The Electric Car Albatross

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Electric cars make sense at amusement parks and golf courses – and on the road, if the road is mostly flat, it’s nice and warm out (but not too warm) you’ve got money to waste, don’t have to go very far (especially in winter) ad don’t mind waiting a couple hours before you can go someplace else.

Otherwise, they’re marvelous.

The hype about electric cars is still years ahead of the actuality. If by actuality you mean an electric car that isn’t more compromised than Arnold’s political career. I remember covering the GM Impact/EV back in the early ’90s, almost 20 years ago. Most of the press swooned; a few Californians bought (well, leased) them. Some even liked them (that’s California for you and also because California doesn’t have winter; more on this below). The car was a money pit for GM, despite all the hoopla and the government kickbacks.

And today?

Cut through the farrago of Happy Talk and the real-world boondoggle’s still the same. The range of the latest electric cars is said to be better. But it is always couched in the ubiquitous marketing con, “up to.” And under ideal conditions.

Your actual mileage will vary.

Consider the Nissan Leaf. On a full charge, Nissan touts a a 100 mile range. It doesn’t tout what the range will fall to when it’s 16 degrees outside and the capacity of the Leaf’s battery declines by “up to” 20-30 percent, which it will as all batteries do when it is very cold out. Now add the additional load on the battery to power things like the heater/fan – and the lights, which you will probably need when it’s dark outside.

There are other forms of loading, too. Passengers and Stuff. Everyone knows that a gas powered car goes slower and burns more fuel the more it’s loaded down with passengers and cargo. The electric car is not immune from the same physical laws. Add a few hundred pounds of weight and it’s going to need more energy to do the same work and that means more draw on the battery, which will mean reduced range as well as reduced performance.

Summer’s not so hot, either – as far as optimizing an electric car’s range. You’ll probably want to run the air conditioning, which will draw power from the battery pack. And high heat can be as unkind to batteries as bitter cold.

So, let’s say the real-word range of a car like the Leaf is 60-ish miles under less-than ideal conditions. That is, in the real world. That might work for close-in commuting. But it could be an uncomfortably close shave if you live in the ‘burbs, 20 or 30 miles out.

At least with a gas-fueled car, you can refill the tank in a few minutes and be back on your way. But when the Leaf runs out of juice, you’re not only looking at an hour or more downtime to induce a partial charge (a full charge takes several hours) you’ll need to locate one of the special 220V charging stations the Leaf requires. This EV does not just plug into any household 110V outlet. The 220V stations is faster – if you can find one.

Just what our typical stressed-out commuter needs – right?

The Chevy Volt at least addresses that problem by carting around its own portable (and gas-fueled) generator, so that when your “up to 40 miles” range on electric power alone fizzles out, you’re not stuck. The car’s gas engine kicks on, pumps juice into the battery, which then runs the electric motor – and keeps you moving. (The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid operates on the same principle.)

Which is lovely except it concedes that gas power is still better than electric power because without that gas engine, the Volt (and the Prius) ain’t a goin’ no damn where – not very damn far, anyhow.

All this would be kind of funny in a latter-day Pinto kind of way except for one thing: The government never forced the taxpaying public to underwrite Pinto ownership.

Electric cars like the Leaf and Volt come with luxury car MSRPs – until Uncle Sam transfers about 20 percent onto the backs of you and me. The Volt’s MSRP is $40,280. The Leaf’s MSRP is $32,780. What lunatic would pay BMW/Lexus money for either of these things? The answer, of course, is only a few (well-heeled) lunatics of the posturing “green” variety – posturing because by definition, if you can spend BMW/Lexus money on a new car, worrying about the cost of gas is an abstraction. People who really have to worry about spending an extra $10 or $20 at every fill-up don’t buy $32k-$40k new cars. If they do, that’s why they’re having to worry about the cost of fuel.

So, enter Uncle – who is very generous with other people’s money. “Buy” a new Volt or Leaf or one of the other electric Turduckens now available and he will send you a check for $2,500-$7,500 depending on the model. Nissan even advertises the actual cost of its car After Uncle ($32,780 less $7,500) to make the thing seem more appealing.

In summary: The prudent fellow who buys a $15k (and 41 MPG) Ford Fiesta pays full freight but the “green” poseur who buys the electric car that goes maybe 60 or 70 miles before it conks out gets a $2,500-$7,5000 handout at the expense of people like the prudent fellow who bought the $15k Fiesta on his own nickel.

Welcome to the funny farm.


  1. Eric, thanks for letting me stomp all over your page as an alternative point of view for EVs. I know we won’t come to an agreement, but I enjoy discussing this topic.

    For the record, you are absolutely right that the current crop of EVs don’t truly qualify as economy cars. From my perhaps unique perspective as an EV aficionado, I nonetheless welcome them to the marketplace and hope they do well. I think there are two ways they may do well.

    The Volt in particular, I think can appeal to buyers of more upscale cars that like the idea of saving fuel money, or perhaps just not feeding the oil machine. (And yes, of course, those buyers who like making the “green” statement.)

    And inexpensive leasing deals are an opportunity for less well-heeled buyers to try out the EV idea. Though carmakers will need to follow through with better priced cars to keep those drivers.

  2. Hey Eric – bottom line on our leasing discussion.

    You seem to be saying that leasing is no way to save money , no matter how cheap the deal is (and I showed how to lease a Volt with an effective price of $184/month.)

    Of course I disagree. There is a cost of ownership that can be calculated on a per year basis, no matter how long you own your car. If I come up with a per-year lease cost that is lower than your calculated per-year cost from owning a car for 12 years, then I am the one who has saved money, not you. In addition, I have the time value of money working for me, while it works against you (because your purchase money went in up front, and mine didn’t.)

    You can’t make it as simple as “leasing is always a bad idea”. Leasing sometimes does work. In fact, this is an excellent, cost-effective and afffordable way to dip your toes into EV ownership.

    • The best way to save money is to not buy (or lease) a new car …any new car … period. The money saved on first and second year depreciation alone will (on average) amount to 20-30 percent of the car’s purchase price new.

      Yes, your stated monthly lease costs are (relatively) modest. But one could buy a standard (non-hybrid) car such as the Fiesta for much less up front and monthly payment-wise … and after five years, you own the thing.

      Now, if you are smart about money, you will then keep and drive that paid-for car for the next ten years after that. Zero monthly payments; very modest fuel bills (41 MPG highway with this car). And even after 15 years, the car will still be worth a few thousand bucks, assuming it’s in drivable condition.

      Buy a hybrid or EV if it floats your boat; if you like the idea; if you get something out of it. But if the object is to save money, this is not the way to go.

      • The Fiesta is not comparable to the Volt – the Volt has luxury features, and is full of technological gadgets.

        Since I can’t make the lease argument work with you, let’s compare buying the Volt to the Jetta TDI you suggested earlier. Your suggestion was to keep the Jetta for 10-15 years. So let’s use 12 years.

        Volt, after credit: $33,500

        2011 Jetta TDI (w/similar options as Volt): $25,295

        Difference: $8205

        Fuel savings, Volt vs Jetta, based on Jetta 34mpg:

        15,000 miles at 34mpg is 441 gallons of gas. 12 years is a long time, so lets use $5/gallon as the cost of gas. 441 gallons costs $2205 per year.

        Electricity at 11 cents/KWH, 4 miles per KWH, 15000 miles costs $412.

        The Volt therefore saves about $1793/year in fuel cost over the Jetta. Over 12 years, that will cost you:

        $21,516 extra in the Jetta.

        That’s more than two-and-a half times the difference in price between these two cars.

        Sorry, can’t afford your Jetta TDI. Unless I pay for it with the TWENTY GRAND in fuel savings?

        Gasoline is just too darn expensive to keep using.

        • Hey now!

          You’ve made several large assumptions in favor of the Volt:

          $5 gas – conjecture. In fact, gas prices are dropping; average is now back around $3.59. It is pure optimistic speculation (for your position) to base your argument on $5 gas. I could just as fairly state that perhaps gas will fall back to $2.50 per gallon. Either scenario is plausible. All we know for sure is that gas right now is not $5 per gallon – so your assumption needs to be scaled back by at least $1 per gallon.

          Two, you assume electricity costs will not increase (even though you assume gas prices will). Dunno about your area but in mine the local utility is petitioning to raise rates by almost 10 percent. Meanwhile, gas prices are going down…

          Three, you don’t count the $7,500 “store credit.” That artificially lowers the true cost of the Volt.

          You’ve also jacked up the price of the TDI Jetta by about $2,300 – equivalent to about a year’s worth of fuel at current prices. The TDI Jetta’s actual base MSRP is $22,995. That’s with AC and most power options, so the car is certainly not a stripper. Yes, the Volt has some additional tech/luxury options. Would a person shopping for a low-cost car be especially interested in such? If so, then clearly, the priority is something other than saving money. Which makes my point; i.e., people who buy cars like the Volt do so for reasons above and beyond the fuel (that is, money) savings potential.

          In which case, the whole purpose of such a car is essentially pointless from the standpoint of economy. And isn’t economy supposed to be the main reason for the existence of cars like the Volt?

        • This is just a follow-up…

          I’m guessing your income is well above the median household (i.e, family) income of appx. $46k. I would not be surprised to learn it’s considerably higher than that. You don’t have to tell us specifically, but how about a ballpark?

          My reason for mentioning this – and asking about this – is to make the point that a car with a price tag approaching 100 percent of the median family income that is touted as an “economy” car is a contradiction in terms; an oxymoron. The ’90s-era EV1 was very popular with affluent hipsters in CA – and I suspect that (outside of government and corporate fleets) the same will be true of cars like the Volt and Leaf. But the mass market? No way. I which case, such cars are just another specialty/niche type of vehicle and how that “saves the planet” or helps average people – the people who need the help – escapes me.

          What the working and middle classes need is a $15k car that gets 40 MPG or better – easily doable with conventional gas IC technology if you don’t need to get to 60 in 7 seconds and have a top speed of 130 MPH. With a diesel engine, the mileage could be solidly in the 50s – better than Prius – for $10k less.

          The EV and hybrid stuff is mostly about posturing – not lowering the cost of driving.

            • Similar here. I’ve posted before about our vehicles, but for Apeweek’s benefit, we have a two Nissan pick-ups, both purchased used, in cash, each for about $7,000. So I have about $14k invested in my trucks. The ’98 I could sell for around $4,000. Which means my actual net cost to buy was only about $3,000 – so the truck itself has cost me about $428 annually so far (not counting fuel) or about $35 a month, over the seven years I’ve owned it.

              Much more economical than paying $350 a month to lease Volt.

              Filling up once a week (15 gallon tank) costs about $55 at current prices (about $3.60) so at current prices fuel costs are about $220/month. But before gas prices went up, this was much lower (about $35 per tank at $2.40 per gallon works out to about $144/month). Yes, gas prices may go up. They also may go down, too. The value of my truck will be about the same next year, though (truck values hold much better than car values) and each year I keep it my total ownership cost goes down. And since I own the truck – vs. renting it, as Apeweek does his Volt – the longer I own it, the less it costs me while his monthly costs never go down.

              Another factor: Insurance costs and (where applicable)personal property taxes. With an older – paid for – vehicle, you have the option of buying a basic liability only policy and regardless, the premium will be much lower because the replacement cost of the vehicle will be so much lower than it would be with a new car. I pay around $200 annually to the insurance shysters for the ’98 Nissan. Comprehensive coverage on a new $40,000 car like the Volt (required unless you buy the car outright and few people can do that) is sure to be much more than that. Likewise personal property taxes, if you have those in your area. I am still paying the county $150 annually in property taxes on my almost 14 year old truck. Imagine what they would be on a vehicle with a book value of $40k.

          • My income isn’t where you think. I already told you I’m leasing – $350 month, with $166 fuel savings making it more like $188/month. Remember? The price of the car is irrelevant to me.

            Re: assumptions – I got the number for the Jetta from a site that let me select various options. I checked all the options that were also on the Volt (nav package, power everything, etc), so the cars would be similarly configured. As for gas, it was cheaper 10 years ago. So the long term trend is up, not down. Adding just $1 to gas (especially diesel) is conservative.

            However, even if you alter my variables, the The Volt still comes out cheaper in the comparison.

            And sure, I count the $7500 credit. Your car gets subsidies, too, on gasoline. But frankly, the $7500 is mainly for GM, not for me. You don’t think GM raises the pricetag because they know that credit is there?

            Electricity cost I used is a national average. The price I pay here in Detroit is actually half of that. My utility gives me an off-peak rate for EVs (ask your utility for this.) But try increasing electricity by 50% in the comparison – you will see it doesn’t make that much difference.

            You keep trying to make me show that an EV has to win an award for cost effectiveness to be worth buying – if that were the point, I would be on a bicycle.

            The point is whether the kind of electric car *I want to drive* can also save me money (over a similar gas car.) And it does. Inexpensive EVs will come eventually. EV hobbyists have been making cheap EVs for decades. Example EVs: used but well cared for:


            Since you wonder, I’m an EV hobbyist. My last car was a hobbyist EV conversion – very cheap to acquire (just $2000 used plus elbow grease) and supremely cost-effective (6 cents per mile, including electricity, maintenance and amortized battery life.) But I wanted my next EV to be a nicer car.

            This doesn’t make me some sort of strutting greenie. Really, like most of my EV club cohorts, I’m in love with the technology. And I’m ready now for a little more comfort with my economical driving choice. Don’t you have similar feeling about what you drive?

            • Hi Apeweek,

              Ok, you write:

              “The price of the car is irrelevant to me.”

              My argument has been that the price of the car is the most relevant thing there is if you are trying to save money – which is ostensibly the whole point of these (supposedly) “efficient” vehicles. You’re conceding that factors other than cost motivate you to buy the Volt. That’s fine – your right as a consumer. But what consumer looking to spend less money on his vehicle/ownership costs is not concerned about… the cost of buying/owning the car?

              Your write:

              “I got the number for the Jetta from a site that let me select various options. I checked all the options that were also on the Volt (nav package, power everything, etc), so the cars would be similarly configured.”

              Again – people looking to save money usually skip things like GPS and leather, premium audio – etc. Nice to have? Sure. But if you’re buying premium equipment (vs. essentials such as AC) then clearly, your main priority is not saving money on what you spend on cars. It’s fine to indulge yourself if you have the means and the desire to do so. But people trying to limit their costs don’t buy premium/luxury options and equipment – by definition. Unless they’re dumb!

              You write:

              “As for gas, it was cheaper 10 years ago. So the long term trend is up, not down. Adding just $1 to gas (especially diesel) is conservative.”

              No, it’s your arbitrary assumption – biased to support your argument. We can each base our arguments on endless hypotheticals, but that gets us nowhere as it’s just speculation. It’s just as conceivable that gas prices could collapse due to deflationary pressures, weak demand or new discoveries. Right? So, let’s stick with what we know.

              You write:

              “However, even if you alter my variables, the The Volt still comes out cheaper in the comparison”

              Not in the long run. Your monthly rental (lease) payment never goes down. If you buy a car, you own it after a few years and after that, your monthly payment becomes zero. And the longer you own the car, the lower your amortized total costs of ownership (see my previous post to Dom). Another factor I did not mention before that applies to all new cars is the cost of insurance, which will be much higher on a new car. Over a period of 4-5 years the total for that can easily amount to several additional thousand dollars in ownership cost. Then there are personal property taxes – if you have them in your area.

              You write:

              “You keep trying to make me show that an EV has to win an award for cost effectiveness to be worth buying – if that were the point, I would be on a bicycle”

              No, I am arguing that EVs should cost less to own/drive than a current economy compact or mid-sized car. They don’t.

              You write:

              “The point is whether the kind of electric car *I want to drive* can also save me money (over a similar gas car.) And it does. ”

              That’s fine – but you’re looking for what amounts to a lower cost Lexus or BMW3, in terms of fuel costs. The car itself is still expensive, much more so than a genuine economy car, let alone a used economy car.

              The fact is that the only way GM can make the Volt remotely salable is to lease (that is, rent) them, which as I have pointed out is a bad deal for most people vs. buying.

              You write:

              “Inexpensive EVs will come eventually.”

              I’ve been a car columnist/reporter for more than 20 years. This is the same line I heard back in the early ’90s. It’s still just an assertion. And we’re still waiting for an electric car that costs less to own than a conventional economy car.

  3. Yikes! Lots of problems with this article, but the main issue is the constant complaining about how taxpayers are funding EVs, but not conventional drivers.

    This is WRONG. Gasoline is taxpayer-subsidized to the tune of billions every year, and has been for decades. This corporate welfare dwarfs any measly funding EVs get.

    I’m not defending subsidies in any form – just pointing out that it’s all part of the same game, and it should ALL stop.

    For the record, EVs will compete just fine against real-market priced gasoline, absent the money taken from my pocket.

    • When you say “real market priced” what do you mean? Are you making the argument (and old one) that the cost of “externalities” such as CO2 output isn’t factored into the “true cost” of gas? Just wondering… Also, don’t forget that a large chunk of the per gallon price of gas is taxes. As much as 75 cents, depending on where you live.

      • Well, I’m assuming (or hoping) that the money taken from my pocket to subsidize gasoline at least reduces the selling price. So without subsidies, gasoline would be priced higher.

        Externalities of gasoline would be another topic, and interesting in it’s own regard. But I’m talking about more or less direct tax breaks and subsidies.

        Even conservative Forbes magazine thinks these are a bad idea:

        “…Although the president hopes to eliminate eight specific tax breaks–which cost the Treasury $43.6 billion over 10 years–only three, accounting for $31.9 billion of that total, are particularly important. Conservatives have no business defending any of them.”

        I’m well aware that gasoline has special taxes. So does electricity.

        • The pump price is not lower. The corporate welfare (foreign policy, mineral leases, etc) goes to corporate profits. The price of the finished product, gasoline is driven by a cartel like system (ethanol on the other hand is subsidized, including the ethanol mixed with gasoline).

          There are simply a limited number of refineries (don’t expect the government to allow any new ones not owned by big existing players). Don’t like the price? Don’t buy. That’s your only choice because gasoline is fungible and comes from limited manufacturing sources.

          This is what allows gasoline prices to be so easily manipulated…. oh it’s clean the pipes tuesday at such and such refinery… prices go up. Why? because who else are you going to buy from? Much unlike any other sort of business where competition (or new players) quickly take up any slack if one factory failed to make product.

          Gasoline production lacks any slack and any real competition. If people choose to buy at Citgo instead of BP, more gasoline leaves the depot for the citgo stations… no big deal to refineries which station it goes to.

          If anything, gasoline prices are artificially high much of the time because of this lack of competition and seemingly co-ordination between refiners.

          • In my area (SW VA) it is. A few weeks ago, it was about $4 per gallon. It is currently 30-40 cents lower. Just reporting the facts on the ground.

            I’m not a fan of the corporatist oil cartels; that’s a separate issue. The issue at hand is whether it is a smart move to lease a new Volt vs. buying something like a Jetta TDI (or perhaps one of the new “almost mid-sized” sedans from automakers like Suzuki and Kia… which you can buy new for about $20k or even less).

            The really smart move – if the object is to save money – is to buy a five or six year old Buick Lucerne or Toyota Avalon for $10k or so and drive it for the next 10 years.

            People who buy new anything are not really interested in saving money … and that’s th’ bottom line.

          • The leases and electrics and hybrids are just folly as to saving money as the simple math demonstrates.

            But what is money? It’s time, it’s labor. What does saving money require by buying used? Time and labor*. It’s a question of how much your time is worth to you.

            *If the time and labor is not put in, the odds of buying crap go up dramatically.

            • You mean needing work and such? Not necessarily. I haven’t had to do anything more than put a water pump on my ’98 – $40 for a pump and maybe an hour of my time. Other than that, just routine maintenance and even a new car needs that!

              And: new cars can have problems too. Yes, they’re covered under warranty – but warranty does not compensate you for the time/hassle of having to take the car to the shop, waiting for it, picking it up when it’s done, etc.

          • Primarily I was talking about the work to buy a good used car. The thing about a new car is that it can be ordered to the buyer’s specification. A used car has to be found. And then not only found it has to be one that has been maintained and not damaged or modified. Then there’s price. After finding that perfect example the seller might have an unrealistic idea of the car’s value on the market. All of this combined can take considerable effort if a buyer is looking for a specific vehicle.

            I’ve done it before. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of going from one seller to the next… finding cars where the sellers wanted top dollar only to find badly patched rust, structural rust problems, or parts store rebuilt engines with cams so loppy one had to try and catch the shift knob as it vibrated from side to side.

            Even in more modern cars serious rust issues can be lurking underneath. Owners screw up various systems thinking their modifications improve the car, and so on. Some people are dumping the cars because they got the bad one. The used market has lots of hazards and it takes knowledge (time and labor to obtain that), time, and effort to avoid them.

            For many it simply makes more sense to buy new, take care of it, and keep it a long time.

            My last used car? A car I bought from a family member… I knew it’s entire history. I still ended up with an expensive ring gear failure. Part something that happened to the car before I got it and part that happened while I was driving it, but never the less an expensive problem. I’m still ahead because (as likely with yours) cash for clunkers increased the car’s value considerably, but that’s not something most used car buyers can count on.

            • Ah! That’s true.

              So far, I’ve been lucky – probably because I know enough to know what to look for and may notice red flags that others may not.

              I took a gamble, though, on that Honda Silverwing I bought over the winter – sight unseen. That turned out to be better than advertised! The Motor Gods favored me…

  4. liked your “truth” on electric cars. When I lived in Saskatchewan and it was minus 40 the battery was usually half-asleep. The heater probably sucked 5 horse power and in summer the air con, the same.

    WE are the problem, because our culture has failed us, instead of arming us for the future, as should a good culture.

    This very day, here in paradise (Philippines), a 150cc motorbike called a “Hubble-hubble” passes up and down our road into the boonies with 7 people on it. That is about 25cc per person to take them and all they can carry into the mountain on a dirt track.

    This very day, in another part of paradise, a Suzuki Multi-cab with an 850cc engine loads 14 people with all they can carry and takes them where ever there is a road. That is about 60cc per person in relative comfort.

    “Progress” by definition is exponential and by definition must go hockey-stick and then collapse. Our coming failure both culturally and economically is a no-brainer. Evolution has devolved us into parasites and we have eaten the host. I postulate that the “American Model” refined our greed to a point where we are too stupid to understand the word “finite” which should awaken us to want to squeeze the toothpaste tube as slowly as possible so that it will last as long as possible. There is no more where that came from.

    Strangely the average Chinese Dynasty lasted about 250 years and our present Economic Dynasty has gone from circa 1792 to 2012; so it is probably done for.

    We already know that there is not enough lithium on the planet to give all the Chinese an electric car.

    Olduvai Theory will play out; but I will miss it as my Biblical allocation of three score and ten ends this year.

  5. Another thing I think we will begin to see is some of the all-electric cars running out of juice on bridges, etc. and causing traffic jams that burn zillions of gallons of gas.

    • Luckily, I doubt that will happen because I doubt we’ll be seeing many of these electric Turduckens out on the roads. At least, not outside of big cities. And even there, the majority will be “fleet users” – read, the government or some company milking a government subsidy. No sane person is going to spend even $25k on an electric car that can’t outperform a $3,000 15-year-old Corolla, takes hours instead of minutes to recharge and can’t be depended on to go more than 100 miles in between recharges under ideal conditions.

    • I know how you like to delete the truth but the fact is an electric car would handle at least 95% of my trips. All except the long trips out of town. With a small gas engine added it would handle 100% of the trips. A normal family with two cars, one of them being electric makes all the sense in the world. People that are looking for a work car and a run about car there is nothing wrong with one. When the price comes down like everything else does after they have been in production you will not beat the economy of one.

      • The honda civic hybrid is $8,000 more than the regular civic. It gets “up to” 44mpg. The regular car 36mpg. 8mpg more. That’s what you get for your eight grand. So before you drive the hybrid off the lot the gas version has money for 8,000/4*36=72,000 miles of driving. Now you spend 72,000/44*4=$6545 to get the hybrid to 72K miles. The gas car then can use the same amount to go 58909 miles more. Now the gas car is at 130909 miles… the hybrid requires spending another 58909/44*4=$5355 to have the same amount of miles on it… the gas car goes another 5355/4*36=48195miles…. now it’s at 179104 miles on the clock… and the hybrid still hasn’t made up it’s initial purchase premium. So the hybrid covers the additional miles at a cost of $4381… which allows the gas car to go another 39432 miles. The gas car is now at 218,536 miles and it’s still has cost less money than the hybrid. I can keep doing this until the hybrid catches up or make a spreadsheet to do it, but the point is clear… the gas civic will likely be over 300K before the hybrid has recovered it’s purchase premium. So if you plan on driving several hundred thousand miles in your new car, the hybrid might be the right choice for you.

        • And: That “up to” 44 MPG assumes mostly low speed (under 40 MPH) city-type stop and go driving. Drive that thing on the highway, or at speeds much faster than 40 MPH and (trust me) your actual mileage will vary.

        • A hybrid car is most efficient in city driving. You do not compare only highway miles when using your spead sheet. If you drive most of your miles in town driving then most of your travel would be at 50 mpg and a similar regular car would be at about 25 mpg.

          • Clover: A hybrid is only efficient in city (low-speed city) driving. Everywhere else, they suck ass.

            If you regularly drive much over 40 MPH (which means just about everyone) on other than mostly flat roads, or with passengers on board, your mileage will begin to suffer.

            If you drive over 60 for any length of time, your mileage will dramatically suffer.

            In mixed-use driving, which means the driving that most drivers do, the best of the hybrid lot – the Toyota Prius – averages mid-high 30s. In other words, about the same as a $15k Ford Fiesta.

            Not many drivers will ever amortize the much higher up-front cost difference.

            I have extensively test-driven every hybrid car on the market.

            Have you test driven even one?

      • Clover, if you want to spend 30-40 percent more for an electric car than you’d pay for a similar conventional car that performs better, etc., then by all means feel free to do so. But you can’t make an economic (or practical) argument for electric cars. Even with the massive government subsidies, they cost thousands more than an otherwise similar IC car; they take hours rather than minutes to recharge and they suffer from performance/functional liabilities that are non-issues with conventional IC cars.

        One could purchase a five or six year old IC economy car such as a Toyota Corolla for around $7,000 – a third or less the cost of something like the Nissan Leaf and a fourth the cost of the Chevy Volt – and have a car that in every way is more economical to operate and vastly superior in terms of its capabilities. That’s the Troof, Clover.

        Also, electricity ain’t free. And it ain’t “green,” either. With IC cars, we have a gauge of their driving costs in the form of EPA fuel economy ratings. Nos such measure yet exists for electric cars so people are buying a vehicle with no real idea as to the actual cost of “fueling” the things. Some electric cars (like the Nissan Leaf) require high-capacity 220V charging stations that involve another layer of expense, too.

        And don’t forget, Cloveroni, that most of the electricity produced in the US is generated in coal and oil-fired utility plants. Real “green,” that.

        • You say that an economic or practical argument can’t be made for EVs. This is demonstrably false.

          I lease a Chevy Volt. Lease price is $350/month. The Leaf leases for the same amount.

          For a typical driver (15,000 miles/year), gas would cost ($4 gallon, 25 mpg car) $2400 per year, or $200 per month.

          Same 15,000 miles on electricity (both cars get about 4 miles per KWH, and average KWH cost in US is 11 cents) costs just $412, or $34 per month.

          Subtract to get fuel cost savings per month, which is $166. Use that amount to offset the $350 lease payment, and it is equivalent (same total cash outlay) to leasing a car for $184 per month.

          The Volt is an extremely nice car with luxury features – extremely quiet and smooth ride, and packed full of every technological feature there is. Try leasing any other car as nice as this for just $188/mo.

          And you know what else – the deal just gets better the higher gas prices get. I just love driving past gas stations and looking at the suckers lined up there.

          • Your Volt is $40,000 (pre subsidy) or as much as a loaded BMW3 and not far off the price of the Corvette coupe I am testing this week (base price $49k).

            This is “economical”?

            Why not buy something like a Jetta TDI? It costs easily $10,000 less and is capable of averaging low 30s and getting low 40s on the highway… and is also a very nice vehicle, and one that will almost certainly run for 15-20 years and 300,000 miles without major work. Do you think your Volt will last that long without major work?

            I think the Volt is a neat car from a technological/engineering perspective. Does it make sense as an economic alternative to a current mid-sized, mid-priced IC car? Not to me…

          • Well, read my post. $188 lease per month is clearly economical. Purchase price is irrelevant to me.

            The Jetta won’t save me any money on gasoline. It won’t let me hit the per-month figure I quoted, so why bring this up? Name me something else that can.

            And why would I be worrying about a 300,000 mile lifetime if I’m leasing?

            FWIW, LG Chem, the Volt’s battery manufacturer, claims their battery can last up to 40 years. It probably won’t – but the Volt’s unique design lets it retain utility even when the battery’s range decreases. I foresee a used market where Volts with reduced ranges are bought by people with short commutes. It could last for 15-20 years, even on original batteries. Old Toyota RAV4 EVs are still on the road today, most with original batteries.

            Leasing makes the most sense with EVs at the moment. This technology is evolving rapidly. I also run an at-home business, and put a lot of business miles on my car. Leasing works best in my situation.

            • Well, leasing amounts to renting a car for “x” number of years. It is a bad decision, financially – unless you are in a position to take advantage of the various tax breaks/deductions that are sometimes available to people who lease. But for most people, leasing is a bad move, money-wise. A person looking to save money on the overall cost of ownership would do much better buying something like the Jetta and driving it for 10-15 years vs. renting a Volt for three or four years.

          • Okay, according to you, leasing is a bad financial decision.

            Yet I have just showed exactly how how leasing a Volt saves me money.

            In fact the amount of money I save will go up every year, along with the price of gasoline.

            If I have made a bad financial decision, you should be able to show how the Jetta you recommended will cost me less than the Volt.


            • If the object is to save money then leasing is not the way to go – irrespective of the electric/hybrid issue. You have no equity in the car; you just make rental payments on it and at the end of the rental period, you’ve got …. nothing. A person who buys a car owns the car after it is paid off and at that point no longer has to make monthly payments. That alone represents a potentially huge savings.

              An example. One of my vehicles is a ’98 Nissan Frontier. I paid $7,000 for it – used – back in 2003. It’s long ago paid off. The thing still runs perfectly and I could sell it for $4,000 according to KBB. So my actual out-of-pocket cost to own this vehicle is maybe $3 or $4k. It may only get 25 MPG, but the $33,000 I saved vs. buying a Volt (or leasing a Volt) will buy me a helluva lot of fuel! Even at $6 per gallon, it would take a long time to make a car such as your Volt a better choice, money-wise.

              Given that almost any new car can be counted on to run reliably for at least 10 years and 150,000 miles, that means a substantial period of time -potentially years – when the person’s cost of ownership is reduced to almost nil (excepting fuel and basic maintenance costs).

              That is what the person who wants to save money does. He does not rent a car for 3-4 years; he certainly doesn’t rent a $40,000 car for 3-4 years.

              The Volt is a car for people with plenty of money who want to make a statement; it is not a car for people of modest means trying to reduce the amount of money they spend on a vehicle.

          • Interesting response, in that you still did not address the specific lease numbers, and the low overall cost I showed you. You just repeat your generic information about how buying beats leasing.

            I agree with you, it usually does.

            But not in this case. EV technology will change quickly in the nest decade. Buying an EV could stick me with a car that may well be sad, technology-wise, in 10-12 years.

            Of course, I could buy the Volt and re-sell it in three years. However, the low lease figure of course includes an assumption on GM’s part about a high resale value.

            GM may be right, or they may be wrong. I would rather take the lease deal and leave the risk with them.

            Assuming EV technology stabilizes, and costs improve, I would indeed purchase my next EV.

            But in the meantime, I have my Volt, I have a low monthly lease payment, and low fuel costs.

            I know, your solution is to buy something entirely different. But that’s because you don’t like the Volt – not because you have a much better cost of ownership to show me. You don’t. Calculate it out, you will see that it is similar.

            For people interested in the technology, I submit that this is the way to take it for a spin (as opposed to coming up with 40 grand.)

            • It’s not that I don’t like the Volt (or the Leaf). It’s that I question the hype – and don’t see them as financially sensible cars for people looking to minimize their transportation costs (vs. say being seen as “early adopters” of “cool” new technology).

              Engineering-wise, they’re brilliant.

              But the cost is still prohibitive (hence the massive subsidies; the clever lease deals – another type of subsidy) and the capability is not yet par. Any 10-year-old economy compact still performs better than any new EV in terms of range, ease of use and so forth.

              I understand that for you recharge times are not an issue; for many people they absolutely are. I understand also that for your needs, the max range is acceptable. But for many people, it’s not – especially when you factor in the likely much-reduced range during winter, etc.

              The Volt, being a four-door, is more practical than the EV1. And having its own onboard generator is clever and addresses the range issue. But for all the reasons I’ve laid out, this is still essentially an expensive toy for people whose primary motivation for buying it is something other than cutting their ownership costs significantly.

          • Your volt ONLY runs on electric power, the “generator” never comes on?
            Moreover, you say save this, save that, but what you’re really talking about is spending… Not saving. Spending is the opposite of saving.
            So, $350 + $34 = $384. That’s what you spend month to month on the Volt rental. Without calculating the magical gas non-expense, miraculously, even though you put “a lot of business miles” on it.
            And if the average driver already has a car, he’s the one actually saving, by only spending $200 on gas, not the extra $184 on rental fees that you’ve got. After 14 months, at your average gas usage number, a $5000 car is already more economical, and actually owned. You can get a used VW diesel, which is nicer and probably faster than a Volt for that much. But then, that’s just pure economics. If you want a new car, I think a Fiesta or Cruze type thing would yield pretty similar on month-month comparisons, actually. Even a Golf, 2.5, can be had for around $300 a month + $200 on gas comes out at around $100 more a month but with a full range and you’ll own it after 5 years, say it’s worth only $8K? You’re up at least 2K in the end. It’s ok to like your car, but it’s not really saving you anything.

            • Hey Fritz,

              Thank Elvis someone else agrees with me! The whole spending (a fortune) to “save gas” strikes me as more than a little bit demented. If you really want to save, you don’t buy new, just like you’ve said. You buy (not rent) a good used car, easily acquired for less than $10,000 (and that’ll buy you a very nice used car; not a broken down POS) and then drive it for 10-plus years. Even if it’s worth zero dollars at the end of the 10 years, you’ve still only paid about $83 a month – a fraction of the cost of a new car, or the monthly rental for a Volt. And unless you treated the car very badly, it will not be worth zero dollars at the end of the 10 years. Odds are it’ll still be worth $1,500-$2,000 (possibly quite a bit more, even) which will further reduce your net cost of ownership.

              If you’re really savvy about it, you can amortize your ownership costs to nothing – and possibly even make money on the deal.

            • You can pick up a late ’90s/early 2000s Golf diesel for $5000 or less. These are a good balance between the fantastic fuel economy (but poor acceleration) of earlier diesels and the high cost of something newer.

          • What kind of fuel economy could I expect? Is there fine tuning that can easily boost the economy of the stock power train? Is there an aftermarket for common parts? How about about the general ease of wrenching on it? What is the median time on the clock before the engine is due to be refreshed? I don’t know anything about diesel cars!

            • The 2000 Golf TDI was rated at 42 city/49 highway – damn good numbers! (The city number’s about as good as the current TDI’s highway number.) Drive it carefully and I bet you could get into the 50s on the highway… my recollection is these were solid engines, good for more than 300,000 if you treated them right (regular oil/filter changes especially). I don;t know about mods… we need to get DieselEverything onto this board!

        • Eric it does not matter if you pay twice as much for a vehicle if you can save half of the fule usage. A new 15,000 car can save you money compared to an older <20 mpg truck.

          • Clover-Troll, your logic is bizarre, as always. Spend $15,000 (plus the taxes, plus the insurance) in order to “save” money vs. keeping a paid-for 20 MPG truck that costs nothing to keep because it’s paid for? Really?

            How much gas does $15,000 (not counting the additional money you’d pay in taxes as well as insurance) buy?

            At $4 per gallon, oh Clover-Troll, $15,000 buys 3,750 gallons of gas. That works out to 75,000 miles of driving at 20 MPG. That is how much of a lead I have on you – i.e., the miles you’d have to drive before you even reached “break even” with me.

            What a bargain!

            Look how much you saved….

            • Yep! Also, our resident carpet crunching Troll forgets about the depreciation loss that comes with the purchase of almost any new car – which further erodes whatever “savings” there might be.

              Depreciation averages 20-30 percent of MSRP after about two years from new. So in Clover’s example, assuming 20 percent depreciation over two years, he’s lost an additional $3,000 – equivalent to 750 gallons of gas at $4 per gallon – which will take 15,000 miles of driving to work off. That plus the 75,000 miles (the cost in gas of the $15,000 new car at purchase) equals 90,000 miles before break-even.

              Meanwhile, the driver of the paid-for older car suffers much lower depreciation losses.

              As an example, my ’98 Nissan’s value has actually increased over the past two years – because it’s an “in demand” vehicle and also because used car prices in general have been going up across the board. I paid about $7,000 for this vehicle back in 2004, almost seven years ago. Current retail value is around $4,000. So the truck itself has a net cost of about $3,000 – and each year I keep it, that figure goes down. Within another couple years, my net cost will be effectively zero.

              That’s how you save money on a car.

    • Hi Brad,

      I think they could work in that context – in an urban environment, etc. Probably they’d need to be significantly scaled down; i.e., a notch above golf carts, built for relatively low-speed (less than 40 MPH) in-city use. One of the problems with electric cars as currently designed is they assume European-style density, driving distances and so on. The other is cost – a function of trying to offer performance/capability similar to IC equivalents. If they were built assuming no highway use, they could be simpler, smaller and lighter. That would reduce costs as well as increase performance (range).

      As far as the driverless issue: The technology exists but implemting it on a large scale would entail massive infrastructure costs and given the current economic realities I don’t see that happening anytime soon. It’s probably at least a decade (if not three) away from more than a “demonstration project.”

  6. Well which you rather own: an electric car or a horse and buggy? That’s pretty much the two options people will have in the latter half of this century.

    • Perhaps by the latter half of this century (hopefully, sooner) battery technology and so on will have improved such that electric cars are commercially viable rather than government-subsidized albatrosses as they are now.

      I have no problem with alternatives to IC engines – indeed, I welcome them. I just refuse to close my eyes to the reality that, so far, none of them are cost-competitive or functionally equivalent in terms of ease-of-use, convenience and so on.

      • I don’t know why you’re bitching – early petrol cars were rather crappy and the initial trend favoured electric and steam-powered vehicles. Hopefully electric vehicles will become viaable alternative. Right now they’re aren’t. (I wouldn’t test driving a Telsa Roadster for six months to see how viable it is.)

        • Is challenging the Happy Talk about electric cars “bitching”? If so, we need more of it.

          If some company wants to spend its resources trying to develop electric cars that are commercially and otherwise viable, fine. What I “bitch” about is the massive subsidies (at taxpayer expense) forked over to the automakers and buyers (loosely described) of these otherwise unsalable vehicles. There are also legitimate questions about the electric car’s “green” credentials. In the US, most of the electricity is produced in coal and oil-fired utility plants. How is a coal-powered electric car “green”? What about all that additional CO2 being pumped into the air?

          Yes, coal is domestic but it isn’t renewable and getting at it involves hideously destructive practices such as mountaintop removal. Ever been to West Virginia? Want more of that? Then there are the Hazmat issues with dangerous compounds such as the lead-acid and lithium, etc., in the EV battery packs

          Are IC cars perfect? Of course not. Do they have their liabilities too? Of course. But compared to electric cars, a modern IC car is vastly superior in terms of functionality/capability and in terms of total costs, including acquisition costs. Maybe this will change in the future but that is the realm of the hypothetical. Maybe. We’ll see. But right now, electric cars don’t present a very strong case for themselves.

          PS: Back in the early 1900s, all powered vehicles were slow, poor-performing things limited (mostly) to the cities. The early electric cars (like the Baker electric – I’ve driven one) were very much like today’s golf carts – and with similar performance/capabilities. Once Kettering invented the self starter and people didn’t have to risk breaking their arms cranking their cars to life, the electric car’s goose was cooked.

          • Petrol cars are coming environmentally unfriendlier as the move from conventional oil sources to unconvential sources move on.

            On the other hand, electric cars weren’t all bad and were initially setting speed and distance records. Likewise steam-powered cars were becoming more efficient and faster starting. Considering Ted Pritchard made a steam-engine for a ordinary car in the 1970s with high-fuel efficiency and low pollution emission then the interest in steam cars may pick up again.

            • That’s debatable. Yes, deep water drilling and practices such as fracing (sp?) have their dangers. But so does coal mining – and unless we replace our current grid with a nuclear grid (which has its own set of problems) then we are just substituting one not-so-great way of getting (and using) energy for another. Right?

              One more thing in defense of IC cars. After 100-plus years of development, we have perfected these things to an amazing extent. The harmful tailpipe emissions of a modern car are virtually nil. Literally. On the order of 98 percent of taipipe “emissions” are water vapor and C02.

              That’s pretty amazing.

              Also: There are diesel-powered subcompacts that get 60-70 MPG. Such performance (including cost to operate) is going to be hard for any EV to match, let alone surpass – unless oil goes to $200 a barrel. Maybe it will. But again, that’s a hypothetical.

              Steam is interesting. But you do have to find some way to heat the water….

            • Could be! I’m all for looking into the options. But – for the present/near term future – good old IC may be the most efficient option there is.

          • Coal doesn’t matter, and here’s the main reason why.

            Coal plants are baseload. This means they run all the time at full power output, or very nearly so. Coal plants take days to reach full power output and simply can’t be adjusted fast enough to track demand. Instead, other types of plants are used to track demand.

            This means that plugging in EVs – a few, or a lot of them – has no effect whatsoever on the amount of coal pollution – because you can’t make coal plants run any harder than full power.

            It does, however, have quite an effect on petroleum pollution from your driving, which decreases to zero.

            The big question, then: will we build new coal plants for EVs? I don’t think so.

            EVs charge mainly at night, off-peak. There’s plenty of existing capacity at night. In fact, utilities love the idea of electric cars, because they will be able to sell tons of electricity in the dead of night. Many utilities will even give you a discount for charging at night.

            One study I saw said that over 80% of drivers could switch to EVs before any new powerplants would be needed.

          • I would like to see Eric test drive that 60 to 70 mpg diesel on his mountain he test drives his electric car. When will that be?

            • Clover, Clover, Clover… the concept here is endurance (i.e., range). The diesel car may not get up the hill as quickly as a more powerful car, but it’ll get there – and keep on going, for hundreds of miles. Hills do not exhaust a diesel-powered car’s reserves. An electric car is another story. Climbing hills will deplete its battery rapidly and once the battery is depleted, you will need to park it for hours to recharge. Meanwhile, you are stuck.

              The diesel can be refueled in minutes. And once refueled, it won’t need to be refueled for 500-600 miles.

              Poor ol’ Clover…

            • Clover, in addition to being a Clover, you’re also a troll – someone who spends his days posting argumentative non-sequiturs on web sites. Do you know what a non sequitur is? It is an irrelevant/beside-the-point comment designed to distract because the person has no persuasive/relevant argument to make.

              We were discussing the limitations of electric (and hybrid) cars, specifically, that increased loads (such as ascending grades) reduce battery performance. Vehicle speed/passing is irrelevant to this discussion – another non sequitur. You spew such non sequiturs just to hear yourself talk (so to speak). Just to keep on blabbering… I suppose it keeps you busy in between collecting tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike.

              This is why so many of your Trollish, Cloverite posts never see daylight. You’re a waste of oxygen.

            • Here’s an article for all Clovers:

              When Chicago police answered a domestic disturbance call at the home of Tiawanda Moore and her boyfriend in July 2010, the officers separated the couple to question them individually. Moore was interviewed privately in her bedroom. According to Moore, the officer who questioned her then came on to her, groped her breast and slipped her his home phone number.

              Robert Johnson, Moore’s attorney, says that when Moore and her boyfriend attempted to report the incident to internal affairs officials at the Chicago Police Department, the couple wasn’t greeted warmly. “They discouraged her from filing a report,” Johnson says. “They gave her the runaround, scared her, and tried to intimidate her from reporting this officer — from making sure he couldn’t go on to do this to other women.”

              Ten months later, Chicago PD is still investigating the incident. Moore, on the other hand, was arrested the very same afternoon.

              Her crime? At some point in her conversations with internal affairs investigators, Moore grew frustrated with their attempts to intimidate her. So she began to surreptitiously record the interactions on her Blackberry. In Illinois, it is illegal to record people without their consent, even (and as it turns out, especially) on-duty police officers.

              “This is someone who is already scared from being harassed by an officer in uniform,” said Johnson. “If the police won’t even take her complaint, how else is a victim of police abuse supposed to protect herself?”

              Moore’s case has inspired outrage from anti-domestic abuse groups. “We just had two Chicago police officers indicted for sexual assault, there have been several other cases of misconduct against women,” says Melissa Spatz of the Chicago Task Force on Violence Against Girls & Young Women. “And now you have Moore, who was trying to report this guy, and she gets arrested. The message here is that victims of unwanted sexual advances by police officers have no recourse — that the police can act with impunity.”

              If the Chicago cops recently indicted for sexual assault are convicted, they’ll face four to 15 years in prison. That’s the same sentence Tiawanda Moore is facing for trying to document her frustrations while reporting her own alleged sexual assault: Recording an on-duty police officer in Illinois is a Class 1 felony, the same class of crimes as rape.


              Last summer the U.S. media took note of several stories about citizens arrested for photographing or recording on-duty police officers. National coverage of these incidents has since died down, but the arrests haven’t stopped.

              Some of these arrests have come under decades-old wiretapping laws that never anticipated the use of cellphones equipped with cameras and audio recording applications. Others have come under vaguer catch-all charges like refusing to obey a lawful order, disorderly conduct, or interfering with a police officer. In both cases, the charges rarely stick, and in most cases, it’s the cops themselves who are violating the law.

              The media have largely done a poor job reporting on what the law actually is in these states. Technically, so long as a person isn’t physically interfering with an on-duty police officer, it’s legal to record the officer in every state but Massachusetts and Illinois. Arrests still happen in other states, but there’s little legal justification for them, and the charges are usually dropped, or never filed at all.

              But Illinois is the one state where the law clearly forbids citizens from recording of on-duty cops. And so it seems likely that if the Supreme Court or a federal appeals court does eventually decide if pointing a camera at a cop is protected by the First Amendment (so far, they haven’t), the case will come from Illinois. (Courts in Massachusetts have generally held that secretly recording police is illegal, but recording them openly isn’t.)

              Illinois’ wiretapping law wasn’t always this bad. Originally, the statute included a provision found in most other state wiretapping laws stating that, in order for someone to be prosecuted for recording a conversation, the offended party must have had a reasonable expectation that the conversation was private.

              So far, every court in the country to have considered the issue has found that on-duty cops have no such expectation of privacy. This makes sense. Police not only work for the public, they’re also entrusted with enormous power: They can arrest citizens and detain them or kill them.

              In 1986, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the eavesdropping conviction of a man who had recorded two police officers from the back of a patrol car for just that reason. The court ruled that the officers had no expectation of privacy.

              So in 1994 the Illinois state legislature removed the wiretap law’s privacy provision. It was an explicit effort to override the decision eight years earlier. Technically the amended law covers everyone — anyone whose voice is recorded without their permission, for any reason, could file a complaint and ask to press charges — but it’s used almost exclusively to protect police.

              So far, HuffPost has yet to find anyone who has actually been convicted under the law. Instead, police arrest and charge someone they catch recording them, but the charges are dropped or reduced to misdemeanors before trial.

              In 2004, for example, documentary filmmaker Patrick Johnson was arrested under the law while recording footage for a movie about relations between blacks and police in the Illinois cities of Champaign and Urbana. Johnson fought the charges with help from the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But after the district attorney who was prosecuting him lost in the next election, the new prosecutor dismissed the charges.

              THE STATE v. CITIZENS

              An actual conviction under the eavesdropping law would likely bring a constitutional challenge, which could well lead to the law being overturned in court. It could also lead to the U.S. Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit more broadly affirming a First Amendment right to record police, which of course would have ramifications outside of Illinois.

              As long as no one is convicted, the law is unlikely to be challenged. That means police can continue to rely on it to harass and intimidate citizens who try to hold them accountable, or who want an independent record of what they believe to be police harassment.

              Moore’s case may prove to be just the opportunity free speech advocates are looking for. But her case was continued again this week, despite the fact that she’s been asking for months to go to trial.

              The person pursuing the charges against Moore is Anita Alvarez, the state’s attorney for Cook County, home to Chicago. (Alvarez’s office declined to comment for this report.)

              It’s difficult to think of another big city in America where citizens would be more justified in wanting an objective account of an interaction with a police officer. At about the time Moore’s story hit the pages of The New York Times earlier this year, for example, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for lying under oath about his role in the routine torture of hundreds of suspects in police interrogation rooms for more than a decade. Nearly everyone else involved in the tortures, including the police commanders and prosecutors who helped cover them up, couldn’t be prosecuted due to statutes of limitations.

              Over the last few years, surveillance video has also exposed a number of police abuses in Chicago, including one episode in which an off-duty cop savagely beat a female bartender who had refused to continue serving him. He was sentenced to probation.

              In 2008, the city made national headlines with another major scandal in which officers in the department’s Special Operations Unit — alleged to be made up of the most elite and trusted cops in Chicago — were convicted of a variety of crimes, including physical abuse and intimidation, home robberies, theft and planning a murder.

              In a study published the same year, University of Chicago Law Professor Craig B. Futterman found 10,000 complaints filed against Chicago police officers between 2002 and 2004, more than any city in the country. When adjusted for population, that’s still about 40 percent above the national average. Even more troubling, of those 10,000 complaints, just 19 resulted in any significant disciplinary action. In 85 percent of complaints, the police department cleared the accused officer without even bothering to interview him.

              Yet Alvarez feels it necessary to devote time and resources to prosecuting Chicagoans who, given the figures and anecdotes above, feel compelled to hit the record button when confronted by a city cop.

              In addition to Moore’s, there are two other cases that may present an opportunity to challenge the Illinois law. One is that of Michael Allison.

              This Robinson, Ill., man is facing four counts of violating the eavesdropping law for the recordings he made of police officers and a judge. Allison was suing the city to challenge a local zoning ordinance that prevented him from enjoying his hobby fixing up old cars: The municipal government was seizing his cars from his property and forcing him to pay to have them returned. Allison believed the local police were harassing him in retaliation for his lawsuit, so he began to record his conversations with them.

              When Allison was eventually charged with violating the zoning ordinance, he asked for a court reporter to ensure there would be a record of his trial. He was told that misdemeanor charges didn’t entitle him to a court reporter. So Allison told court officials he’d be recording his trial with a digital recorder.

              When Allison walked into the courtroom the day of his trial, the judge had him arrested for allegedly violating her right to privacy. Police then confiscated Allison’s digital recorder, where they also found the recordings he’d made of his conversations with cops.

              Allison has no prior criminal record. If convicted, he faces up to 75 years in prison.

              In a hearing last week, Allison argued that the Illinois eavesdropping case was a violation of the First Amendment. The judge ordered a continuance so that the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan can prepare a response. (Madigan’s office did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.)

              The other case to challenge the wiretap law is that of Christopher Drew, an artist who was arrested in December 2009 for selling art without a permit on the streets of Chicago. Drew recorded his arrest, and now faces four to 15 years for documenting the incident.

              In a hearing last December, Cook County Assistant State Attorney Jeff Allen invoked homeland security, arguing that Drew’s recording could have picked up police discussing anti-terrorism tactics. Drew’s case was suspended after he was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year.

              Both Allison and Drew say they won’t accept the sort of plea bargain Illinois prosecutors have offered in the past. Both say they’re willing to risk prison time to get the law overturned.


              The ACLU of Illinois is also challenging the law. But in January, U.S. District Court Judge Suzanne B. Conlon ruled against the organization. Conlon wrote that the First Amendment does not protect citizens who record the police. The ACLU has appealed and expects to participate in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit sometime in the fall.

              In a report released just this month, the United Nations noted the importance of Internet access and personal technology in facilitating the recent Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East. Technology has given citizens all over the world a remarkable and historic tool to bring transparency to the most brutal and oppressive governments.

              But even as Americans have criticized those countries for attempting to prevent protesters from uploading photo, video, blog posts and Twitter accounts of government crackdowns, government officials in the U.S. are still arresting, threatening, intimidating and harassing Americans who attempt to document police abuse in America. (See this example over Memorial Day in Miami.)

              No, America isn’t Egypt or Yemen or Iran. But while the scale of the suppression is different, the premise is the same: When a citizen and a police officer have a confrontation, the police officer’s narrative has always given deference by prosecutors, judges and juries — in the same way governments in more oppressive parts of the world have the power to project their own version of events as truth.

              Citizens in America and across the globe now have the ability to preserve and present a more objective narrative. This is a positive thing — for democracy, for good government and for a fairer criminal justice system. U.S. courts and legislatures need to make it abundantly, unambiguously clear that not only do citizens have the right to record on-duty police officers, but that cops and prosecutors who violate that right will be held accountable.

            • PS: I’ve driven these cars. I doubt you have. If you had, you’d know they have no trouble keeping up with traffic. Diesel engine performance is much better today than it was back in the ’70s and ’80s (your apparent reference point; the last time diesels were slow). Several current-year diesel-powered cars are quicker than the quickest V-8 muscle cars of the 1970s. A BMW 330d, for example. But the point is, none are dangerously underpowered or slow. And unlike an electric car, they offer tremendous range (some more than 600 miles on a tank vs. less than 100 – and probably more like 60 – with an electric like the Leaf) and longevity – another thing that’s lacking with electrics (and hybrids).

          • “Technically the amended law covers everyone — anyone whose voice is recorded without their permission, for any reason, could file a complaint and ask to press charges…”

            I wonder if this applies to political speeches? “Hey, alderman, you said you were in favor of subsidies for electric cars and I have you on tape saying it!” Is it then time for the police to do their job to protect and serve if the alderman is now against it?

            • Yeah!

              I understand the rationale for the law if it applied to private citizens – who have a right to privacy (irrespective of what the Robed Tyrants say). I also understand the rationale – the real one – for the law as applied to public officials such as cops. They don’t like incontrovertible evidence of their dirty work. Absent recordings, it’s just the word of the cop against the word of the accused citizen. And whom do the courts reflexively believe?

              The bottom line is honest cops should have no problem with their doings being recorded, just as they record our doings.

          • Very good Eric. What part of the first amendment gives you the right to video tape police vehicles?
            Freedom of religion? I think not.
            Freedom of speech? No.
            Freedom of press? No.
            Freedom of peacably assemble? No.
            Freedom to petition the government? No
            Freedom to make an idiot of yourself. Yes.

    • There is now more oil known to man as measured in volume and as years left at present consumption than at any time since the oil started running out in the late 1800s.

  7. And where in the Constitution is our government given the authority to (re)distribute $7,500 to each of these selective purchasers of EVs? Oh that’s right — nowhere!

    • Clover would say the “general welfare” clause (or, if he were a bit smarter, the Interstate Commerce clause) even though the entire document was clearly written to define and limit the powers of the federal government rather than to grant it essentially unlimited power, as Clovers believe it does.

      There isn’t a single electric car that can stand on its own as an economically/commercially viable consumer good. Clover thinks that because the government (federal and state) has bought large numbers and also a few large corporations (who receive massive subsidies for doing so) electric cars are “selling.” But until actual consumers start buying them – without massive subsidies – they’re just another government-supported boondoggle.

      Just like Clover!

      • I would guess it costs a buck a gallon of our tax money to protect that precious gas supply that we get from foreign countries. That comes to well over that $7000 a car over it’s lifetime. Every gallon less that we use means we all save money by needing to import less. Saving a few million gallons of gas means you pay less in gas prices and taxes protecting the supply chain.

        • Errrr… you would guess, huh?

          Well, let’s not guess.

          Did you know most of the oil the US imports comes from this hemisphere? From Canada, Mexico and Venezuela? In other words, not from the Abdullahs?

          The government (note, not “we”) is spending our tax dollars on bullshit wars of empire in the Middle East because war profiteering is profitable for the huge “defense” cartels that exert so much control over US policy. If “we” weren’t spending (and borrowing) trillions to play Soldat in Afghanistan, Eyerak and now Libya, “we” could give every American taxpayer free gas for life.

          You write:

          “Every gallon less that we use means we all save money by needing to import less.”

          Who’s “we”, chief? As individuals, the amount of fuel each of us uses has no effect at all on the cost of the fuel we buy. And we’d have to import less if we developed more of our own resources, of which we have plenty.

          Poor ol’ Clover…

    • I don’t see where oil companies are entitles to billions in corporate welfare either.

      Hey, instead of cheering our own favorite subsidies, and booing the other guys, let’s just kill all this government pickpocketing and let these technologies compete on their own merits. What do you say?

  8. Rush Limbaugh can be a butt head sometimes but I get a laugh of how he refers to electric cars as “coal-powered” because instead of getting their power from gasoline they get it from electric plants which are almost all coal powered in the US..along with the loss in transmission lines and transformers. Maybe if a lot of nuclear plants are built…oh wait, what? nevermind!

    • If he weren’t such an obvious corporatist-Republican tool (like Palin, like Beck) I’d respect him more than I do. Which is very little. Rush & Co. are shills raking in piles of money for being shills.

    • we all know that EVs don’t have downstream (tailpipe) emissions, however, the idea that EVs are “coal powered” is a reference to the “upstream” energy use of electric cars.

      The problem with this argument is that it refuses to acknowledge the equivalent upstream energy use and pollution associated with producing gasoline.

      That’s right, gasoline has BOTH upstream and downstream emissions. The process of refining gasoline uses enough energy (electricity!) to power an EV nearly 30 miles for every gallon refined.

      Then it takes a fleet of thousands of polluting, energy-guzzling tanker trucks to get this gasoline to service stations. The equivalent step for EVs, charging via wire, is 90 to 95% efficient.

      Furthermore, an EV owner can choose to eliminate his upstream pollution by charging from home power wind or solar systems. The gas auto driver has no such choice.

  9. My 2009 Honda Accord LX can go up to 500 miles on the interstate between fuelings. Refilling the tank only takes about five minutes, and I’m back on the road. That is the baseline for any vehicle that I will drive. That means, no electric cars for me until they meet that baseline. Oh yeah, make them affordable – an EV that meets those standards today would be a half million dollars, at least. Keep the price competititve.

    • Exactly. How does a $40,000 (or $30,000) car make sense as an “economy” car? (Leaving aside the range/practicality issues.) And if they’re going to hand out subsidies to make these cars “affordable” why not give buyers of $15k standard economy cars a $7,500 chit for free gas? Or why don’t I get a $7,500 tax credit? You too.

      Doesn’t it amount to the same thing?

      Better answer: Take something like a current Mazda2 that weighs about 1,800 pounds and fit it with a small diesel engine and six-speed transmission with deep overdrive gearing. Viola – 65 MPGs for around $16k.

      • I’ll tell you how it make sense as an eCARnomy car. You waste a shitload of money on the car for starters, you toss a few grand to sales tax right off the bat. You get full coverage insurance (maybe good for another $800 per year). Then you pay tax, title, and yearly property tax on the unit. PLUS.. yes.. the best part.. when your fucking batteries take a shit you toss another few g’s getting them replaced. Wait, if you act now we’ll throw in RANDOM ASS BREAK DOWNS for free! Yes you heard me right.. Random breakdowns free! Only if you act now. Call 1 800 I AM A FUCKING IDIOT.

        • Most people make decisions emotionally and then try to rationalize them. I have learned that busting their bubbles is not particularly a good thing to do socially speaking. Thus the nonsense continues and grows because few people will point it out so the few that do can be labeled and ignored. Those who made the emotional decision can then ignore the basic math that says if they ever get the purchase premium back it will be when the car is ready for the junk yard if at all.

          • Yep!

            And how about that $100k Tesla? Why, it’s only twice the price of the Lotus it’s based on… and $25,000 more than the Corvette Gran Sport convertible I’m reviewing this week… gee… makes sense to me!

          • There is one thing though, at least sports/pony/muscle car people don’t try to justify their purchases like the others, they tend to admit they bought it because they wanted it. Not some excuse about having six kids or needing to tow a boat every five years or to save the planet.. but yeah, some will try to justify getting the Tesla instead of the Lotus which is sad enough.

            • Also, sports/muscle cars do what they’re advertised to do. Hybrids and electrics don’t. It’s all about image.

              A few years ago, Honda built a hybrid version of the Civic based on the standard model; it did not look much different than the standard Civic – unlike the Toyota Prius, which was designed to stand out visually as a hybrid. The Prius (as everyone knows) sold very well. The Civic hybrid didn’t. Why? Arguably, because it did not look like a hybrid and so shout to the world, “look at me – I’m green!”

  10. Eric,

    You did not mention the other limiting factor: hills. Sure they help charge the car on the way down, but one needs to climb them first. Or conversly, climb one to get home in the evening, with the lights on. Also when it is cold or hot.

    Hmm. I envision a new service a tow truck could provide: fast charging. Perhaps what is needed is a standardized battery pack that is easy to exchange at the local recharging station. No problem if done right. If not it could be a shocking experience.

    • The battery pack swapping scheme has one fatal flaw, people don’t really take care of their cars and many go out of their way to ruin/abuse them. Battery exchange could get very expensive if one gets stuck with a battery pack at end of life or one modified by a teenager.

    • Yup! I can’t wait to test drive one in my area. To get into town I have to go “down the mountain” – 1,700 feet down in about three miles – then back up again. (The several times I’ve test-driven a Toyota Prius, the average mileage is in the low 30s. No great shakes. A Corolla or Fiesta does about the same – for thousands less up front and no battery/electric motor nonsense to worry about. )

      An electric is in such a situation will be a disaster. Now add three months of freezing temps. Bing! You’re done…..

      • I don’t understand why you think EVs can’t handle hills.

        Regenerative braking even lets the EV driver reclaim much of the energy it took him to climb the hill.

        All the gas driver can do is waste his brakes.

        • I didn’t say “can’t handle.” I said that hilly driving dramatically cuts efficiency due to the greater load on the battery. The hybrids I’ve test driven – like the Prius – become dramatically less efficient when climbing hills. I don’t know how much energy they recover going down, but (as far as hybrids go) the net effect on total fuel consumption is pretty dramatic. Same goes for higher-speed/highway use. Hybrids and electric cars are not suited for such driving.

          As “in town” cars, they make a bit more sense – but the cost to acquire one of these things obviates any efficiency gains, if the overall object is to save money (which is really what people mean when they talk about saving gas).

            • According to what standard?

              We know electric motors produce excellent (and instantaneous) torque, so making it up a relatively short hill – and even going at a good clip – will not be a surprise. (The Tesla is extremely quick… etc.)

              Endurance is the issue – as far as what’s relevant for the day-to-day viability of a street-driven vehicle.

              If I recall correctly, Pikes Peak road is about 20 miles long, not a tremendous distance. A real test of real-world endurance would be running 100 miles in summer, at highway speeds, with several uphill stretches, without the batteries depleting to the point that a recharge session of an hour (or several hours) was needed.

    • I need a high colonic – !

      Being a troll really blocks up my shitpipe. Oh wait, I am a shitpipe! That’s the facts and the troof!

  11. What I find most absurd about electric car promotion is the “cost to operate” which uses electric power cost per kWh vs. gasoline cost at pump price (which includes all taxes). So not only does the comparison neglect all the road taxes for electrics, it neglects the taxes and distribution costs on electric power as well.

  12. Uh…umm.. Electric cars are a joke. That is until the roadways have a power grid attached to them to provide energy. Wait, might as well have a light rail system developed.

    • The mere fact that you are comparing the Leaf, the EV, or any other electric car to a gasoline powered vehicle is off. These cars are meant to be daily commuter vehicles, not long haul transports. The average work commute in the USA is less than 10 miles for 90% of the working population. The Leaf can go (conservatively) 10 days without needing another charge. A charge costs about 2.30 cents (average based on kilowatt prices throughout the US). Let’s say someone drives 10 miles a day for 10 days. That’s 100 miles. A 41 mpg Fiesta would cost over 8.00 to travel the same distance as a Leaf. That’s a savings of over 6.00. Even if the Leaf loses 20-30% of its efficiency in cold weather, you’re still saving money over the 10 days.

      • Why is it off? – unfair to compare an electric car (and its performance/capability/cost) with that of a conventional car? Is there some other standard that ought to be used? If yes, why?

        You mention that most (though I doubt 90 percent) people have commutes of 10 miles or so. That may be true, however, in the urban/suburban areas where that sort of commute is common, the time in transit is often very long.

        Example: I used to live in the Northern Va. area (Fairfax and later Loudoun). It often took 45 minutes to an hour to go 10 miles or so during the morning/evening commute. (Ever drive Rt. 7 from Sterling to Tysons Corner around 8:30 in the morning?)

        Sure, your hypothetical 10 mile drive under ideal conditions probably would be ok in an electric car like the Leaf. But what happens when you’re stuck in traffic for two hours each day – as is typical/common in a place like DC/Northern Va.

        What happens when it’s 22 degrees out during that same hour-plus commute? When a wreck down the road or construction or some other fairly common problem doubles your commute time that day? What happens when you run outta juice then?

        Meanwhile, a $10,000 (new) Nissan Versa can run 300-plus miles/4-5 hours on a tank and takes 5 minutes (not a couple of hours) to refuel. It also works as well when it’s 22 degrees out as it does when it’s 92 degrees out.

        Or, how about a slightly used econo car? Buy a 3-4 year old “x” for around $7k or so – an amount equal to the federal tax subsidy of the Leaf and Volt, incidentally.

        Just sayin’….

        Am I nuts? Dumb?

        • Nothing gets the blood pressure up faster than no solution to fix the solution engineered to solve the mythical problem; electric cars.

          Ah, the joy of finding an electric outlet for the car by walking. Then you have too .. there is no next step if you are not in a densely populated metroplex. Frog Level VA may lack good cell phone coverage (my carrier, YRMY) but it has hills and petrol.

          I did find a power station near my current location. The automobile didn’t fit so I picked up smokes and rented a movie. (photo of something I haven’t read up on – who gets billed for all the juice?)

          I do miss my Sportster commute from north of Laurel MD to either RT50 & Capital Beltway or MerryField VA [/sarcasm]

          • The aspect that gripes me the most is that the solution is obvious – and doesn’t require the expense and complexity of hybrid technology:

            Less weight.

            If the automakers could build an 1,800 lb. car powered by a turbo-diesel engine in the 1.5 liter size range, the result would be a 60 MPG car that could be built and sold at a profit for less than $20,000.

            But it can’t be built and sold because of Cloverite “safety” regulations that have made it all but impossible (short of using expensive composites) to build an 1,800 lb. car. Hence, a bigger engine is required. Hence, crappy gas mileage.

            Old VW Beetles – a car designed in the 1930s – with no electronics, no overdrive gearing and a carburetor – could get 30 MPG on the highway. That’s only a few MPGs off the pace of 2012 “economy” cars.

            Why? Because it was light.

            Take that old Beetle, update the engine with a throttle body fuel injector and give it an overdrive 5 speed transmission and I bet it’d give you better gas mileage than any current hybrid. Or at least, match the performance of the hybrid.

            And unlike a hybrid, it would not cost $24,000 (the base price of a new Prius).


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