Monday, January 12, 2009

The push for electric vehicles

I admit ... I don't get it. The North American International Auto Show in Detroit starts on Saturday, but journalists are getting a preview of what's going to be on display - including Chrysler's two electric vehicles.

Many on the left side of the political spectrum are pushing for electric vehicles - and automakers are responding, primarily because there are tax credits for doing so.

Electric vehicles are touted as being more 'green' and for moving us away from our dependency on foreign oil.

Of course, I have many questions about this, which causes my confusion over why so many think this is a good thing.

1) We are only dependent upon foreign oil because we don't take maximum advantage of our OWN oil. (Naturally, that highlights the point that those using the phrase 'foreign oil' really mean 'oil' ... but that's another argument for another time.) So if we wanted to be free from dependency on other nations, we could open up any available source domestically, but that logic seems to escape most of the people making the argument in the first place.

2) Have you seen the electricity prices in this area? The same politicians who are talking about how great electric vehicles are happen to be the same politicians complaining that we have the highest electric/utility bills in the state. How in the world would any local resident be better off with a vehicle that would INCREASE what they pay for 'fuel'?

3) Do you know how we get electricity? We get it from coal-burning or nuclear plants. While there is clean-coal technology that plants are beginning to incorporate, most of the electricity in this country is produced by methods that electric car supporters happen to oppose. So we're being told to switch to a vehicle whose source of fuel is as bad as oil?

And what about President-elect Barack Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry? Where will we get the electricity if he's successful in keeping that promise?

4) Electric vehicles require batteries. Has anyone thought about how those batteries will be disposed of when they are no longer functional? Have you tried lately to replace a regular car battery and then dispose of the old one? What will be the process for the larger batteries used to 'fuel' the electric car - and will there be enough of an aftermarket to make recycling worthwhile? And if so, for how long?

5) How practical are these types of vehicles? Most are good only for short ranges, though the WhiteStar Sedan can get up to 250 miles from a single charge. However, that vehicle was expected to cost between $50-65,000. A bit high for most car buyers. Additionally, it takes six hours to charge it.

George Peterson, president of AutoPacific Inc., an automotive market research firm in Tustin, CA, said of the WhiteStar:

"You will never be able to justify its purchase price based on the fuel savings," Peterson said. "It's almost purely an ego purchase. Driving it will make you feel good."

Now, there may come a time when all these issues are addressed efficiently enough to make an electric vehicle a cost effective choice. But until then, I'm not inclined to own one - at least, not just to 'feel good' - and I won't be lured by all the hype and political correctness.

5 comments:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

The point of electric cars is not to better the environment, but to force us to reduce our mobility. The limited range of electric cars feeds into public transportation (government subsidized, of course)and further government influence in our life.

As a side note to the things that you have already noted, who is going to make up the lost tax revenues for the gasoline that will not be purchased?

Mad Jack said...

The Electric Vehicle Argument

We are only dependent upon foreign oil because we don't take maximum advantage of our OWN oil. (Naturally, that highlights the point that those using the phrase 'foreign oil' really mean 'oil' ... but that's another argument for another time.)

It wouldn't matter much if we did take advantage of our own oil in the US. Which, by the way, would mean destroying otherwise pristine wilderness and playing an Exxon Valdez style slot machine with the landscape. The technology to control a major oil spill hasn't been developed and won't be until the US government forces the issue. More to the point any oil originating from the US is sold on the open market, meaning that if I own an oil well and I can make more money selling my oil to, say, Japan, then that's where my oil is headed. Japan, not Detroit. The oil company mouthpieces in Congress that howl the loudest about foreign oil dependency are not talking about foreign oil. Their howling drowns out any discussion of the real problem which is oil dependency in almost all facets of manufacturing and the howler monkey's own reluctance to admit that any solution to US dependency would cut into their own grossly inflated profits.

Have you seen the electricity prices in this area? The same politicians who are talking about how great electric vehicles are happen to be the same politicians complaining that we have the highest electric/utility bills in the state. How in the world would any local resident be better off with a vehicle that would INCREASE what they pay for 'fuel'?

Because there is no shortage of electricity, because perception of a problem is everything (my car doesn’t use much gas!) and because if the general public awakened from their torpor long enough to realize just how badly the government of Toledo screwed them when Davis-Bessee was built and when Toledo Edison 'merged' with FirstEnergy there would likely be over 100,000 people marching on Carty's Castle with pitchforks, torches, tar and feathers. These are the very same politicos that encouraged high utility rates, high taxes and the Portside mall. They're the same people that can't provide their constituents with a balanced budget, meaning that the government must somehow spend less than it takes in.

As Maggie points out, the very same people that are heralding the arrival of the electric car as a major milestone in Western civilization are the same environmental terrorists that decry any and all power plants as the work of the great evil one. We can't use wind turbines either, because they kill birds.

The question about batteries and electric cars is a good one, and again, is something the auto manufacturers don't want to talk about. Batteries are expensive and must be replaced every four to six years. The cost for replacement can go as high as $10,000 (No, I'm not citing a source. Go look it up for yourself, if you can find anything). Disposal of used batteries isn't a problem right now because there aren't any, and if this problem is handled the same way the big three handle all their other problems it'll be twenty years before the problem is even officially recognized.

Some of us do recognize The Anointed One for what he really is, and I'm not looking forward to the next eight years. Originally I'd hoped that Hitlery would be kept out of the White House, but naturally The One has appointed Herself to a position that she is distinctly unqualified to hold. I suppose The One will replace coal fired power plants with wind turbines and solar panels (I would have said nuclear plants but that solution might work). In the US our automobiles will be replaced by public transportation which is not only clean and politically correct but has the added advantage of allowing the government to assist people in traveling where the government knows they need to be and to help the civilians arrive in a timely manner. The government will feel good about being able to help, and we civilians will feel good about helping the government feel good - a real feel good solution for everyone. Too bad the US isn't a third world nation like India, where the compressed air car might be marketed next year.

Air car may blow in next year

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/air-car-may-blow-in-next-year/00/01/345831/

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've read the compressed air car by Tata Motors is 8.69 feet long, 5.31 feet wide, travels 930 miles on half a gallon of gas with a top speed of about 80 MPH and sells for around $1800. The last I heard was that it 'failed US safety standards'. The obvious question revolves around US emission standards which seem to be somewhat flexible. Cannot the impeding safety standards be made flexible enough to allow the compressed air car into the US, or would this tend to impede the feel good solution that we so desperately need?

Maggie Thurber said...

MadJack - modern drilling techniques can address many of the issues of maintaining the 'naturalness' of an area where a drill is located.

While we are not perfect and the issue of spills exists, it is because we are human...increased technology can help reduce such concerns to extremely small numbers. Remember the Exxon Valdez spill was 'human error' and happened 20 years ago.

Increasing the supply of oil from within our borders would reduce overall global costs and give buyers more options than we currently have. The majority of our oil comes from within North America (Canada, Mexico, South America), though that fact is rarely mentioned in any news coverage.

But you make some good points on the other issues...

Stix said...

You also have to take into account that you need to get a new battery for these cars every so often and they usually cost between $600-$15000 for a new battery. And do you know where these batteries come from. The batteries power comes from toxic stuff that needs to be mined and clears out a whole area much more than any oil well will ever do.

It is better for the environment to use gas powered cars right now. In the future if the battery packs are improved and use less toxic materials to power the batteries it might be worth it,but right now it is worse for the environment and does not justify the cost of buying the electric car over a gas powered car.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

There ya go again, getting all logical on us.

If you did this on Brian's show, he'd have to hang up on you :-)

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