Sharing the Road

While I materially agree with Michael J. Roman’s post at RealClearEnergy, the thesis of which is that there will be niches for both electric vehicles and internal combustion engines for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid it won’t be good news for climate activists. Here’s his conclusion which contains most of the meat of the post:

Simply put, that road which we mentioned is paved with good intentions, is not one lane; it is more like a multi-lane highway where EVs and ICEs must share the lanes for decades to come. Exit ramps for the ICEs are a long way down that highway, and in the meantime both automotive technologies will continue to advance. And while they do, they will support the transportation needs of motorists as they journey to their net-zero destination. As my little grandkids like to ask on a road trip, “Are we there yet?” My answer is simple: “No, kids, not yet, but don’t worry, we will get there.”

I’m less convinced than he that production of EVs can be scaled up as quickly as proponents seem to think if at all. I think that hybrids will be more practical than EVs even in the niches for which EVs are well-suited at least as long as I will live.

17 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    IMO EV’s are great commuting and running around-town cars. We’d actually like to replace one of our existing vehicles with an EV or a hybrid, but both are in short supply and very expensive. That’s true for all vehicles though – it’s simply not a good time to buy a car.

    But we will probably get one eventually, especially considering we’re getting solar installed at the house this year – at least I hope it’s this year, we’ve been waiting two months (so far) for the permitting process.

  • bob sykes Link

    The killer is the battery. You will spend at least $20,000 to $30,000 more for an EV than for an equivalent gasoline/diesel powered car. The range of the EV will be under 200 miles, unless the battery is huge, in which case passenger and cargo space is minimal. You can get fossil-fueled cars with a 600 mile range right now, and 350 miles is the standard for them. The EV battery will have to be replaced before 100,000 miles. That will cost $10,000 to $20,000, depending on battery size. Consequently, the EV will have no used car value. A conventionally fueled car is good for 200,000 miles, if maintained, and has substantial resale value at 100,000 miles.

    Did I mention explosions and fires? Last month, Connecticut passed a law mandating that CT government agencies convert to EV’s. Shortly thereafter, the budding CT electric bus fleet was forced to suspend operations pending an investigation of an electric bus fire that sent two firemen to the hospital.

    And how is someone supposed to recharge the battery in heavily built-up areas that have only on the street parking?

    EV’s will always be a niche mode of transportation. An no, they are most certainly not emission free, even in the mythical all-renewables energy grid.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    I wonder.
    As I get older, my driving habits become more conservative, at least compared to the younger driver behind me, seemingly desperate to gain a car length before stopping at the inevitable next traffic light.
    I’m aware that you said EVs,
    but autonomous is generally considered an inevitability.
    How will they blend in, or can they?

  • Andy Link

    Out of Bob’s listed downsides, I think the most important is battery longevity. And that’s a big unknown in many cases and makes buying a used EV risky IMO. One thing he doesn’t mention is charging speed which is, I think, a much bigger downside than range.

    No doubt that EV’s have downsides, like any vehicle. But there are circumstances where they have substantial upsides. For our family, which has multiple vehicles, replacing one with an EV would be well suited for our needs. But we’re not in any rush to get one.

  • EV’s will always be a niche mode of transportation.

    That’s my view. It’s a pretty big niche but not nearly as big as it was two years ago.

  • Drew Link

    So Mr Roman says there will be multiple modalities of energy usage for transportation with various degrees of relevance.

    Figure that one out all by himself did he?

  • Zachriel Link

    Dave Schuler: It’s a pretty big niche but not nearly as big as it was two years ago.

    Hybrids may bridge the transition. The vast majority of travel can be accomplished with the smaller batteries in hybrids, 30-70 miles. But it retains the capability of longer distances, or eventualities, or emergencies. Hybrids can maximize limited lithium resources, and make an immediate and significant dent in vehicle emissions.

  • Hybrids may bridge the transition. The vast majority of travel can be accomplished with the smaller batteries in hybrids,

    That’s what I have been advocating. In addition they’re more practical than EVs in a whole variety of ways not the least of which is that we’re more likely to be able to build batteries at the scale necessary for hybrids than we are for EVs.

  • steve Link

    Once again it is 2010. Tesla is staking out over 200,000 miles for its batteries and the range is over 200 miles for all of them, over 400 for the longest. The Lightning is getting well over 200 miles and the extended range over 300. Fuel costs for the gas version of F 150 were averaging about $3000/year before the recent increases so say $4000 now. Cost of electricity about $1000/year. Fuel costs alone could make up for the up front differences. Maintenance costs are mostly estimated to be lower for EV but if you are following it the differences have not been large and in some cases EV costs are higher. If you look at the details a lot fo that looks like it is because there are now a lot of new EV’s on the road and they are going through new model issues.

    As a bonus, for hybrids newer models are coming out with 150,000 mile warranties and it looks like lots of people are getting 200,000. We gave the old Prius to the nephew and he was at 140,000 and doing well until he got T boned by some idiot texting and driving.


  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    If we are going to talk about the F150 fuel costs. One should account for the cost difference between an electric car vs a gasoline equivalent.

    The cheapest F150 is $31.5K vs cheapest F150 lighting is $47K. That’s a difference of $16K. Using the government website to compare fuel costs saved — and the F150 lightning will save $19K from using electricity vs F150 using gasoline over 10 years! And this isn’t even account for the time value of money (how much could the $16K generate via investments). $16K buys a lot of fuel!!

    I know the $7.5K government subsidy makes the upfront cost smaller, but the government doesn’t have enough to subsidize $7.5K for every car (15 million cars / year * 7.5K = $112.5 billion/ year).

    As for battery longevity, the matter is really interesting. The details of the battery are critical and hard to generalize. Nickel hydride batteries preferred by Toyota seem to last 10-15 years, have proven reliability (no recalls). Lithium nickel manganese cobalt or lithium nickel cobalt aluminum used by Tesla and other BEV’s can last 10+ years, but unproven reliability (GM, Hyundai, Chysler, Volkswagen all had battery related recalls in the past year). Lithium iron phosphate is thought to also be 10+ years, but too new to say about reliability. One thing with the battery recalls is they were multibillion recalls — the GM bolt recall was $2 billion dollars for 141K calls, that $14K per car sold — given cars are a low margin business — the risk that a BEV may need a $14K recall during its warranty period is a significant issue for car manufacturers / battery makers.

    PS — For hybrids (the mild type like Prius), the return on investment period is usually within 1-4 years without any incentives, just on gas savings alone. That’s why I think they are getting popular acceptance right now.

  • steve Link

    Ever bought an F 150? In theory you can buy one for about 31K. In reality you will be lucky to find one below 40k. Look at the trim levels on the basic F 150 vs the Lightning. Could have changed since I looked at it but fair amount more standard on the Lightning.

    Do you have a date on the fuel costs? My source was from last year so if you think fuel costs stay up for a while, I do since I think the really low costs the last 2 years were aberrations, then I like my numbers better. Regardless, EVs are not the hugely more expensive option when you factor in total costs. (Strongly suggest dealing with total costs. People like to pick a few costs that support their case but not the best way to look at it.) If I am right about maintenance then they are even cheaper.


  • I know the $7.5K government subsidy makes the upfront cost smaller, but the government doesn’t have enough to subsidize $7.5K for every car (15 million cars / year * 7.5K = $112.5 billion/ year).

    This is the key point. The normal fleet turnover rate is about 20 years. For the fleet to turn over faster will take enormous subsidies.

    How high? A lot higher than at present. At the present rate of adoption of EVs and hybrids there will never be a transition away from ICE vehicles.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    In theory you can buy an F150 lightning for $47K; but that’s a unicorn as well.

    If you compare equivalent trims; it is still approximately $15-25K difference.

    The assumptions from are.

    15,000 miles per year.
    55% city driving
    Electricity of $0.13/kWhr
    Fuel of $4.19 / gallon
    Ford F-150 lighting EPA ratings of 68 (76/61) MPGe
    Ford F-150 EPA ratings of 22 (20/26) MPG
    The Ford F-150 lighting spends $989 on electricity per year, while Ford F-150 spends $2993 on gasoline per year.

    The total number of cars in the US is 289 million cars (19.3 year turnover * 15 million new cars/year). Even a subsidy of $1K / car until the fleet turns over is $300 billion, $7.5K is $2.2 trillion.

  • Zachriel Link

    CuriousOnlooker: Even a subsidy of $1K / car until the fleet turns over is $300 billion, $7.5K is $2.2 trillion.

    For context, assuming 2% growth, U.S. GDP over 20 years will be about $550 trillion.

  • Andy Link

    Hybrids have a lot of advantages but also a lot of complexity since you’re supporting two drivetrains.

    Everything comes with tradeoffs.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Considering the discretionary budget of the Federal government is only $914 billion / year billion dollars — $113 billion / year is a lot.

    2 trillion dollars is also the amount of money spent on the Afghan war.

    On hybrids — complexity is related to engineering. Toyota hybrids (due to the company passion on reliability, getting rid of waste) took advantage of the battery / electric motors to get rid of gears / CVT belts, no starter motor, alternators, timing belt, accessory belt, power steering bump.

    That’s probably why the Toyota Prius have the lowest “total cost of ownership”. Its also a red flag that Toyota hasn’t really dived into full EV’s — perhaps they see issues there.

  • steve Link

    Prices for 2023 F 150 at link. Add another 3k-4k if you want 4 wd which is standard on Lightning. Since vehicles are in short supply pricing is weird now and companies seem to be pumping out stuff with lots of goodies. I intend to buy one so have been following for a bit. Should be fun to have a truck that’s faster off the line than most sports cars fo a few years ago. 0-60 mid 4s or so but no one cares if a car is fast do we? Anyway, by my calculations the differential is running a bit less.


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