• Dec 21, 2010
In a column sure to bring about more electric vehicle controversy, Washington Post columnist Charles Lane lays out a large amount of EV bashing. Wait, haven't we heard something like this before? Indeed, we have. About a year-and-a-half ago, the very same columnist said GM would be better off without the Chevrolet Volt. Looks like Lane hasn't changed his tune.

The new arrows in Lane's quiver come in the form of a report released in late October by J.D. Power and Associates titled "Drive Green 2020: More Hope than Reality." You can read the entire 72-page report here in case you want to draw your own conclusions, but the gist is that consumers don't want to spend any extra money to drive more efficient vehicles. The report is arguably a pessimistic guess at where plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicle sales will be by 2020. J.D. Power's estimate of total U.S. BEV sales in 2020 is just 107,000 units, which represents less than one percent of passenger-vehicle sales.

Lane's view on the topic can best be summed up with this snippet of his article:
In short, the Obama administration's commitment of $5 billion in loans and grants for electric cars is the biggest taxpayer rip-off since corn-based ethanol. It benefits no one but a few well-to-do car buyers and politically connected companies. Any "green" jobs these rent-seeking firms create will vanish when consumers reject their products and/or the subsidies cease.
Lane's article was written a while ago, but it's still worth bringing up, as he's one of the constant anti-plug-in voices on the national scene. It's worth it to hear criticisms of plug-in vehicles, but when they contain lines like, "[plug-in] vehicles serve no particular purpose, environmental or economic," we know that this isn't a fair article.

[Source: Washington Post]


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  • 41 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sorry but that article is dead on. All the wishful thinking in the world isn't going to get you more of a market share than that. And I say that as poossibly the ideal EV plug in owner. (reasonable 15 mile commute, interested in the technology etc.etc..) Regardless of what China does, I wish THIS government would concentrate on increasing the overall fleet mileage as opposed to chasing magic bullets that nobody in the market want nor want to pay for.. How about improving the least efficient and most popular segments. The consumer truck segment is a fact of life. All the gnashing of teeth by the enviro groups isn't going to change that. So how about allowing/developing hybrids and diesels for the for truck markets. You could see 10-15% increase in fleet mileage without subsidizing anyone. I know... if there's no opportunity for graft and subsidies then what's in it for the pols... same old same old..
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hybrids and diesels are available for the truck market.

        The GMC/Chevrolet hybrid V8 trucks boost mpg from 15 city/21 highway to 20/23. That's a nice jump. However I believe the hybrid models don't sell well.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well it's pretty simple for some people. If you're in an area/utility powered by coal, you can choose whether this makes sense for you or not. Maybe you want to stop sending your oil money to the A-rabs in the middle east who buy guns to shoot at our troops. Maybe you WANT to buy that coal-generated electricity because that coal is produced in YOUR state and supports your local/state economy and jobs. Coal is also cheap. It's probably still cheaper to drive an EV/PHEV with coal-generated electrons than straight petrol. What a WIN! Local jobs! Locally sourced, and CHEAP!(er) More money in your pocket every time you'd be filling up. What's not to like?

If you're in an area/utility with varying/mixed electricity generation sources you can choose whether this makes sense for you or not. I live in west Texas with various generation sources. I can see no less than 60 utility grade wind towers from my house on the horizon (and 1 private one about 1/8 mile away in a neighbor's yard spinning all the time). I've strongly considered putting up my own wind turbine in my yard. There's an OVER-abundance of wind in my area (Tuscola, TX). Absent putting up my own turbine I do have a choice of electric providers and currently subscribe to a 100%-wind sourced provider. If I choose to replace my current 20- mpg vehicle with an EV or PHEV then it'll save me a lot of dollars in vehicle fuel expense annually. I get to keep my dollars from heading to the middle east. I support my local economy and job (local wind generators), and would save for vehicle fuel compared to current petrol costs.

      Only place you might have trouble making the economic/national security argument is in the corn/ethanol states. They like petrol cars because they get a gov't subsidy to sell their ethanol into every gallon of gasoline. If they all drove E85 vehicles they're still burning 15% dino-petrol and giving money to the middle east. IF, they all drove DIESELS, and filled with B100 biodiesel THEN they have a fully legitimate reason for keeping a full ICE-powered vehicle. The truth is that we'll still need a huge amount of oil imported for decades into the future to power our current fleet of vehicles on the road, even if we started seeing a progressive migration to EV/PHEV. There's more than enough demand for ethanol and (future) biodiesel demand (for trucking/trains) to keep the corn states rich.

      If you are trying to debate with an EV critic, skip the environmental arguments. They just don't care or believe. This is America! Stick with the MONEY arguments and national security arguments. We need to keep these Dollars HERE, keep people employed HERE, and STOP sending oil dollars to the middle east. These aren't easily refuted/debated points. Stick to your strong points and if you don't win them over outright you can at least chip away at their certainty.

      It took YEARS, to get people to wake up that Iraq was a mistake. I had to watch slowly as my relatives came around, one after another, SLOWLY. All the salient points and logical reasoning wasn't enough to make them 'wake up' in just one debate. They had to go through the process, and get hammered with reason/knowledge repeatedly over YEARS.

      Go forth, argue them on their ground (Money, National Security) and they're more likely to listen on those topics than some eco-hippie stuff they don't believe in or care about.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "If you are trying to debate with an EV critic, skip the environmental arguments. They just don't care or believe. This is America! Stick with the MONEY arguments and national security arguments." This!

        100X over.

        The tree-huggers do not need any convincing. The reactionaries need to see the wisdom. This is why I think that recycled plastics bit in the Volt was stupid and not worth touting.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Was there an email link to the author of the piece, or a comments section
      under the article? Go there and give them reasoned, articulate answers
      to the contrary. Don't just vent here. We need to keep this on the front
      burner. The adoption of alternate transportation technologies should be
      important across the political spectrum. I know plenty of 'Right-wing-nuts",
      like myself, who champion alternatives to getting off oil, and I'm making
      my views known to my representatives, whether they are Democrats,
      Republicans, Libertarians, or something else. We have to get everyone
      on board, or this ship isn't sailing. Your finger-pointing rhetoric, and demonization
      of the Right is counter-productive.

      Send them letters, send them emails - but don't do as you do here, by
      starting your communication with demeaning pejoratives and insults.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yep . . . when you are right, you are right.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Lane is obviously fortunate enough to have an infinite oil well at the bottom of his garden.
      If oil were $20/barrel, then no-one would bother with electrifying transport.
      As oil climbs north of $100 barrel, with no end in sight to it's rise other than recession to reduce demand, there is no practical alternative.
      If Chinese car ownership climbs to Japanese levels they will go up to around 455 million light vehicles on the road in the next few years, up from the current 130 million.
      That increase is more than the total current US fleet.
      Under no estimate are oil supplies going to be sufficient to power them, disregarding demand in the rest of the world.

      The choice is electrifying or walking, not electrifying or carrying on as at present.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Geronimo,
        As I also say elsewhere in this thread, the pollution consequences of petrol cars are indeed severe.
        However there is no evidence that if cheap oil were available Governments would do anything about it, in the way of moving on to alternative forms of transport, rather than tightening standards.
        It's oil getting progressively more scarce and expensive which is driving change.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's a rather one-sided view you're presenting. However, all fossil fuels have a two-sided argument. One side is the price, the other - and far worse - is pollution. The prices tangent the economic scale; we could still live with distorted prices even though it might become outrageous. Once our environment is completely destabilized / disrupted it won't matter any more if prices are high or low. The way it is right now, the cost of healthy living is becoming extortional.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @David Martin.

        Exactly, I say the same to others, that demand and use of oil with China and India coming on board wanting to live in ways like the western world such as with vehicle ownership is NOT sustainable given Peak Oil.

        We just don't sustainably have enough oil for everyone in both developed and developing countries to live in the current western fashion that we do - into the future.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oh jeez . . . more GIGO. Garbage-In, Garbage-Out.

      How can people ever come to logical conclusions when they start with bogus information:
      1) "And electrics don't reliably reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since, as often as not, the electricity to charge their batteries will come from coal-fired plants." As often as not? Do they think we flip a coin to get electricity. We know exactly where the electricity comes from and it is only 50% coal. And even when it is purely coal-generated electricity, it is break even. But since the electricity is only 50% coal generated, it is a net win on CO2.
      2) "the disposal of depleted battery packs presents yet another environmental challenge." . . . completely bogus. They are stuck in the old-school lead-acid & NIMH mindset. Modern automotive Li-IOns are NON TOXIC. Just ask the BYD CEO who drank his own electrolyte. google it.
      3) It then cites other studies . . . that are also based on bogus info like the $1000/KWH for a battery "fact".

      If you go back and read the what the Obama Car czar commission said about the Volt, they were EXTREMELY skeptical about it and only said it would pay off in the long long-term. They were NOT super-optmistic about the Volt. And that was the exact correct position.

      But people will always come along to re-write history.

      The Volt is a good start. Is it economically practical today? NO! But it is relatively close and just a first start. And as gas prices go up and the EV technology improves, all these fools will be eating their words. It is no accident that EVERY major car marker now has some type of EV or PHEV program in the works. They are not doing it to impress Obama.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Heh. For every history re-writer, there are 4 or 5 pre-writers.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Vote for your favorite car:
      http://www.autoblog.com/2010/12/16/2011-north-american-car-and-truck-of-the-year-finalists-shortlis/
      Hyundai Sonata is winning now, Volt in second place and LEAF in third.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well it's pretty simple for some people. If you're in an area/utility powered by coal, you can choose whether this makes sense for you or not. Maybe you want to stop sending your oil money to the A-rabs in the middle east who buy guns to shoot at our troops. Maybe you WANT to buy that coal-generated electricity because that coal is produced in YOUR state and supports your local/state economy and jobs. Coal is also cheap. It's probably still cheaper to drive an EV/PHEV with coal-generated electrons than straight petrol. What a WIN! Local jobs! Locally sourced, and CHEAP!(er) More money in your pocket every time you'd be filling up. What's not to like?

      If you're in an area/utility with varying/mixed electricity generation sources you can choose whether this makes sense for you or not. I live in west Texas with various generation sources. I can see no less than 60 utility grade wind towers from my house on the horizon (and 1 private one about 1/8 mile away in a neighbor's yard spinning all the time). I've strongly considered putting up my own wind turbine in my yard. There's an OVER-abundance of wind in my area (Tuscola, TX). Absent putting up my own turbine I do have a choice of electric providers and currently subscribe to a 100%-wind sourced provider. If I choose to replace my current
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, I know it is not popular with the hardcore green crowd but I'd much rather burn domestic produced coal (in a plant with a really good emission-scrubber system) than foreign oil purchased from some dictator. It is a lesser of evils. Reduce the trade deficit and stop sending money to people that hate us.

        That said, I plan to install a PV system on my roof so I drive on my own generated electricity.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "..we know that this isn't a fair article."

      It's his opinion, fairness has nothing to do with it. You can agree or not, counter his points or not, or accept that some folks just don't agree tax payers should be subsidizing sales of a particular type of car.

        • 4 Years Ago
        When you are article is filled with blatantly false statements, it is indeed unfair.

        For example, the modern automotive Li-Ions are non toxic . . . thus the statement about disposing of the batteries is a complete falsehood. I don't think it was intentional by this author, just ignorant.
      Bill
      • 4 Years Ago
      I forgot to add this sobering thought: if you think oil is expensive now, with emerging markets vieing with China and India's rapidly expanding economies, just wait until the African continent jumps into the bidding process for oil on a larger scale. We've all read articles about China's significant investments there, and it may take decades, but they are on track as a continent to catch up to per capita consumption on pace with the aforementioned countries.

      Given that, I'd rather build a gas station " On my roof"
      • 4 Years Ago
      For a country at war you better believe they serve a purpose. Americans should be self sacrificing at a time when our troops are making the ultimate sacrifice in some cases. Yes the Volt and Leaf are more expensive than gas equivalents, but it lessens our dependence on terrorists and international bullies and the terrorist organizations they flow money to. Global warming and cash saving merits are certainly debatable but anyone who would PREFER American $$$ going to Iran, Venezuela, and Nigeria while our men and women are dying from Money they flow to bomb making terrorists is a coward and a traitor.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "It'll never work!" http://ow.ly/3sVkB

      • 4 Years Ago
      What's this.. another opinion piece to rule up all the blog posters/readers here?

      Another slow day at autobloggreen, apparently.
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