While sitting at my desk wondering what to write about I started pondering if I would one day actually plunk down some money for an electric car. I started running cycles through my head as to the pro’s and con’s and wondered if it would ever make financial sense for me. I thought about my driving habits and tried to figure in such details as how many times a week I use the car, what the average distance traveled was, as well as my average fuel cost. If you’ve never done this and are in the market for a new electric vehicle such as Nissan’s new 2011 Leaf, a Tesla or the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, then you may want to jot down some notes.
Right now my daily driver is a low mileage 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8 with a 6.1L HEMI that produces 425 hp and 420 lb-ft torque. Fuel efficiency is not in this cars vocabulary as around town I get about 14 mpg and on the hwy I manage 19-20 mpg if I can keep my foot out of it. During the week I generally take the car out 2 or 3 times at most, mostly to run small errands that consist of no more than 3-5 miles worth of driving. The weekends are an entirely different story as I’ve been known to take off in search of my favorite twisty roads and knock out 300 miles just for shits and giggles. On average I usually end up refueling every 270 miles or so and go through approximately 4 tanks of fuel per month at a cost of around $54.00 per tank. I love this car because of its performance, its usability and its looks, all of which would be important factors for me with any new car purchase. The market value of these cars today is around 20-25k in good condition.
The new 2011 Nissan Leaf for example is said to get around 100 miles out of a single charge. It goes on sale this year and will be priced around $32,000 before tax credits. The Leaf will have seating room for 4 average sized adults and a decent amount of cargo space, but that 100 miles per charge is said to vary depending on how you drive the car. The Tesla Roadster costs about $100,000, has room for two adults and has enough cargo space for a pair of tennis shoes. Sure it goes 200 miles on a charge, but at a cost of $100,000 it’s out of the price range for most American’s. Oh yea, and don’t forget about the 8 hrs. of recharging time that you’ll need when these cars crawl to a halt. Then there is the upcoming 2011 Chevrolet Volt. The Volt runs its first 40 miles on electric only power before transitioning to its gas engine, when it is then said to get the fuel economy of an average 4-door sedan. Speculated cost for the Volt is said to be around $30,000.
So, now that we have some numbers lets think about it. If I wanted to replace my gas guzzling, fast, great performing, super comfy and fully usable Dodge Magnum SRT8 with and electric car I’d have to do the following. First off I’d have to sell it and then spend another $10,000 for an electric car that has less room, less range, is not nearly as comfortable and has 1/10th the performance. Hmm… honestly, I’m not quite feeling it. Then there is the concept of resale value, I mean right now there is no estimate as to what these cars will be worth in 5 or 10 years. We have no data on whether in that time the battery packs will still be good, we have no data on maintenance or reliability, and the rate that battery technology is progressing, hell… these cars could be obsolete in three years.
I suppose I am saying all of this to illustrate a point. Auto manufacturers and the green movement want you to run out and buy these cars to justify their R&D and production costs. Sure they don’t produce any hazardous emissions, but they don’t produce any performance or real world usability either. I have no doubt the technology will continue to progress thus causing the prices of electric cars to go down and their ranges to go up. Until that happens though I fear that these electric cars are going to be boutique only items for people who want to “feel” like they are doing their part to save the environment. Listen at the end of the day if manufacturers start producing electric cars that can go 300 miles on a charge, get reasonable performance and sit 4 full size adults comfortably for a decent price, then I’ll begin to take interest. Until then though I have a feeling that the manufacturers are going to have a hard time moving these things. Quite honestly I hope I’m wrong but time will tell I suppose.