Embrace the EV future

Americans (both consumers and the media) have been slow to embrace the EV future.  Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) recently addressed this issue with their excellent post, "Why So Many Critics After 17,000 EV Sales in First Year?".

They explain why RMI embraces an EV future:

Rocky Mountain Institute sees EVs as a crucial step in moving the United States away from fossil fuels for reasons of national security, human health, environmental protection and durable economic advantage. EV benefits go beyond fuel economy. Reinventing Fire, RMI’s new, peer-reviewed book backed by 30 years of Institute research, shows that EVs—ultimately made of ultrastrong, ultralight materials that dramatically speed energy savings—can become energy storage vessels that feed electricity back into a revamped, more-secure electrical grid.

And criticize the calls for elimination of the $7,500 tax credit and unfair cherry-picking of negative EV facts:

Of course people respond to incentives, and the EV tax credit—written to phase out when a manufacturer’s sales hit 200,000—is a proven way to spur a socially desirable change. Governments have long subsidized transportation, directly and indirectly, from granting rights for oil drilling to building our vast network of roads with tax dollars. Because Congress has approved tougher fuel economy standards, creating an incentive for EV buyers similar to the hybrid incentive that was phased out as sales grew would seem like consistent policy.

These calls to repeal the EV credit show both that the nation can’t necessarily count on Congress to guide its energy future (though, in fairness, Congress is a long way from acting on this) and that the nation’s media are adopting a flawed narrative about EVs. It is becoming pro forma that news stories about EVs say that Volt and Leaf sales disappointed this year and that the Volt is under investigation for battery fires. (General Motors on Thursday announced a fix to strengthen the Volt battery case, a day after niche EV maker Fisker, which has had no fires, recalled 239 cars to study similar issues.) Most EV media pieces—the Post editorial being no exception—lack context about early hybrid sales and the fact that two Volt fires started under extreme conditions in a laboratory, unlike the tens of thousands of real-life fires each year in gas-powered vehicles.

The Post editorial (which incorrectly said the Volt fires occurred in “road tests,”) took this tilted narrative to a new level, saying, “The Obama administration says that the credit helps build a market for EVs, which helps create jobs. Given the price of eligible models, like the $100,000 Fisker Karma, that rationale sounds an awful lot like trickle-down economics. …” The piece cherry-picked the Fisker's price tag as an example of overpriced EVs, but made no mention of the best-selling EV, the Leaf, which lists for about $32,000 before the tax credit.

I highly recommend reading the full article on the RMI website (linked to above).

Critics of electric vehicles say they are overpriced and that buyers wont recoup the higher up-front costs in gasoline savings.  To those critics, I say you're missing the point.  I addressed this issue in our post Payback of Electric Cars:

The first Leaf/Volt buyers will not be buying their car because it is going to save them money at the gas pump.  They will be buying the Leaf/Volt because they want an electric car.

Look at it this way: What is the economic practicality of a Lexus, which is just a souped up Toyota.  Why spend the extra money on a Lexus when it will never pay for itself over the regular Toyota?

People don’t buy Lexus because it saves them money.  They buy Lexus because they want heated leather seats, and wood-grain, and xenon headlights, and nice sound systems, and navigation, and etc. etc. etc.  The first electric car buyers aren’t simply buying them to save money; they are buying an electric car because they value having a car that uses less gas for the way it makes them feel.  They view an electric car or plug-in hybrid as a luxury; just like some people see chrome wheels as a luxury.

Those who embrace the EV future see value in living sustainably.  A future filled with electric vehicles means less air pollution (especially as we clean up our electric grid) and a stronger America. Let's quit bemoaning the flaws of EVs and start championing the benefits so an EV future becomes a reality.

Check out our updated list of currently available electric vehicles.

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