Crazy Enviro-whackos and their Cars

Tesla CarsWe all know the silly Hollywood liberals who drive around in their special little Prius’ and act superior to everyone else.  However, there’s an even harder-core group that doesn’t want a gasoline engine at all, but still recognizes that they have to have a vehicle for transportation.  There’s a particular subset that I’ve run into who are strongly pushing the wholly electric vehicles, in particular, those made by California-based company Tesla.

At the moment, Tesla offers two models, a 4-door coupe, the Model S, which has a rage of 160 miles and starts at about $57,400 before tax credit.  Their high-end model, the Tesla Roadster has a range of 245 miles, a top speed of 125mph and starts at $109,000.  These are the stripped down base models, with extras your Roadster can easily surpass $130,000.

You’ve got to think, wow, for that amount of money, you’re really going to get something special, right?  Well… no.  Tesla cars just aren’t particularly good compared to gas-powered vehicles in the same class and price range.  In fact, you can get superior performance out of a vehicle that costs $10,000-$30,000 less, depending on model.

There were a couple of people talking about how amazing the Tesla Roadster was, that even at $109,000, it could go 125mph and make 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.  How outstanding!  Well sure, unless you look at the cars you could buy for less than $109,000 that manage similar or better numbers.  For about the cost of a Tesla Roadster, you could buy a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 with a top speed of 205mph and can manage 0-60 in 3.4 seconds.  There are several high-end Mercedes Benz models in that range as well that perform as well or better than the Tesla.  Or you could just go with a Nissan GT-R R35, which does 193mph, makes 0-60 in 2.8 seconds and costs less than $80k.  There’s a huge list of cars that do much better than the Tesla.

But what about the Model S?  Most people don’t need a sportscar, the Model S was designed to  be a luxury coupe, surely it’s a good buy at almost $60,000, right?  Well, no.  Just skimming new luxury car prices online, I found a lot of cars that are much better and much cheaper than the Model S.  How about:

BMW 3 Series starting at $40,400.
Audi A5 starting at $43,600.
Audi Q7 starting at $46,250
Mercedes Benz SLK starting at $42,500.
Mercedes Benz C-Class starting at $44,370.
Mercedes Benz E-class starting at $49,800.
Infinity G37 Coupe starting at $40,900.
Cadillac CTS Coupe starting at $40,615.

People have complained how sparse the interior of Tesla vehicles are, that certainly doesn’t apply to the cars I’ve listed.

So what’s really behind this electric car madness?  It isn’t the quality of the vehicle, the efficiency of the vehicle or the performance of the vehicle, it’s a means to feel good about yourself as you drive around town in your over-priced prick-mobile.  Sure, you’re not burning gasoline when you’re driving around in your limited-range electric car, but you still have to charge it and where do you think the power comes from?  Oil and coal-burning plants!  Studies have shown that electric and hybrid vehicles require a lot more energy to produce than gas-powered vehicles.  It is true that if you drive your vehicle for an extended period of time, eventually, somewhere around 160,000 miles, the hybrid vehicle gas savings do win out over the gas vehicle costs, but seriously, how many people today drive their car that far?  The production of the batteries results in a huge release of greenhouse gasses, such as sulfur oxide.  We’re looking at 22 pounds of gasses for every hybrid on the market, higher for pure electrics, compared to 2.2 pounds for a gas-powered vehicle.  Further, the use of rare earth elements like lithium, essential for magnets used in hybrid engines, are almost exclusively mined in China and they are cheap, owing to the fact that China largely ignores environmental safeguards in their mining process.  In one case alone, in the Bayan Obo region of China, miners stripped the topsoil and separated out the lithium with acids which got into the ground water and obliterated nearby agricultural lands.  If China were required to follow accepted safe practices, the cost of lithium and thus the cost of hybrid and electric cars would increase dramatically.  Your $60k Tesla might cost you $100k.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of alternate fuels and if we can do it and protect the environment, that’s great.  However, the current wave of electric and hybrid vehicles just aren’t doing it.  In order to produce a new vehicle type that replaces the gas-powered car, you need to make something that is as good or better than the current cars on the market.  Electrics and hybrids simply are not.  There are four points where any alternative energy vehicle needs to be able to compete with what’s currently on the market:

  1. Performance
  2. Cost
  3. Range
  4. Ease of refueling

As you can see, electric vehicles especially fail at all four.  They do not perform as well as similarly priced gas vehicles, they cost far more than similarly equipped gas-powered vehicles, their range is woefully inadequate and recharging the batteries takes far, far, far longer than simply pulling into a gas station.  When traveling outside of town, especially on a long road trip, an electric vehicle becomes wholly untenable.  When you can go a maximum of 250 miles before recharging, what do you do when you’re heading across country?  Tesla test-drove their car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas non-stop, which stretched the vehicle to it’s limits.  Okay, you did that.  How do you come back?  Let’s say you’re staying at one of the hotels on the Las Vegas strip.  Do you think the hotel is going to let you run a long extension cord out to your car?  So I ran over to Tesla’s site to see what a typical recharge under realistic conditions would be.  To charge the battery for a 250 mile return trip, in your hotel parking lot, on a 110V outlet, it would take you… get this… over 54 hours to charge your battery.  What’s better, 54 hours without being able to move your car, or 5 minutes at a gas station?

So why do automakers produce these things?  Two reasons.  First off, because there is a decent portion of the auto-buying public that only cares about image.  They want to feel good about themselves without really caring if they’re helping the environment.  Secondly, because government regulations require a certain percentage of their fleet high a specific mileage standard.  Hybrids can hit that number because they use their electric engine a certain percentage of the time.  Electric cars have no requirements.  They make a certain number of models that get high mileage so they can make all the vehicles that people actually want that fall below the standards.  You know, the trucks and SUVs.

I’d love to see someone come up with a new vehicle technology that can actually compete with what we already have on the roads.  Then, and only then, will I say the day of the gas-powered vehicle is coming to an end.  However, that’s just not the case today and it doesn’t look like it will be any time soon.  Isn’t it about time we stop looking down our noses at people who aren’t driving these over-priced, under-powered, under-equipped monstrosities and accept that they are, in every conceivable metric, inferior to what we already have?

8 thoughts on “Crazy Enviro-whackos and their Cars”

  1. Once again I find that I agree with most of what you say, but you have a tendency to cast your net too broadly. I can make a pretty solid argument for owning a Prius, at least using 2007 information and prices. I haven’t done the research recently. When we bought ours, it wasn’t significantly more than a other models of similar size and trim levels, and the Prius beat their mileage by 10-15 mpg. The mistake most people make is comparing the Prius to something like a Civic, but the Prius is actually significantly bigger, closer in interior space to the Accord. My family of five fits comfortably in the Prius. Though I do hope hybrids are just a stepping stone to better a choices in the future.

    1. It's only as inexpensive as it is because you're getting serious government rebates and the auto manufacturer, in your case, Toyota, is getting a ton of government grant money. If you were actually paying what it costs to make the car, your cost would be much, much higher. It's why Chevy is discontinuing the manufacture of their Volt. It just isn't cost effective and plenty of Chevy dealers are rejecting the Volt, both because it doesn't sell well and because they have to have specialized tools to work on them that cost so much, they have to sell an additional 5 Volts just to cover the cost of a single set.

      To be honest, the Prius doesn't beat my gas-only mileage by that much. We bought a Chevy Cruze LTZ, the full-on, all-bells-and-whistles model with every add-on you could get except a sun roof and it gets 38mpg highway. The Cruze Eco, their hybrid, is totally stripped to the bone and only gets 4mpg more highway. Looking at the Prius, depending on the model, I'm seeing 40-46mpg. Screw that, give me my Cruze any day.

  2. I also have to admit that the current crop of e-cars could still use a fair share of improvement. That's not to say that I've given up on them though. I'm still optimistic that electric vehicles will be worth the trouble sooner rather than later.

    1. The batteries are extremely expensive and create a ton of pollution to produce, that's not going to change until battery technology changes entirely. They are also very inefficient. You're not going to get the same ranges and ease of recharge that you get with gas cars. So what we're left with are overpriced, inefficient, inferior vehicles that we're asked to pay more for and do less with. Does that sound like progress?

  3. This was on the news wherein many Chinese economic analysts noted that these failure to launch for these electric models means it is not a sustainable industry for consumers and manufacturers. Plus the low carbon trucks are not performing as reported. With the battery production, we are substituting carbon pollution with battery discard pollution.

  4. theyre planning to release it sometime next year, and like you that was also what went in my mind when they were using large lithium ion batteries, since upon degradation causes environmental hazard, and the acid is not easy to dispose. But recently theyve made the batteries 1/3 smaller which should lessen the price drastically since its the battery that costs a lot. but really, still too early, they need to make more efficient prototypes before releasing it to the people

    1. At issue though, no matter how efficient you make the batteries, they are still going to contain materials that are environmentally unfriendly, they still need to be constructed by factories that are massive polluters and they still need to be charged by power plants that produce tons of airborne pollutants. The fact remains, at least at the moment, that making and charging batteries is more polluting than gasoline-driven cars. If and when that changes, fine. Until then, I see no reason to support the claims by the environmentalists that just aren't borne out by the data.

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