Some analysts may want to not just kill the electric car, but pin down it's automotive corpse with a stake. However, others are ready to step up and say that this would be a very serious error.

It's been argued that that electric vehicles won't be cheaper to operate and will have a hard time turning a profit. The suggestion is that, since conventional cars are cheaper than EVs in the short term, attempts to sell electric cars are doomed. Even if the costs are a wash, some say, why bother? After all, we're just substituting the cost of electricity for the cost of oil, right? Well, as it turns out, that substitution alone has tremendous value.

By transitioning away from oil, electric vehicles give the country (and the world) something that's not possible with conventional engines: flexibility. Electricity can come from many sources. Yes, fossil fuels may be dominant in the United States electrical mix at the moment, but nuclear power and renewables are also alternatives. With the cost of solar power constantly falling, and photovoltaic solar possibly becoming cheaper than coal in the next few years, the electrical mix will steadily become less dependent on fossil fuels over time. Obviously, that won't happen for oil. Plus, oil and other fossil fuels have additional uses, such as making plastics. By not burning oil pointlessly in our gas tanks, we conserve the material for those other needs.

No matter how much drilling is done, oil is steadily becoming harder to find and more expensive to extract. No matter what its price, burning oil generates both greenhouse gases and other pollution. Meanwhile, electricity is becoming greener and more available. It may even become cheaper as multiple sources of power spar in the marketplace. So, look past the up-front sticker price. Just trading oil for electrons is a trade worth making.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 71 Comments
      throwback
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Just trading oil for electrons is a trade worth making. " I agree, the question however, is should tax money be used to subsidize car purchases for affluent buyers?
        krisztiant
        • 1 Day Ago
        @throwback
        Your question - i.e. should tax money be used to subsidize car purchases for affluent buyers? - is similar to another "FAQ" which goes like this: Should public funds be used to subsidize applied research being carried out by private industrial companies? Industry does little basic and applied research today, due to the competitive nature of the business world. As a result, universities and government laboratories are left with the responsibility to carry out basic research and long-term applied research. As current stage of EV development is somewhat similar to a long-term applied research, I think much better idea (and better spent money) to "outsource" it from the universities and government laboratories to actual industrial companies, which otherwise already spent billions of dollars on development. But, why is this "applied research" necessary for us? We've become a dominant force in the shaping and manipulation of our global environment. Many problems are associated with our lifestyle - e.g. overuse of raw materials, energy consumption, pollution etc. - and this will dramatically increase in the near future, thus, we can even reach an unsustainable level of use. Also - as we are in Autoblog - we cannot keep improving the ICE engine forever, as it has clearly reached its zenith (+ oil is also not inexhaustible), better to focus (and spend money) on long-term applied research on sustainable and clean technology, which can solve our problems.
        mylexicon
        • 1 Day Ago
        @throwback
        Nice to see that someone else sees the problems. Everyone else wants to make-believe that things are on the up and up when the government is actually using one of the least effective, most-risky, and least-socially-conscience methods to transition to green energy. It shows. We are still driving around gas-guzzlers 3 years after oil eclipsed $100 per barrel.
      hahiran
      • 3 Years Ago
      It really is amazing how much some conservatives hate electric cars. I was once a conservative, but even then I loved the idea of driving a virtually silent car down the highway and passing gas stations in the process. Really, who likes stopping for gas? It stinks, it's often crowded, and you have to give someone a lot of money to drive a relatively short distance. I like the sound of a big V-8, but I don't want to fill one up on a regular basis. We will NEVER buy another car that's strictly ICE, and if the Tesla S can go 300 miles, then goodbye gas.
      electronx16
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not burning oil to conserve the material for other needs like plastic....Does it really work that way? It's my understanding that gasoline is an unavoidable byproduct of the oil refining process.
        lne937s
        • 3 Years Ago
        @electronx16
        Virtually any hydrocarbon can be used to make plastic. First you partially oxidize it to form Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide, aka "Synthesis Gas". Once it is broken down, you can create plastic, methanol, ammonia, synthetic motor oil, etc. However, most plastic comes from natural gas, rather than oil.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 3 Years Ago
      The simple fact is EV's are 7 times more efficient no matter what fuel is used in a ICE thus conserving energy as well. Yes Gore, EV's are also less toxic than fracking for NG to make hydrogen.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EVSUPERHERO
        Environmentalists all loved fracking, until it became a reality, then they hated it. Nuclear works, not greenhouse gases...but, well... CFL's work and contain Mercury - oddly, they are still popular though. Just wait for THAT environmental nightmare to occur...(only 50% are being recycled...guess where the rest are going...?).
          EZEE
          • 1 Day Ago
          @EZEE
          Given its greenhouse gas benefits, environmental activists initially welcomed shale gas. For example, in August 2009 prominent liberals Timothy Wirth and John Podesta, writing on behalf of the Energy Future Coalition, hailed shale gas as “a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.” The same year, environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, declared in the Financial Times, “In the short term, natural gas is an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.”
          EZEE
          • 1 Day Ago
          @EZEE
          2009... Wow. Just because the left says it now, doesn't mean we don't remember what the said yesterday...
          Naturenut99
          • 1 Day Ago
          @EZEE
          I've never heard an environmentalist person or group endorse fracking. I'm part of most groups, receive emails from them. Never has it been praised. Environmentalists generally dont want anything to do with any form of Nat.Gas, Oil, etc... Just because NG is cleaner than oil or coal does not make it renewable or clean.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      if the problem is my attitude I will gladly yield while you show me how it's done. and since you can't do that perhaps I'm right and the problem is exactly as I say, with you and everyone else. let me know if you want to give raising the dead a shot. and if not, maybe learn a lesson from it
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      Spence, Einstein bitterly remarked there are only two things infinite, the universe and human stupidity and he wasn't sure about the universe. perhaps he should have sought professional help too and everyone could be happy sheep as well.
      krisztiant
      • 3 Years Ago
      Harnessing solar energy is a good approach, since the Sun is the original source of most energy sources, as e.g. wind, hydroelectric, fossil fuels (yes! fossil fuels) etc. It may sound crazy, but instead of a long explanation here, I provide a Wired link, titled: "What Are the Sources of the Energy Sources?" http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/06/what-are-the-sources-of-the-energy-sources/ The Sun is also our most renewable energy as it will last for some more billion years (and when it disappears there will be no life on Earth anyway). So, until we solve the (cold) fusion power problem ourselves, we can use the greatest natural fusion reactor (Sun) and if we could sufficiently improve the efficiency of the process, we'll have an inexhaustible (and very green) energy source, until we are here on Earth. And we can "greenly" feed our EVs forever.
      Sasparilla Fizz
      • 3 Years Ago
      The oil industry (and their shills) wants plug-ins dead - its the richest and one of the dirtiest politically (if not the dirtiest in history). You can see some more PR energy being pushed by those folks lately (the Volt's sales means its a failure already...blah blah blah). As things stand, plug-ins are moving forward with Gen 2 vehicles by 2014 or 2015 yielding good cost savings compared to Gen 1, some savings should be realized with Gen 1 vehicles in 2013 as both the Leaf and Volt will be nearly totally produced in the US. That said, it appears 2012 will be pivotal politically, if the GOP can sweep both houses and the presidency then I'd fully expect them to kill the existing plug-in tax credits (as well as all other green energy supports) as soon as they get into office (the oil industry wants plug-ins dead, particularly before they become too big) - whether that would kill the plug-in movement (since battery costs won't be down by then) is an interesting question - hopefully we're too far down the path of plug-in implementation for that to happen, but political corruption can accomplish alot (as was seen in the 90's and the EV's that were killed then). Hopefully we won't have to live that particular scenario out. Once we get past the 2012 elections with at least the US government not totally in GOP control somehow (so plug-in support won't be killed off), then I think it'll be too late to hold plug-ins back - they are too darn cheap to run ($45 here in IL to go 1500 miles over a month in a Leaf) and some vehicles like the Prius Plug-In is going to be a below $30k vehicle (supposedly, with a measly 15 mile range of course, but that's okay for an MSRP below $30k).
        Danaon
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        They should kill the subsidies to plug ins and electrics. We don't need subsidized solutions, we need actual solutions that will stand on their own. Early adopters are already willing to pay a premium. Energy policy is actually pretty simple: oil and NG short to mid term (NG for heavy transport, like trucking), thorium reactors and electric vehicles long term. And (GASP) all of these technologies are already here. No pie in the sky solar or wind tripping up the plan. Unfortunately, what most environmentalists want is not a sustainable energy policy, but scarcity.
          EZEE
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Danaon
          Actually, the oil companies do not get subsidies, in the classic sense of the word. They have certain breaks on things - like depreciation of oil well, and in some cases, cheap land permits. The various clean energy companies DO get subsidies - the $500 million that went to the company in California that went bust, for example, the other amount (forget how much) went to that company in New England, that went bust, and all those scary abandoned wind farms, that have crumbling wind turbines (once the subsidy runs out).
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Danaon
          He, the oil industry "stand(s) on (its) own". Heh. Heh heh. Heh heh haw. Haw-haw. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Wheeze. Heh.
          Ford Future
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Danaon
          The OIL industry has a 99% bigger subsidy. You Go First.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        Most of the oil industry really doesn't give a crap about EVs because they know EVs cannot yet compete.
      fivespeeed
      • 3 Years Ago
      I totally agree with this, but someone has to tell the car industry that electric vehicles don't have to look and perform like an obese man having a coronary. Google 'Wrightspeed X1'. I consider myself a hardcore automotive enthusiast, and that car is flat out incredible. Almost anyone who has ever held a wrench knows that electric motors have monstrous torque potential, and that's what the industry has to start selling at some level. These electric toasters on wheels are making the entire segment look horrible.
        jkirkebo
        • 1 Day Ago
        @fivespeeed
        Yeah, right. The X1 has as much utility for us as a Tesla Roadster, just about none. No cargo capacity, only seats two, no roof, noisy. Basically useless for 90%+ of our driving. The Leaf is the first mass-produced EV that is useful for most of our driving, and I have ordered one. It is plenty fast enough.
      SpeedyRacer
      • 3 Years Ago
      The subsidies will not last forever, and they won't need to. The price of producing electric cars will come down. The race is on for auto manufacturers to reduce cost sufficiently before the incentives expire. I am betting they will succeed. This is one of those rare cases where the government is actually helping to nurture an emerging technology instead of handing money to cronys. For anyone who doesn't like electric cars I invite them to drive a Nissan LEAF. This car is a pleasure to drive and has merits beyond saving the planet. It's fun to drive unlike any other car. Smooth, quiet, responsive. It feels like the car of the 21st century while all others are last century's. The short term costs of the incentives will be paid back over time by not handing our money to unfriendly countries for them to use against us. Better to spend a little up front on a sustainable technology that will serve us well for years to come than on having to fight our enemies and clean up massive oil spills..
        EZEE
        • 1 Day Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        I rented an Escape hybrid. Once I figured out how to keep it in electric only mode, I was driving all over atlanta that way. I even crept up on friends and bumped them, as it was so silent. My only moment of stupidity was buying the tank of gas when I rented it. I hardly used any in the week I had the car! Piles of fun.
        fairfireman21
        • 1 Day Ago
        @SpeedyRacer
        "Better to spend a little up ffront" A LITTLE? Man I wish I had your money, if you can call thousands to tens of thousands "a little". I can not afford to spend $15,000 more for a vehicle that will save just a little bit of gas that also has a limited range. For me to justify that much it needs to go more than a perfect world 100 miles. There are times we will drive more than that in a single night then turn around and do it 1-2 times more that week, with no way of plugging it in, and if there was it would only be 110 volt thru 200-500 feet of cords. For example we drove 94 miles one way for a childs ball game on a Monday, then on Thursday we had to drive 64 miles one way for another game. I am not saying KILL the EV, I am just saying until they are reasonably priced with more than 200 miles they will not fit for all. Now if I lived and worked in a large city I would probably think about one, but I will not live in a large city in fact it is more than 100 miles from my home to a large city like LA, Detroit, Chicago, San Fran, and New York. I love the idea of being electric, I love the idea of no gas, I love that some day they will have the mileage most people need, I love they will come down in price big time, but I do not see that happening for another 5-10 years, and untill then I will keep my gas burners, well no mater what I will have to keep 1 of them because of my need for towing. About them reducing costs, they are but still every car is still going up in price. Look at the smart Fortwo in 2008 they were going for $10-12,000 in 2011 they were going for $12.5-18,000 with no real changes.
      Jelly
      • 3 Years Ago
      Stop the huge subsidies, let them sell on MERIT. 48,270 average piss poor 300 sales a month Japanese made Toyota Prius cars have cost the British taxpayer £241,350,000 ($395,296,299). 11 year on subsideies in the UK the Prius still sucks, when doe we as a TAXPAYER have to stop paying for this junk.
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Jelly
        Will you stop spamming misinformation? As I posted in this thread to your identical comment, there has been no UK taxpayer subsidy to the Prius cars so far sold, nor will there be until the plug-in comes out. You can read, can't you?
      Arun Murali
      • 3 Years Ago
      Kill it how many ever times you want and it will keep coming back. Cause its a sensible idea. And each time it comes back it becomes ever so cheaper to buy. So if you kill it now, It will be back in 3 years with half the price. Why not let the market choose what it wants, and support anything that is green. Eventually technologies developed for EV's will make it to every Truck and Bus that is green. If you want to ban EV's because its not affordable then, please do the same with most German Marques and few high end cars too. Cause they are not affordable and just waste the precious few drops of oil that every poor man around the world shares.
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