• Apr 2nd 2010 at 2:53PM
  • 197
In Episode 1.1 of Translogic, we went behind the scenes at Tesla Motors, the upstart electric car manufacturer. While Tesla's revolutionary electric sports car has generated a huge buzz, the big auto companies have two key models of their own set to launch later this year. The Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf electric both promise owners green bragging rights over even the most sanctimonious Prius driver. Interest among young people is understandably huge, and the marketing campaigns have certainly played to this demographic. But these new cars present their own unique roadblocks to ownership for the typical 20-something. 1. Priced out of the market
If you're determined to park an electric car in your driveway today, there's but one choice: The $101,500 Tesla Roadster. While that sticker is far from cheap, new models promise to be more affordable. Tesla's second car, the Model S sedan, is slated to cost $49,900 when it goes on sale in 2012. The scuttlebutt on the Volt's as-yet-unannounced price says it could be a sub-$30,000 car. Nissan has set the Leaf's effective purchase price at just $25,280, which is the most promising news yet if you want to be an electric early-adopter.

2. The taxman
But before you head down to your local credit union and ask for 25 G's to buy a Leaf, you should know why the car manufacturers put asterisks next to the prices. Those numbers aren't the actual amount you need to buy the car, as they reflect a $7,500 tax credit you get from the IRS for buying a "qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle." To get the credit, you have to file Form 8936 with your Federal 1040 at tax time, which means that you're likely going to have to wait for your rebate check from Uncle Sam to actually pocket the money. Worse yet for young people with lower incomes, you'll have to have a pretty nice salary to be able to take the tax credit. Assuming you're single without kids, you'd need to make over $54,000 a year to have enough of a tax liability to take the credit.

3. Where to plug in?
Okay, so you've got a great job, and you've got the cash to buy your dream car and the income level to get the tax credit. One quick question: Do you live in an apartment? Because unlike a regular car, you're going to have to plug this thing in somewhere to refuel it, and throwing an extension cord out the window isn't going to cut it. Until there's an infrastructure built to accommodate quick-charging outside the home, electric car owners will need to have home charging stations installed. These are typically going to require 220-volt connections, like the kind a clothes dryer or electric range typically use. Nissan expects these chargers to cost about $2200, and they'll require professional installation. Bottom line here is that if you're a garage-less renter, you may want to wait to fulfill your electric dreams.

4. Back of the line, kid
If you're still with us at this point, I'm afraid we've got some more bad news: It's probably not going to be easy to get your hands on an electric car for a while. GM only plans to build a few thousand Volts in its first model year. And while Nissan has said it will be producing up to 50,000 Leafs, the company expects demand to be high enough that it has instituted a reservation policy requiring a $99 deposit. Even if you do get on the list, the wait for one of these new cars is likely to be months. Which begs the question, can your college beater last that long?

5. Not your father's Oldsmobile
It's worth mentioning that when it comes to purchasing an electric vehicle, there are other issues worth considering, regardless of your age. Truth be told, the auto manufacturers are probably correct in assuming that most people in the market for an electric will be buying it as a second vehicle. While the range of an electric should be entirely sufficient for most commuting duties, it is beyond challenging to make a long-distance trip in an electric. (When Tesla employees drove one of its Roadsters from company headquarters in California to the Detroit Auto Show, they had to stop at KOA campgrounds to recharge.) Electric cars represent the cutting-edge of automotive technology today, and while exciting, will certainly require a re-calibration of expectations.


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  • 197 Comments
      dejatun
      • 7 Months Ago
      Please Please Please: Yes, the "Volt" will continue to propel itself through the combination of it's system when the electric storage is depleted. The gas engine will then spin an electricity producing unit that will allow the car to move under electric power. "Not" gasoline engine propulsion. So, we do not know yet what kind of performance it will yield under those conditions. Moving on: What the author failed to amplify was the the Teslas cross country refuels at KOA campgrounds or any other suitable source would require 12 hours on 110 Volt and 3 hours on 220 volt chargeing systems. This would be a long journey indeed to cross America even if you did get the claimed 250-300 mile range. The much ballyhooed "Leaf" will be limited to 100 mile range thus, will be a "Captive" of it's own neighborhood. You would be better off with an electric bicycle. Electric cars are not "New" they were on the road in 1914. It's called a "Detroit Electric" It was an elegant and beautiful car for it's day. There was even an EXP Ford electric in 1982. It and others failed in the market for the same reasons these are doomed to fail. They can not compete with ICE's. Until a car will go 300 miles at 75 MPH running every conceivable accessorie simultaneously in BELOW ZERO temperatures and refuel in 10 minutes....NO ONE WILL BUY THEM THAT HAS A BRAIN. Open your physics books kiddies. If you try to shove that many electrons into a storage container that fast you are going to have a miniature Nuclear explosion. This process generates heat. It's like trying to stuff a "Lightening Bolt" into a box. What really disturbs me about the Tesla is the 6,000 batteries. Do you not see a statistical probability of connection and or battery failures with these kinds of numbers. This in a vehicle that is going to do the "RUMBHA" up and down the hiway under all manner of road conditions. Look, these things will serve the purpose of slithering along the California beach front on sunday afternoon and showing off "Political Persuasion" but, they are not going to address fundamental transportation needs for Joe the Plumber and his Betty Lou.
      • 5 Years Ago
      OK, I i wont touch on the mass hysteria, however i was reading a few pages and thought i should lend my insights to those that are looking at electric vehicles.

      first did you know that lithium-ion batteries are extremely temper mental in how they need to be charged/discharged? also let me not forget that they CAN self ignite and cause extremely hot fires? dont believe me, take a walk to your local hobby store and ask the electric r/c enthusist about Lithium-Ion batteries. they have known this for a while; but they have developed a specialized procedure to charge and handle these batteries safely.

      secondly did you know most electrical waste from the us is sold overseas to china and india where it is "recycled" in a very un-ecofriendly way? this was published in several, i.e. more then 4 text books on the subjest of e-waste, at my community college. dont believe that do the research you'll be glad you did.

      thirdly, from a power usage stand point, has anyone thought of how the amperage needed to propel these vehicles will create extreme amounts of heat due to the nature of current flow? also on the subject has anyone thought how corrosive salt is on electrical connections? i have i actually specialize in electrical repair of over-the-road trucks and the most common problem reported in the winter time? lights out, cause corroded wire or connection due to salt.

      for all that are looking into all electric you need to take your blinders off, nuclear energy isnt free, and just because power consumed today isnt that expensive, doesnt mean that when everyone is going electric that the price will stay that way, it too will rise with demand, after all that is basic economics.

      and as for me, i hope they do come up with a viable alternative to gas powered vehicles, but i dont see electric as the wave of the future, for me i will likely replace my 1998 dodge 4x4 v-8 powered gas guzzeler with either a jeep liberty diesel, or dodge diesel pickup. my reasons, it is a proven technology, and is simple to work on with out having a electrical engineering degree.

      but dont let my opinions dis sway you, buy what you want to, after all it is YOUR money on the line, you have to live with any hidden repair costs, and any down time associated with "working out the bugs" but yeah high five you, your going green.

      what time should i pick you up for work when your car is broke down and in the shop for repairs?

      brad in iowa, hoping for a better future.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Where I live the electricity a Tesla would use costs about half of gas. It is not a ten to one reduction in fuel cost. The Tesla takes up to 16.8 kw per hour to charge for up to 3.5 hours. That is 58.8 kw for 236 miles of driving. Also you buy a charger for about $2,500 installed so figure it costs an additional $0.025 per mile cost to switch to an EV (based on 100,000 miles). My electricity costs $0.17 per KW.

      So... 58.8 KW times $0.17 per KW equals $10.44 for 236 miles of driving. Add 2.5 cents per mile for the charger and you are up to $16.34 for 236 miles of electricity. Now figure a gas guzzler gets maybe 23.6 mpg times $3 a gallon for ten gallons and 236 miles you are talking $30 compared to $16.34 for 236 miles for the electric.

      Just did the math quick to make a point.
      aripalda
      • 5 Years Ago
      There's a better solution called subscription based per mile, just like having a cellphone, and you get access to battery charging stations and battery switching stations. Checkout betterplace.com
      • 5 Years Ago
      Electric cars will be little more than a laughable memory in 10 years. The author here is quite on the mark. In addition, want an estimate on operating cost? ... then just run your clothes dryer for 8 hours per day for about a week, then see how much more your electric bill is. As for battery life, subsequent owners of hybrids are already finding out about pseudo economy...getting stuck replacing them. What's more, battery disposal (after their relatively short life cycle) is NOT environmentally friendly. There simply exists no technology to store the static nature of electric energy. This entire thing is a fad with short term benefit for egocentric sorts and the manufacturers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      come on all you people. I hope everyone on here is not clueless. the electric car is the USA's future and why not the rest of the world has been driving all electric cars for more then 2 decades. there way cheaper to buy, way cheaper per mile. electric cars have been around since about 1850. they don't need coal, oil or any of that crap like some clueless people on here seem to think. what about solar, wind & water? all you do is plug the electric car in while you sleep, no need to stop & pump gas ever. there way lighter. it takes way less to make them. do a little researh before you start saying anything bad about our future car, the all electric car. we don't need to wait for some idiot american car maker to double & tripel the price of low cost electric cars that we can buy and use now today. contact me at go_green_go_electric@yahoo.com I'm looking for a partner to sell these cool electric cars now today. thanks
        • 7 Months Ago
        Take note that the person tauting the electric car, is selling them. No conflict of interest here. Bob
        Don
        • 7 Months Ago
        Watch out America! Another "flim flam" man!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Watch the movie "who killed the electric car" its eye opening....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, it is surprising the negativity out there. People the tech is new, thus more costly and not as reliable as it will be, not to say anything about their reliability, we will see on that one. It is laughable how angry some of you are and how much you rail into the ether as if what you are saying is important not paying attention to the fact that the post just before yours said the same thing.
      • 5 Years Ago
      emagine running your drier, stove, or water heater all night long to charge this thing. how much do you think that is going to cost. this is not a cell phone your are charging, this charger is the size of a drier and runs on 220.
        bajohn3
        • 7 Months Ago
        A decent EV will use about 200 watt hours per mile. That means for 30 miles you'll use 6000 watt hours or 6 kilowatt hours. At an average of 15 cents a kilowatt hour that 30 miles will cost you .90 cents. Charge overnight on a dual rate meter and it will be even cheaper. Oh, the horror!
      detkoncp
      • 5 Years Ago
      ELECTRIC CARS WILL NOT STOP GLOBAL WARMING! THEY ARE A PHARCE !!!!!!!
      WHEN YOU PLUG THE CAR INTO A RECEPTACLE TO CHARGE IT, THE ELECTRIC BEING MADE IS FROM BURNING COAL IN MOST CASES. SO EVERY TIME YOU RECHARGE YOU ARE MAKING THE ATMOSPHERE WORSE.
      ANOTHER OBAMINATION !!!!!!!!
      jimbo1350
      • 5 Years Ago
      I can have the plug wired in and ready to go in an afternoon. Ditto at work.
      I can handle the 30k price and rebate structure, just send me the car that doesn't use gas. Next year, when gas is 5 bucks a gallon, everybody will be screaming for one, and they'll be none to be had.
      • 5 Years Ago
      OK feeling green aside, If you remember back a few years when gas was was high and diesel was cheap, (about half the price), every body said hey! lets buy a diesel vehical and save money, Look at deisel now. OK Every body by electric, demand goes up for electricity and so does the price, doesn't any one read the articles in cities strugling to keep up with electrical demand, Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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