EV-Hater’s Guide to Hating Electric Cars: Chapter 2

By · August 18, 2011

Last week, PluginCars.com posted my EV-Hater’s Guide to Hating Electric Cars. The article, based on the mainstream media’s wonderfully irrational disdain for electric vehicles, generated a lot of comments. Web discussions about EVs, for some reason, are especially vitriolic—generating a lot of false and downright misleading information. Thus, the need for this second chapter of the EV-Hater’s Guide.

Small old-school European electric car charging up

All electric cars are small, funny-looking and have very limited range. They look cheap, but the electricity to run them isn't cheap at all.

Whether you’re a novice EV-basher just now learning the ropes, or a veteran hater looking to brush up on your skills, this new chapter will help you stir up more anti-EV hysteria.

Let’s start with a few fun false claims to spread around:

1. You're going to spend a fortune on electricity.
This claim works best if there is no one around with a calculator. If anyone starts actually doing math, change the subject. If that dreaded calculator does show up, the calculation might start by assuming that you drive 12,000 miles per year, or 1,000 miles per month. That works out to about 240 kWh of electricity per month. Where I live, that's about $24. Oh, except some places might give a 50 percent discount for charging off-peak time. So, maybe $12 in fuel costs per month. (So, how much are you paying for gas?)

2. You'll have to replace that expensive battery.
Make up a scary-sounding but believable number to cite. Try something like $20,000. Hopefully, no one knows about the 8-year 100,000 miles warranty on most models. Pray that no one will bring up the relatively low tech EVs from a decade ago, like the Toyota RAV4 EV, that are still doing fine with the original batteries. Or, that the new batteries are modular so that you can replace individual modules rather than the whole pack. Or that battery prices are dropping fast. Or that the battery will likely last as long as a gasoline engine would. Or that...well, you get the idea. (For fun: Drop a hint that EV batteries are very toxic and will clog up our landfill with poison.)

3. We’ll replace oil dependence with dependency on lithium and rare earth metals.
The lithium for the lithium ion battery comes from places like Argentina, Bolivia, and (gasp!) Nevada. Make those places sound scary. Chile? How can you trust a nation that is so long and narrow? Seriously. Leave out the part that when you "use" lithium, it's still there—but when you use gasoline, it's gone. Forget about new big investments in the U.S. and global supply chain for rare earth metals. And never mention that the auto industry is preparing for an EV revolution by developing new powerful technologies for batteries and electric motors that look beyond lithium and greatly reduce and in some cases eliminate the need for rare earth metals.

4. People only buy electric cars because they are government subsidized.
This is a wonderfully deceptive half-truth. Certainly, the current tax break is an incentive for consumers, albeit a temporary one. Be sure to steer clear of comparing the gigantic subsidy to oil to the very small subsidy for EVs. If oil were not subsidized, the price of gasoline would be much higher. Someone might point out that electric cars might out-compete gasoline cars, if both subsidies disappeared. Yikes. If you start to hear that argument, your best bet is to get very talkative—blab about range anxiety, for example—until everyone forgets what the original topic was.

Chevy Volt battery packs

Now and forever, electric car battery packs will be very large, very expensive to replace, will require a dependence on foreign lithium, and will eventually clog our landfills with toxic ooze.

5. Don’t worry. There are vast untapped petroleum reserves in the USA.
Clear throat, and leave room ASAP. Or quickly return conversation to oil subsidies.

6. We need those oil subsidies.
That’s right. Removing oil subsidies would make oil prices too high, and that would be an outrage since we depend on oil so much. We all need to get to work—preferably driving solo in full-size SUVs. You probably just argued that our dependence on oil is not that bad—so be careful to use these arguments at least a few minutes apart.

7. It’s just a stupid Republicrat thing.
Bring partisan politics into it. Of course, politics are irrelevant. (We’re talking about a car. Hello?) But politics gets people stirred up, and irrationality is exactly what you need to help spread the hate.

8. Dodge the 'Where is the oil money going?' issue.
A typical gasoline car burns through $1,000 – $2,000 of gasoline per year. More than half of that is imported. If you have a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker on your gas-guzzler, remember to deny any possibility of irony.

9. Electric cars are too quiet, and therefore a dangerous menace to blind pedestrians.
There are have been no independent studies that show that cars without revving engines are a problem for any pedestrians. Who cares? Try to take one of the best qualities of an electric car—how pleasantly quiet they are—and turn it into a menace. Disregard that all cars are getting quieter, that almost-as-quiet hybrids are out there by the millions, that even EVs have tires that make a sound when they roll, and that carmakers are adding subtle exterior sounds when traveling at low speeds. Repeat that blind pedestrians will suffer, and little kids could also get run over.

And now, three more tactics, for advanced EV-Hater’s only.

1. Conduct a bogus study.
Call up people and ask "If there was a dreadfully undesirable car, would you buy it?" 98% will say no. The other 2% were just messing with you. Conclude that this proves that demand is small, and therefore EVs will be only 1.25% of the world market by the year 3000. Publish, and charge for your research. Hide your source of funding.

2. Straw Man maneuver.
Take any true statement made by an EV advocate, and then simply substitute it for a similar-sounding false statement. And then bash the false statement. For example, a car company might say, "This car has no tailpipe, and therefore no tailpipe emissions." Just shout "Ha! You said there are no emissions! And that's a lie!" Then, follow up by pointing out that electricity is sometimes generated by coal, and burning coal causes emissions. Oh, and by the way, good job bringing up that coal thing since you're probably the first person to think of that.

3. Stage a phony failure.
Go all Top Gear and drive around in circles while the car is blaring at you that it's just about to run out of juice. Then run out of juice, and act dismayed. (Careful: Don't get caught by the telematics.)

That concludes Chapter Two of the EV-Hater’s Guide. I would like to thank all the people who helped me write this by posting your hateful comments on various websites. You were just kidding, right?


· · 7 years ago

Bravo, Steve. These are priceless.

From what I've read about world wide lithium availability (in my favorite book of this past summer, Seth Fletcher's Bottled Lightning,) Bolivia has the planet's largest reserves at the Salar de Uyani salt flats. But the Salar de Atacama flats in northern Chile (they're just a few hundred miles from each other,) while smaller, is sufficiently large enough to keep the world supplied for many years to come. Chile is also further along than Bolivia in getting its lithium processed and ready to ship to a sea port.

The McDermitt Caldera in northern Nevada is another massive reserve and, of course, no sea port is required to get it imported, as it is already in our own back yard.

The "lithium shortage" conspiracy theory was started a number of years ago by an analyst named William Tahil . . . who previous made incredulous claims to the effect that secret nuclear reactors were buried underneath the World Trade Center (!) and their deliberate meltdown - not crashing airliners controlled by terrorists - was what brought down the Twin Towers. This guy and Rick Perry ought to have a lot of fun fashioning tin foil hats for each other.

So, yes . . . no lithium shortage.

· SVL (not verified) · 7 years ago

Some smaller countries with lithium reserves are trying very hard to develop those without foreign aid, so all profits would benefit the local economy. Noble, but it'll take a while longer.

· · 7 years ago

I appreciate what you are saying, SLV. Bottled Lightning gives a very interesting inside look as to how both Bolivia and Chile are attempting to remain autonomous, while still being able to interact in a world market. One thing I didn't know before I read this book was that these two countries fought several bitter border wars with each other over the last century and this has had a significant effect on how they choose to do business with the outside world . . . that, along with the governmental structures within the counties themselves. Very interesting reading.

· Paul Scott (not verified) · 7 years ago

Steve Harvey - This is beautiful! You know this subject as well as anyone, and you're from Missouri! How'd that happen?

Your humor keeps people reading, and you are perfect on every comment. The reverse psychology totally works.

If you ever come out to California, come when Plug In America has our big yearly party (11/12/11 in SF) and we'll let you read these during our presentation. And I'll get you a test drive a Tesla.

We're close to getting the LEAFs and Volts in all the states. Stay tuned.

Oh, and write some more of this stuff. It kills!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

I don't hate EV's, but I do hate duplicity and waste. This post, and its predecessor contains many misleading points, which are often used to justify yet another digression in formulating and implementing an effective energy policy in the U.S. We have already lost 30 years in developing an effective energy policy to this kind of idiocy.

The most important misleading point - there are several others - is that EV's can significantly reduce oil consumption. Simple arithmetic indicates that attaining the current goal of putting 1 million EV's on the road by 2015 - a goal that nobody in the industry believes will be attained - would reduce gasoline and diesel consumption by only about 0.2%

If you want to buy EV's because it makes you look and feel good, then go ahead and have a great time. But stop pretending that this has anything to do with energy or environmental policy, and stop pretending that energy policy and environmental considerations justify confiscating money from other people to pay you for it.

· Bruce Tucker (not verified) · 7 years ago

You are right (in a way) that EVs will not reduce oil consumption in America. What WILL reduce it is its inevitable increasing cost to consumers (just witness the reduction in LA's traffic when price of gas surged about $4 the first time).

But EVs WILL be the way that we are able to maintain our mobility. Fortunately we are at the point where auto manufacturers realize this and have started to actually put EVs in showrooms. The early adopters of EVs, just like the early adopters of cell phones, are paving the way for the rest of the driving public. In 20 years, you'll be thanking us getting things started...and for paying such a high price for the privilege. And I'd really love to have the government stop confiscating my money for big oil and big wars. Governmental support for EVs is chicken feed compared to those two subsidies.

· · 7 years ago

@Anonymous (not verified), "The most important misleading point - there are several others - is that EV's can significantly reduce oil consumption."

Two points. First, technology innovated for hybrid, PHEV, and EV is finding it's way into ICE vehicles to make them far more efficient. For example, the 2012 Hyundai Accent offers 1.6L GDI engine, electric power steering, low rolling resistance tires, a lower coefficient of drag, and a six-speed manual. This all results in an 18.1% fuel economy improvement, from 34 MPG to 40 MPG in one model year.

Second, it will take decades for EVs to significantly reduce and finally eliminate our oil dependence. But no new technology ever replaces the older technology over night. EVs set a viable trajectory.

· James Thurber (not verified) · 7 years ago

@Bruce Tucker and Indyflick,

This is Anonymous again - sorry that I didn't fill in my name on my first post, I didn't notice the box for it.

You both make good points, but miss the central point that the current hype and subsidies for EV's will not significantly reduce oil consumption, while the means for doing so are readily available but are often ignored because they are not glamorous. I agree entirely that a higher gasoline price will cause a reduction in oil consumption, which is why for years I have supported a much higher excise tax on gasoline. I also agree that technological advances will first be effective in reducing oil consumption by improving the efficiency of hybrids (both conventional and plug-in), not in the increased production of EV's.

We can be far more effective in reducing oil consumption simply by making minor changes in the way we get around - mundane things like driving 60 or 65 mph on the highway rather than 70 or 75 mph, maintaining tire pressure correctly, cleaning air filters frequently, organizing our lives so that we drive less and use public transportation more. These unglamorous activities are far more economically and environmentally beneficial than boosting one's ego at the expense of others by buying an impractical, highly subsidized EV.

· Sherry Boschert (not verified) · 7 years ago

Oh, James Thurber. You ruined the fine points that you made by adding insults: "...boosting one's ego at the expense of others by buying an impractical, highly subsidized EV." Really? Was that necessary? I wouldn't accuse you of driving a gasoline-dependent car because you want to boost your ego at the expense of others, though that does seem to motivate your insults. It's fine if you disagree with people, but you don't need to attack them.

As for plug-in vehicles being impractical, that has not been my experience in our 9 years of driving EVs. For us, EVs are very, very practical. They may not be for you, but no one kind of car suits everyone. Perhaps a plug-in hybrid would suit you better. There's nothing a gasoline-dependent car can do that a plug-in hybrid can't do, so I don't see how they differ in practicality. The only limit in practicality is that automakers don't yet offer plug-in versions of every size/type of car/truck/van, so if you need, say, a family van, you don't yet have the option of buying a plug-in. But that's not the fault of the plug-in technology itself.

Sure, there is a cost difference right now, as there always is with new technology. For what it's worth, we put solar panels on our house in 1998 before there were any government rebates. We leased and then purchased EVs regardless of government subsidies because of concerns about energy policy and environmental issues. We are not "pretending" to have those concerns, and I don't think you are pretending either.

I appreciate that the government is offering incentives to help our transportation industry transition away from gasoline-dependent cars. It's the right thing to do for national security, for the environment, and ultimately for consumer pocketbooks. I understand that people can be opposed to government incentives of any kind, but unless they first object loudly to the mega-billions that we give the oil industry, I find it hard to take seriously any complaints about the pittance directed towards plug-in vehicles.

Sherry Boschert
Author, Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America

· · 7 years ago

To interject here and not necessarily follow on to the fine points of the current thread of conversation right away, I have to announce that I just spent a few minutes driving my friend's Nissan Leaf around my neighborhood streets . . . my first such experience driving an electric car.

OK . . . I wanted one before. Now I REALLY want one! :-)

Also . . . my super-cool Taiwanese A123 cell LiFePO4 battery for field charging my toy airplanes (soon to be mated to a PV panel and charge controller) arrived in today's mail . . .


And, Sherry (getting back to topics on hand): my sentiments exactly.

· James Thurber (not verified) · 7 years ago


I suppose you're correct in pointing out that I shouldn't have made the wisecrack that I did about EV drivers' boosting their ego. It is a little difficult for me to understand, however, how one can be bothered by this on a blog that refers to people who have legitimate concerns about current EV policy (no pun intended) as "EV Haters". As I mentioned before, I'm not an EV hater, but I am a duplicity and waste hater.

As an example of the duplicity in this blog, the recurring claim "mega billion" subsidies for oil and gas that are said to be far greater than subsidies for EV's is simply false. Barack Obama has estimated annual subsidies to oil and gas companies to be $4 billion per year, and a 2007 study by the EIA estimate them to be $0.25 per megawatt hour. This works out to about $50 to $60 of subsidies per 120,000 miles driven (assuming an average of 20 mpg for an ICE), versus subsidies for EV's of about $7,500 per 120,000 miles (the approximate estimated lifespan of the batteries). Even if one were to get wild and assume direct and indirect subsidies for oil and gas of $200 billion per year (no informed observer claims this), this works out to about $3,100 per 120,000 miles driven or about two fifths of the subsidy for EV's. (I should add that this does not consider the subsidies paid for the generation of the electricity used to charge the EV's.)

While I don't support any of these subsidies, the key point is that the appeal of EV's is so limited that the subsidies do not result in a significant reduction in oil consumption, and do not constitute an energy policy. Rather they are simply a "feel good look good" policy. This conclusion is based on numbers provided by the auto industry itself and the federal government. Again, if a person wants to buy and drive an EV, then have a great time and I wish you well. But stop representing that receiving subsidies for doing this constitutes and energy policy. It doesn't.

It should also be noted that the subsidies are often unnecessary, as many buyers are paying well over msrp for EV's, and there have been incidents of dealerships selling their EV's to other dealerships, so that the buying dealership can sell the EV to the customer as a used vehicle, and thus keep the vehicle to itself. Thus, the subsidies are not serving to increase sales, but to increase the profits of dealerships.

By the way, I do not own a car. I'm 61 years old, working, and I get around by bicycle and public transport. I do this for three reasons: 1) I'm cheap, and I'd rather spend the money on my favorite foods. 2) I enjoy bicycling. 3) I can always use the exercise, because I love to eat my favorite foods. I realize that not everybody can do this, but a lot more can do this than do, because they are still stuck in the automobile mentality; be it with ICE's, hybrids, plugin hybrids, or EV's. What bothers me about this blog is that it perpetuates the myth that the technology is just around the corner to allow us to continue to drive individual vehicles wherever and whenever they want, if only the horrible lobbyists / oil companies / Arabs / EV haters would allow the right subisidies to be paid to the right people for doing the right things. It simply is not true.

· Beechnut (not verified) · 7 years ago

James Thurber

I appreciate you heartfelt thought out comments on this site. It is important to have respectful discussions with others with different viewpoints and you have yours well laid out.

I am buying a EV. I think it is critical to create competition among different fuel suppliers if nothing else. But their are advantages such as reducing dependence on foreign oil for one. I appreciate your riding a bicycle to work ( I have been a bicycle commuter in the past) and I agree that mass transit is a very viable and attractive option that is underutilized in our society but it is not practical for me in my current location. I don't believe that most would easily adopt these methods of transportation in the near future. As for tax substities, why don't we get rid of all of them, can we agree on this?

· · 7 years ago

I should add, James, that I also appreciate you "walk the walk" in regards to dispensing with owning an auto altogether, while relying on public transportation and bicycle. But, as you point out, not everyone is going to have that option available to them. Some have to carpool children to school or to other extracurricular activities. Or they happen to live far enough away from their job that biking or adapting to existing public transportation isn't a practical reality.

A bit surprising, though, James, is that - given this open personal embrace for relying on non-polluting or low-polluting transportation options, which themselves rely on subsidies or other forms of tax-generated investment (bike paths, buses, rail lines, etc.) - you're not wanting the government to provide ANY sort of assistance to allow many others to ease their way into adopting a low or pollution-free option for themselves.

Wouldn't your bike ride be all that more pleasant without all that tailpipe exhaust you now have to contend with? Wouldn't that bike ride also be more pleasant if a few more of those car owners could conveniently take the bus or light rail? Obviously, the Libertarian and/or Tea Party contingent vehemently disagrees with me on this point, but I think its public money well spent.

Also . . . while you are quick to point to the 4 billion dollar oil company subsidies (paltry, yes, in the grand scheme of things,) left out of the calculation is the enormous U-S military expenditures involved with procuring a reliable supply of that commodity. Incalculable, as well, is the destruction of human life - ours and others - involved in those military expenditures . . . and the cost to worldwide human health and the planet ecosystem in the resulting pollution in continually relying on those fossil fuels. Again . . . money well spent, I think, to get us away from that as much as we possibly can. Private industry isn't going to do it alone.

· · 7 years ago

@James Thurber,
Unfortunately, all of the "mundane things" that you suggest ("driving 60 or 65 mph on the highway rather than 70 or 75 mph, maintaining tire pressure correctly, cleaning air filters frequently, organizing our lives so that we drive less and use public transportation more") can ever do is to put off the day we have to own up to oil being a finite resource. They will slow down our productivity but they don't offer any solution.
You're 61 years old. These things will guarantee that you won't have to suffer from oil costs being unaffordable but your kids will have to deal with it even if you don't.
This is why plug-ins are a viable option that must be promoted (I actually don't favor government subsidies at the federal level as a means of promoting them) since our society can maintain the benefits of mobility provide by the personal automobile using renewable and sustainable resources.
The 1 million electric vehicles will provide a tipping-point to make EV infrastructure cost effective and enable mass production to bring EV prices down to a level where they are affordable to the masses.

· · 7 years ago

I have never understood why people get so defensive when others say electric cars aren't practical. Of course, they are not practical! They have batteries that cost an arm and leg, and weigh a decent fraction of a ton. But think beyond EVs. Honestly, how many cars are practical? Almost no one buys a car for its practicality. They are bought on emotion. Do you really need a 4x4 SUV that could traverse the Rubicon trail to drive to work? Do you need a 400 hp sports sedan to creep along in bumper to bumper traffic? Does the top really have to go down so everyone can see you? Do you need a 10 speaker audio system that could blow the windows out of an office building?

So the next time, someone says your electric car isn't practical, just smile, and say, "No, it's not, but I am sure enjoying it." They'll start wondering what they are missing out on.

· Dave K. (not verified) · 7 years ago

Of course it will take decades for EVs to make a dent in our oil addiction, but does that mean we shouldn't start? Of course it would be quicker if people quit driving and walked-biked-rode public trans., try selling that one! I go to the monthly peak oil meeting and almost everyone drives to it! I actually think it will be accelerated by PHEV conversions like Alt-E but bottom line is don't make the perfect the enemy of the good! I would like to stop the OEMs from building ICE vehicles we are going to have little or no fuel for until the 20 years of inventory currently on the road are scrapped but again, try to sell that one! We have to focus on the possible not the ideal. I live in a city (Atlanta) like many in the US that was designed around the automobile, it would take a lot to make anything else work, path of least resistance is electrify those cars!

· vfx (not verified) · 7 years ago

".... Leave out the part that when you "use" lithium, it's still there—but when you use gasoline, it's gone. "

Leave the part out that when you "use" lithium when driving, it's still there ---but when you burn gasoline, it's gone. Oh, don't mention when it's done you can recycle the lithium again.

· · 7 years ago

So the next time, someone says your electric car isn't practical, just smile, and say, "sure it is, the average commute in the U.S. is less than 40 miles and this car can go over twice that!"

· · 7 years ago

@James Thurber: The point of the EV subsidies is not to make a large, immediate dent in our oil dependency. As such, these subsidies can be only one component of an overall energy policy, which must also account for our near-term petroleum needs.

The reason for subsidizing EVs is to hasten the development and public acceptance of the technology. With mass production and technology improvements, the subsidies should go away. This is clearly in our best interest as a nation. We cannot afford to keep relying on people who hate us for energy, and we need cleaner forms of energy/transportation for our children's well-being.

@ex-EV1 driver: I understand that government subsidies are inefficient, often managed poorly (just look at one un-named company taking DOE money to install chargers), and could be considered a form of socialism. But it does seem that, overall, they are helping to accelerate interest in EVs, in terms of R&D, on the manufacturing side, and among the public. This could make the difference between our society and economy being prepared for a major oil price spike in 2025 or not.

· · 7 years ago

Unfortunately, all socialistic programs have a good side. That's not actually the point. The question is whether the bad sides (loss of freedom, poor choices made for political reasons, etc) of socialism in general outweighs the good of any specific act.

· Kevin (not verified) · 7 years ago

Actually some of the arguments sound pretty accurate to me (and I own a Nissan Leaf). My marginal cost of electricity is about $0.30/kwh, because I am a PG&E customer and it's not feasible for me to switch to a time of day rate plan or an electric vehicle rate plan. It's not "a fortune" for me to buy electricity, but it costs about the same as my Prius at $4/gallon for gasoline. The cost of electricity from PG&E ranges from $0.05/kwh to $0.54/kwh - almost a factor of 11. By contrast, gasoline sells in a fairly narrow range of prices. The rate plans from PG&E and other utilities are driven more by politics than economics, and their rate plans have many gotchas that make them infeasible for many potential EV drivers.

Second, I probably *will* have to replace the battery at great cost. The 8 year warranty only covers complete failure of cells, but does *not* cover the expected capacity loss. After 100,000 miles and 8 years on a conventional gas-powered car, you expect that you have to replace the timing chain at a cost of maybe $1000. After 100,000 miles and 8 years on my Leaf, I expect to have to replace the entire battery system. The manufacturing cost for the Leaf batteries have been estimated at $375/kwh, for a total cost of $9K. The cost including labor and retail markup could easily top $12K. Moreover, the Morgan Stanley report from 2009 pointed out that battery technology is changing at a rather slow rate, with most of the cost reduction coming from economy of scale rather than technological improvement in materials. All of this could change, but there's no analog of Moore's law to point at.

I find that it's rather difficult to have a rational discussion about the economics of electric vehicles - both EV advocates and EV haters tend to choose their statistics to suit their desired view.

· Nick Zart (not verified) · 7 years ago

You forgot my favorite! If we start using all that electricity it will pollute. I guess it's better to send money to countries with dubious ties with groups that "threaten" world peace.

· Konraden (not verified) · 7 years ago

EV's are great, but I don't see you getting past the "limited range" part anytime soon, particularly since you have to charge your car for several hours, while a petrol vehicle can stop, fill up, and be off in five minutes or less.

I don't see anything cost-efficient being able to fix that problem.

· · 3 years ago

Love it! Great way to get people to see what they are saying. You missed a great one though. Take the per session cost of a QC, and multiply it through like it is the cost you will have for all of the miles you ever drive. And ignore all of the free charging opportunities available because they take too long (which is less time to charge than your last trip to the mall). You see with an EV, you don't have to tend to it while it is filling up.

Oh that, and "In 10 years, when the battery has degraded our landfills will be full of EVs". Yah, just like we do with ICE cars, right? Dump them rather than overhaul an engine (or replace the battery)? Just ignore the fact that the old battery is still an effective store of kWh (just less of them) and can be used by solar and wind farms to store power for peak periods ...prior to being recycled. Also ignore the fact that the EV motor is nowhere near midlife after those 10 years ... the way an ICE car would be.

Oh and "It's all so complicated with L1, L2, L3, QC, CHAdeMO, SC, how do you ever know which ones you can even use?" Well, I'm not sure I understand the question, there are often 6 different fuel pumps at the gas station, was it hard to figure out which one to use?

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