Reader Question: Would You Ever?

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

Dereck asks: Would you ever recommend an electric car under any circumstances?

My reply: Sure! When the EV is priced (or leased) so attractively that it makes up for its functional limitations. For example, a while back – before they finally cancelled it – Chevy was offering a lease deal on the Volt. Two years for $200 per month, I think it was. An inexpensive way to drive around in brand-new $35,000 car for a couple of years – and the Volt’s low cost of operation reduced the cost to drive even more.

Used EVs can be a good deal, too – because they depreciate so rapidly. One can find, as an example, 2-3 year-old Nissan Leafs that originally sold for $30,000 or more for around or even under $10,000.

The asterisk here is that it’s critically important to make sure the battery pack in the used EV is in good shape; i.e., that it can still be charged up to at least 75-80 percent of its original capacity.

If the battery pack’s charge capacity has degraded significantly, the car’s range will have been reduced correspondingly. Since EVs like the Leaf start out with only about 150 miles of range with a brand-new battery, the loss of say 30 percent of that range can be crippling.

The problem will get worse as the battery continues to age. Eventually, the car will have no range at all.

And the only way to fix this is by replacing the battery – which can be very expensive.

So, it’s really important to make sure the used EV’s battery is basically ok. I’d avoid any used EV that’s more than five years old and which has more than 50,000 miles on it. Unless the EV’s price is so low that it makes up for what you’ll have to spend on that new battery!

. . .

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  1. I could really use an electric “jeep” that had a 200 mile range. Most days we don’t drive it more than a mile and it has to be plugged in at night in the winter to start reliably and not run down the battery on such short trips. We actually have to make a point to drive a minimum of 16 miles to a gas station just to fill it up. But it still needs that range because in the winter we would be driving it 130-150 miles RT to town once a month or so for shopping. I suppose if Walmart etc had charging stations that one could “fuel up” without adding more time to an already very long day.

    But the kicker is that our 30 year old gas powered jeep is likely to last another 20 years at the rate we use it, versus probably $60-$80K if somebody actually made something like described above. For that kind of money you could get a new diesel pickup with an 800 mile range that would tow 20,000 pounds.

    It isn’t that a Tesla for instance is such a bad car but that it’s practically the worst type of car to be battery/electric. Who the heck buys a luxury sedan to daily commute to work ??? A luxury sedan is just the thing for long trips on the highway, which is where the Tesla is at its worst. An electric car should be something like the Scion or Element for commuting and local shopping. But it should also be CHEAP so that an average 2-car family can afford to buy one in addition to a liquid fuel vehicle for longer trips.

  2. I’d rather chop my legs and nuts off than ever get behind the wheel of an EV

    Being drawn and quartered is less painful than driving one of those Gimpmobiles

  3. Just out of curiosity, why do used Teslas command such high prices then? I’ve looked at them in the past, and they’re steep too; they don’t have the same depreciation that a used Nissan Leaf has.

    • Hi Mark,

      Probably because the Leaf is an overpriced economy car while the Tesla at least has the luxury/prestige vibe going for it. If you exclude the Leaf’s electric drivtrain, it’s basically a Versa hatchback – and the Versa is a $13k car brand-new.

      Add to this the Leaf’s lack of quickness and short range vs. the Tesla.

      • In mainline or economy car there isn’t enough margin to hide the inherent costs of a battery powered EV. Luxury cars have a lot of margin especially once the gizmos and such are piled on. Tesla Motors uses that margin to start hiding the costs. That’s why TM’s profit margins are so poor for the class. They are basically selling at economy car margins (best case) in the luxury segment.

    • A Tesla is essentially what Liberals with $$$ would drive since it’s available, otherwise Lexus would still sell it’s Prius

    • TM cars don’t have the same value drop as a leaf because Elon Musk makes it impossible for people to source parts. It’s same reason a Toyota Camry stays on the top stolen car list. If a TM car dropped in price the way a leaf does it would be purchased and parted out. So the used ones get bid up to the point where the profits in parting them out don’t make as much sense. On top of that TM controls a lot of used market. They set a price and that’s what you pay. Then there are people wanting it as a fashion accessory. This keeps the prices up.


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