October 2011 Electric Car Hater Award: Louis Woodhill from Forbes Magazine

By · October 17, 2011

Plugincars.com is proud to announce the winner of this month’s Hater’s Award for EV Hating Excellence.

The winner for the month of October 2011 is the Forbes article entitled, “Electric Cars are an Extraordinarily Bad Idea,” an opinion piece by Mr. Louis Woodhill. The title is probably enough, but I will point out that the author appears to really hate electric cars. His article scored well across the board in all Hater categories. Did I mention that he hates electric cars?

Nissan LEAF on tour

The world according Woodhill: Nobody is interested in sucky Nissan LEAF cars. Instead, consumers should buy a Nissan Versa for half the price or a car that runs on compressed natural gas.

Throughout, Mr. Woodhill does extremely well in the “falsehoods” category largely due to the sheer volume of false and misleading information. In a single representative paragraph, he squeezes in three consecutive falsehoods about the Nissan LEAF. He contends that:

  • A $35,000 Nissan LEAF is comparable to a $17,000 Nissan Versa. [Double false on price and comparison.]
  • It is almost impossible to drive a LEAF more than 60 miles a day. [Wow. Definitely false.]
  • The LEAF accelerates more slowly than the Versa. [False again. Ever driven one?]

The rest of the article is littered with falsehoods as well, but never as compactly and efficiently as in that particular passage.

In another section, he teeters perilously close to disqualifying himself from the Hater Award. Here, he actually acknowledges the potential economic benefit of an electric car by making relatively non-skewed estimates of the cost to fuel a gasoline car versus the cost to fuel an electric car. That little flirtation with fair-mindedness hurts his score in the "glaring omissions" and "unmitigated gall" categories. In the end, he redeems himself as a Hater (phew) by hugely mischaracterizing the upfront costs of the cars he is comparing—apparently just enough to ensure that fossils fuels come out as the winner.

First, he ignores the whopping $7,500 federal tax credit that reduces the LEAF’s price to the mid-$20,000s (which then gets further reduced by state and regional tax incentives). Just as ignores those tax breaks, he rolls his eyes at that same federal support, claiming that federal subsidies and fuel economy requirements will “force auto companies to manufacture 1,000,000 electric cars by 2015”—apparently confusing President Obama’s goal with a fantasy 1M EV mandate. Of course, he writes that nothing will be able to force consumers to buy such useless vehicles.

Road Kill: Reality

The most memorable part of the article describes a Washington, DC snowstorm and a prolonged traffic jam. The author figures that the snowstorm would magically kill all the EVs. Woodhill writes, “Every single one of them in the DC area would have ended up stranded on the side of the road, dead.” Of course, he had to make a few assumptions to get there. He had to dramatically overestimate the energy draw to keep the car warm in bad weather (conveniently overlooking that gas cars burn petroleum as they idle, while electric cars barely use any power when stuck in crawling traffic).

He is also assuming that every one of the EV owners will leave for home without wondering about their cars' range, and every one will simultaneously forget to recharge at work. And, each one of them will just happen to live just outside of their car’s range—apparently discovering the car’s capabilities for the very first time. So in this vivid and utterly fictional portrayal, EVs look pretty bad. That earns Woodhill extra credit in the unmitigated gall category.

The article does well in the “appearance of authority” category. The author mentions his background as a mechanical engineer. And the article appears in Forbes, which generally has a good reputation. As an engineer, he probably has enough of a science background to be familiar with carbon dioxide and the Keeling curve. (By the way, is anybody doing fact-checking at Forbes, even if it is an opinion piece?)

Toward the end of the article, Woodhill turns to openly shilling for (surprise!) the fossil fuel industry. We don’t need electric cars, he argues. All we need are cars that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). New fracking technology, he asserts, will make natural gas cheap and abundant. Where do I even start? He leaves out quite a few jaw-dropping problems about both CNG and fracking. The argument that CNG is going to take the automotive world by storm, while EVs die out, is just fracking ridiculous.

The Score

Falsehoods = 9.2

Glaring omissions = 7.3

Appearance of authority = 8.5

Unmitigated gall: = 9.4

Final Score = 8.6

At the end of the year, we will tally Woodhill's score against other award winners, in order to declare the hating-est EV hater for 2011.

Comments

· · 2 years ago

Sorry for off topic:

Is Nissan Leaf has become the most produced electric car in history?

Nissan produced 15,000 Leaves already for less than a year.

The only list of produced electric cars I found is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_electric_vehicle

· Tom K (not verified) · 2 years ago

Good reading. I'm looking forward to the year end winner... By the way, the most miles I've driven my LEAF in any one day was 180 miles....

· · 2 years ago

Yes, I can see that there are lots of bad/ignorant and even payed for articles against electric cars out there. :(

· Durand (not verified) · 2 years ago

Wow, Paul Scott is my new hero! That article made Louis Woodhill sound like a complete moron.

· Charles (not verified) · 2 years ago

"And the article appears in Forbes, which generally has a good reputation."

What planet are you on. I think of Forbes as the Maxim for the 25 and older males. It has been years since Forbes has had a good news or editorial staff. Remember that Forbes was home to Daniel Lyons (Fake Steve Jobs). He is one of the well know technology writers that technology people laugh at (Rob Enderle, Maureen O'Gara and Laura DiDio are others). Also note that Steve Forbes is a GOP supply side tool. In other words, Hustler has more real news than Forbes.

· Axe_Handle (not verified) · 2 years ago

Hum. My Leaf is over 100 miles for the day, and there is a 25 mile trip waiting for it in a few hours. Maybe Mr. Woodhill was in the Jetta I dropped earlier today when I threw it into D for a little fun?

Anyone with a mechanical engineering background that ends up writing for Forbes couldn't possibly be THAT much of an engineer.

· · 2 years ago

A Versa beats a Leaf in the 0 to 60 race? Ha! I guess Louie or Woody Frackenhill, or whatever his name is, doesn't know that someone has already measured this . . .

http://www.zeroto60times.com/Nissan-0-60-mph-Times.html

Scroll down to the bottom of that page to observe that the best performing Versa (2009 model with a 1.8 liter engine) clocks in at 8.8 seconds and the Leaf does it at 7.9 seconds.

I had use of a Leaf for about a day this past weekend (leading up to our local Plug In Day celebration here in Tucson) and found it to be a simply marvelous car. In Eco mode, I logged around 70 miles - with miles to spare at the end of the day - and found myself gaining miles at times, when coasting down hill (regenerative breaking.)

While grabbing a bite to eat for about half an hour and having it plugged into a free charging station, I gained around another 18 miles worth of range. When I finally got home and parked it overnight - with 24 miles of range left - it was fully charged by morning to 98 miles . . . and this was on a 110 Volt outlet.

One of my favorite moments was when I was carting my son around and parked in the grocery store lot for a few minutes. He stayed in the car - turned on and locked, with the air conditioner and radio running - while I ran in to pick up a few items. I never do this in our gas cars, as all you end up doing is spewing tailpipe emission crud and carbon into the air, just to keep your teenager momentarily entertained and comfortable . But with an EV, doing this isn't even an issue.

Yeah . . . I want a Leaf!

· Chris T. (not verified) · 2 years ago

"The most memorable part of the article describes a Washington, DC snowstorm and a prolonged traffic jam."

I ran out of gasoline in a DC snowstorm-induced traffic jam, once.

I guess that proves that gasoline powered cars are useless!

· · 2 years ago

As a Leaf owner the words I hate worst is "What will you do when your car runs out of electricity". This assume I am STUPID. I want to choke the person. My question back is "What do you do when you run out of gas". I cannot believe Mr Woodhill is an engineer. Electric cars are here and they will improve and grow. The nice part about electric is that there are so many ways to produce electricity. The world will be a better place when we all run electric vehicles. Just need to work on size, cost and charge speed. Right now my Leaf and I are doing fine.

· Roh Vemula (not verified) · 2 years ago

This kind of information should not have been published in famous magazine Forbes. It is not an insult to the magazine rather than to Electric Cars.

I own Chevy Volt, I love this car, this is techonological innovation in all respects. It has all kind of luxary in it, you name it , it has everything.

One should go thorugh research on the item and understand how they work,before they write. This person may be insane to write wrong thigns and misguide people. Many people do not know how this techonology works in electric cars.

Yes, for now they are expensive, due to intial investment, and there is no competetion. Down the road the prices of these cars will come down. All cars manufactures should be ELECTRIC with extedend ragne like Chevy Volt.

· · 2 years ago

The author is not accurate is saying the CNG car drivers don't have range anxiety. Try driving your CNG car from LA to Mammoth. There is not enough range with a Civic CNG to get there, because there are no CNG stations on 395. CNG cars also suffer from low energy density, so it become impractical to build one with the range of a liquid fueled car.

· Charles (not verified) · 2 years ago

More "Steve Forbes is a GOP supply side tool": he has come out in strong support of Perry's tax the poor more and the rich less flat tax plan.

· pop art (not verified) · 2 years ago

It is an awesome article. I love reading, and looking forward to read the articles of the upcoming months winners.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

What a bunch of bandwagon "haters". Electric cars do not make monetary sense - today. You know it, I know it, the government knows it, everyone knows it. For those of us that can afford the cash outlay, financing, or who's company provides one (myself w/ a hybrid), then they're "great". And THANK YOU VERY MUCH to all the taxpayers that helped pick up the tab, to the tune of $7500.

Author Steve "Electric Car Hate List" Harvey, now how is it that you're an electric car expert, yet don't drive one?

Why don't you at least start with a hybrid. They're made right here in Missouri.

· · 2 years ago

Anonymous: Yes electric cars do cost more - today. However that's how technology works. The early versions are always more expensive, usually bigger and heavier and don't offer nearly the utility that versions only a few years later do. The thing is we won't get to the better versions if we don't start somewhere. You sound like you don't like today's Ev offerings - that's great - DON'T BUY ONE. There are plenty of gas cars for you out there. However when you whine about the $7,500 tax credit you either conveniently forget to mention the enormous taxpayer subsidies your gas burner gets or you just don't realize how much of your tax dollar goes to protecting the oil supply, and subsidizing the oil industry. It's just that the federal tax credit for electric cars is much easier to see, it's not that we don't subsidize oil.
I'm all for ending the subsidies on electric cars, just as soon as we stop subsidizing oil. No tax breaks, no exploration subsidies and if we need to send troops to foreign lands to protect the supply, then lets bill it to the companies that pump the stuff from that area.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

You are projecting. I do in fact love my hybrid and it still does not make financial sense - unless someone subsidizes the initial purchase.

I think what you are getting at are the tax breaks oil companies receive. Have you considered that with the 2nd highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, the US does in fact have to offer tax breaks to keep all "portable" multinational companies from fleeing our tax borders? Here's an idea - let's keep our "world class" corporate tax rates, remove all deductions, drive all major businesses out of the US, and then eat granola bars at the coffee shop while whining on blogs.

I would still like to know why the author is not at least driving a made-right-hre-in-Missouri Hybrid.

· sell car (not verified) · 2 years ago

I don't why do Mr. Louis Woodhill have problem with Electric cars, we all know that Electric cars are 100% emission-free, having no polluting byproducts. My personal views definitely goes in the favor of Nissan LEAF which costs less than $35,000.

· JeffU (not verified) · 1 year ago

Oil companies and their disciples are not going to go away quietly and give up on their huge monopoly.

Don't be fooled. They don't want you to even think about getting a car like I did so you can then realize that you really don't need gasoline to get to work and back each day. Or for most of your driving that is.

They don't want you to realize that driving an electric powered car is way more fun to drive than a gasoline car can ever be.

For me, 18,000 miles in my Chevy Volt in 18 months with only 55 gallons of gas used to occasionally extend my range. I drive 98% on my Volt's battery charged by my home's cheap electricity. You will hear this story over and over from many Volt owners. The Volt has the highest consumer satisfaction ratting of any car.

The oil companies, and their disciples don't want you to go test drive a plugin electric car like the Chevy Volt because they will loose you as a customer.

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