Reader Question: EVs That Make Sense?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Randy asks: I don’t disagree with your general take on EVs. But do realize that they can make sense. I recently picked up a 2015 lease return Nissan Leaf SL with 33,000 miles for a paltry $12k. Not only does it drive well and super quiet, but it allows me to drive in the HOV lane taking 20 minutes off my daily commute. The limited range is fine for my 30-50 daily driving range, and the wife has. VW Atlas for our family needs.  Happy EV’er who will be looking for another 3 year lease return EV the next time I’m in the market for a car.

My reply: I get that, Randy – but realize all the EV virtues you tout depend on (a) give-away pricing and (b) subsidies/special breaks endowed by the government. If Nissan charged you what it cost them to make the Leaf – plus a sufficient profit for them to justify making it – your “math” would be very different! Heck, I’d like to drive a Porsche Cayman S, too – and would, if Porsche essentially gave them away, as Nissan (and everyone else selling EVs) does.

The manufacturers are using these give-away leases for two reasons: The obvious first one is to offload cars that they can’t otherwise sell. The other reason is the hope that by getting EVs “out there,” more people will be interested in buying them. But the reasoning relies on the cost coming down, which so far it has not – and I doubt it ever will. Unless the cost of gas triples, at least, EVs make no economic sense and cannot exist absent massive subsidies, which are economically disastrous as well as morally reprehensible.

That said, I understand why you drive a Leaf. I’m just pointing out the artificiality of the whole mess!

. . .

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  1. 1,350,000,000 kg estimated lithium on the planet.
    63 kg lithium in a Tesla.
    1,350,000,000/63 = 21.4 million
    263 million = # of cars in United States.

    It’s a pipe dream.

    • My bad. Total lithium is about 5 billion kg, so multiply the number of Teslas by 4 to get 80 million.
      Maybe they double the efficiency and only use 30.15 kg in a car. So double the 80 to 160 million.
      Still a pipe dream.

  2. IIRC the first gen Leaf has different battery tech than the current and thus the range is very limited. But as the reader points out, having it as a commuter/second vehicle, in a very narrow use case, it is extremely viable. The biggest expense to driving the thing is probably insurance and registration.

    Which brings up an interesting point about the viability of electric vehicles. What if you didn’t need to pay the onerous registration taxes and tribute to the insurance mafia? A few cents’ worth of electricity per mile, tires, windshield washer fluid, and maybe some wear item maintenance would be all of the expense. If you have the space to store it, that might tip the scales if you don’t buy one of Elon’s luxury monstrosities. As it is there’s a fixed cost associated with any vehicle (even with the “multi-vehicle discount”) that will add an absolute base to any cost of a vehicle no matter what.

  3. A used car dealer near me picked up four 2012 Leafs (Leaves?) at auction 6 months ago, had them on his lot for $6995 each. Almost wish I bought one, and if he ever has more, I just might. I agree wholeheartedly with Eric’s position on electric cars, but for someone like me who normally only makes short trips, a used one at the right price would be a perfect second car for banging around town on the cheap.

  4. Since the Leaf is off-lease, is there any subsidy involved? My brother in law leased a Leaf, and buying the thing after lease seemed cheap – they sold it to him for $9k. If there was an actual market for these electric cars, then I would expect the used market to be at least comparable to the IC market. The Leaf started at about $29k. Compare it with a 2015 Versa, which started at ~$13k. Edmunds lists the current used car price for a 2015 Versa to be ~$7k, about half while the Leaf is at one third of its original MSRP.

    I think this goes with what Eric was saying – new electric cars are not good economy cars but are purchased by “virtue signalers” who don’t need economy cars. It seems like the used electric cars (at least the Leaf) may be viable city commuters.


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