Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is the EV community working against itself ??

Compare 2 identical cars; one Electric vehicle (EV) and one gas engine (internal combustion engine or ICE), preferably from same manufacturer if possible. Upgrade them to same features and upgrades and then compare the prices and gas vs electric car saving if you drive them average , say 12000 miles a year, what will you find ?? As most of you would have probably guessed, ICE car will be cheaper and more economical to own even in 5 years time-frame, even though driving EV is way too cheaper. Why ?? Because EV is just damn expensive.

Now, add to it the federal $7,500 tax rebate. If you make $50,000 or less, you might even be able to consume this whole $7500 rebate, but that's a different story. Let us assume, this rebate is directly cost saving. What does the figure looks like now ?? ICE car will still out weigh the EV.

Now, add the different standard manufacturer promotions savings from time to time. Now, the numbers will start looking a little bit better.

But wait, what about an EV Charging stations, EVSE, a so called Level2 Charging station that you install in your garage, so that the car still charge in 3-4 hours but at least is ready full charge when you get up in the morning ? Between the unit itself and the certified electrician's charge, installation expense and permit etc.  ready to fork out another $1500-$2000 for that. So, with whatever little trick you tried bending the numbers in your favor, it just vanishes installing one 240V, 30Amp unit, all it does is to pass current to your car.

I own a Honda Fit EV, which I am leasing, taking advantage of Honda recent's drastically lowered lease price. I love the technology, love the car and love the experience of owning one (my experience here). But I am making this numbers work for me, somehow.

But talk to any EV enthusiasts and you will hear different arguments; Environment friendliness, quite car, no trip to gas station, new & complex  technology etc. Never mind the limitations of a typical EV; slow charging, limited range forcing you to have another car, drastic reduction in range when its too hot or too cold, small sizes, small trunk space etc. etc.  It is as if the whole community is in self denial. They naturally like the technology and want to see it grow, yet not accepting the realities and arguing how it can really survive and grow. And did i mention, an often quoted example of Tesla ?!!

Here are few things that I recommend to EV community:

  1. Stop taking about Environments benefits if you ever want to see EV become a mainstream alternatives to ICE.
  2. Universally argue for Price reductions; The price needs to be reduced by at least 50% overall (after all gimmicks) for it to survive. Federal Tax incentives is a good way to bridge the gap, but that should not be the only one. Remember the 'general American subsidizing EV'  arguments Republican put forward against  it. It has merits. How the price will lower otherwise; Besides the massive battery technologies i.e. Tesla is building is one way. Other way is simply manufacturer taking risks; otherwise it will be a simply catch22 situation. Remember if Apple would have priced iPhone $1000+, it would have still justified that price point under that time, when a good computer was costing that much, but then could it have been a household product ?
  3. Argue for the need for a regular looking car. The dorky look is one of the biggest informercial ever for EV.
  4. Change your messaging to employer and businesses. Businesses spending $5k/each new charging stations at their locations is a very skewed economic argument ever. This is surviving so far because employer like the 'green environment-friendly' status and branding. But what it does is to limit the widespread adaption within its organization. If you have 2 charging stations at your work and you find them always full, will you still think about owning your own EV. Or if there are 4 EV drivers already, always vying for a parking spot, will any of them be a good advocate for you to own yet another EV ? What if the employer placed a simple 120V wall charing to say or even 50 spots, at fraction of costs. An employee wont' have to worry about signing up to third party for charging service, wont' have to remove their cars after a couple of hours to avoid huge charge back and can simply leave it plugged in for the entire day, getting enough juice for an average commute daily needs i.e. 40 miles. At an average $1-$2/socket, it will still be cheaper for businesses to leave employees use the free electricity to majority, then to go for extra headache of Level2 charging stations. 
unless the EV community changes its line of arguments, and pushes for an economically superior car, EV will remain a small, niche market only for a few.