Elon Musk just admitted the obvious. Well one of the obvious things about why electric cars don’t sell unless they’re subsidized:
They are too expensive. Or rather, not “affordable enough” – which is another way of saying the same thing
Elon’s own words, finally.
The answer, interestingly, isn’t because they’re electric cars – at least not necessarily. It is because of the kinds of electric cars being produced – especially those being made by Elon. They are purposely designed to be expensive.
High-performance cars tend to be that, whether they’re propelled by a high-performance engine or a high-performance motor.
Elon’s least expensive car is the Model 3 sedan, which has a base price just shy of $38,000. It costs this much because it is designed to be capable of getting to 60 MPH more quickly than most sports cars, which it does in just over 5 seconds.
This is what Elon is trying to sell. Electrification being incidental.
It’s all very impressive. But it’s not inexpensive. Speed still costs money, however achieved. Not that there is anything wrong with paying more to go fast. But it is bizarre for Elon to sweat the cost of cars he designed to be expensive because he designed them to go fast.
Porsche also designs cars to go fast, of course – but affordability isn’t a major consideration for people specifically shopping for high-performance. But it’s a major consideration for most people – for whom acceptable performance is sufficient.
Because that’s all they can afford.
Such performance is available in non-electric cars like the Toyota Camry, a car that Toyota sells a lot of without wheedling subsidies out of the government to make them “affordable” in the Muskian sense – as Elon does because he must.
The market for cars with a starting price of almost $40,000 – whether powered by motors and batteries or gas and pistons – is inherently limited because the average American only makes about $40,000. He can’t afford the speed $40k buys – and so he buys the Camry.
It doesn’t get to 60 in just over five seconds.
This is why it is necessary to pay people to buy Teslas – via tax credits amounting to several thousand dollars off the sticker price.
The funds recovered from tax-payers.
But it isn’t necessary to pay people to buy electric cars – in theory – provided they’re designed to be economical cars, with adequate speed rather than ludicrous speed.
And provided they stop trying to do the thing EVs cannot economically do right now and maybe not ever given the limitations of current electric car technology.
This also takes more money than necessary.
The money required to design and build a high-capacity battery pack capable of absorbing and retaining the necessary charge to keep an EV rolling at 70 for hours at a time – something any IC economy car can do very affordably.
Which they can do because IC cars are most efficient at highway speeds, whereas it’s the opposite with EVs, which are most efficient the slower they go.
It’s cheap to go far in an IC car. $15k will take you 400 miles at 70.
It is very expensive to do the same thing in an EV, which begs the question about designing EVs to do be able to, if you intend for people to be able to buy them.
The way to go – if you wanted to design an affordable electric car that practically anyone could buy and which lots of people would probably want to buy – would be to forget about quickness and distance and focus on what the electric car is better at than the IC car.
The technology does exist to make an electric city car that could be manufactured and sold for less than current IC economy cars, without taxpayers made to pay for a portion of each purchase. Such an EV wouldn’t be capable of getting to 60 in 5 seconds – or traveling much farther than 100 miles on a charge. But if these superfluous and unreasonable goalposts were ditched – which they’d have to be, if EVs weren’t being subsidized by the taxpayer – the focus would fix on . . . affordability.
Instead of 1,000 pounds of high-performance battery pack – as in the Tesla 3 – a battery a third the capacity and half or less the weight.
Everything about the car would be designed to make it more affordable rather than higher-performance. In order to make it appealing to people who cannot afford to spend almost $40,000 or even $30,000 on a new car of any kind – which is most Americans.
It is also problem of understanding. A guy like Elon Musk is rich beyond the ken of most Americans – but it works in the other direction, too. Elon Musk – a billionaire – may be so divorced from the economic realities most Americans have to deal with that he cannot fathom what affordability means to them.
Of course, he would fathom if it if he had to build car that could be sold to them. Toyota (and Honda and the rest) have to fathom it – since they’re not able to force people to buy what they’re selling, nor force other people to subsidize what they’re selling.
Isn’t it time Elon did, too?
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