against my common knowledge so i’d just like to see the study that came up with these revolutionary numbers. can u help me out?

  5. I hope that Chicago Tribune article reaches and has an influence on lots of the folks who’ve fallen for some of the myths about EVs, particularly while the dangers of our dangerous and long-ignored reliance on fossil fuels are on such powerful display in the Gulf of Mexico.

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