Does everyone think someone else should drive a green car?

Jan 15, 2013 by Veronique Dupont
Dieter Zetsche (C), chairman of Mercedes-Benz Cars, and actors Diane Kruger and Josh Jackson, introduce the E-400 Hybrid at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 14, 2013. The green car market is only inching along in the United States, but automakers remain confident their time will come.

The green car market is only inching along in the United States, hampered by high comparative costs and limited ranges on pure electric vehicles, but automakers remain confident their time will come.

"Everybody thinks that everybody else should be driving a ," said Dave Sergeant, an auto analyst with JD Power.

Automakers have launched a host of hybrids and in recent years with huge fanfare in response to political pressure from the Obama administration to improve drastically.

But lower emission vehicles are still struggling to find their public, winning over just 3.5 percent of US last year, with about 500,000 vehicles sold.

That is perhaps one reason why they were not a prominent part of this year's , where , pickups and performance dominated new vehicle launches.

"It's getting better every year but there's a very slow adoption rate," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with the specialty site TrueCar.com.

Hybrids have overcome the initial fears many consumers had about the reliability of a new technology.

However, few are willing to swap to alternatives like a pure electric, or that could strand them on the side of the road if they get too far from a filling station or , Sergeant said.

"Consumers are terrified by the range issue," he told AFP.

Cost is another major concern as consumers "tend to have a poor ability to do the math in terms of what they're going to pay and what they're going to save" on a hybrid, he said.

The Honda Accord plug-in hybrid is on display at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, on January 15, 2013. Automakers have launched a host of hybrids and electric vehicles in recent years with huge fanfare in response to political pressure from the Obama administration to improve fuel economy drastically.

And even with big tax breaks, the $30,000 to $40,000 price tag for a plug-in electric or fully electric Nissan Leaf is also off-putting.

Nissan responded to poor sales of its pioneering Leaf by slashing the price Monday by about $6,000, which would bring it down to as little as $18,800 in some US locations, once tax breaks are considered.

Leaf's US sales rose just 1.5 percent to 9,819 vehicles in 2012, far below Nissan's target of doubling sales in its second year on the market.

Global sales rose 20 percent, well below Nissan's target of a 50 percent increase.

"It's a disappointment," admitted Nissan-Renault chief Carlos Ghosn.

General Motors managed to triple the sales of its plug-in electric Volt to nearly 23,500 vehicles last year, but that remains well below the largest US automaker's target of 35,000.

"Unless gas prices go up to five to six dollars a gallon, we don't see a major shift in this," Sergeant said, noting that US consumers have become accustomed to gasoline priced at around $3.25 a gallon.

"There will be a very slow drift towards these vehicles but it's going to be very gradual."

The new Nissan Resonance Concept hybrid-electric vehicle is introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show media preview January 15, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Automakers expressed confidence in green cars currently on display at the Detroit auto show.

Automakers expressed confidence in green cars currently on display at the Detroit auto show.

"When you look at our sales for electrified vehicles, we're seeing growth in that market," said Mark Fields, chief operating officer at Ford, which is developing a whole range of green cars, including its compact C-Max.

Toyota dominates the green in the United States, accounting for 70 percent of hybrid sales.

"There's no question that over time the price of fuel is going to go up, so we're confident that our plan to develop hybrids is the right long-term play, as is our foray into extended range plug-ins," Jim Lentz, head of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said in an interview on the sidelines of the show.

Toyota's dedicated line Prius is the best-selling car in Japan and achieves volumes in the United States that most mainstream brands dream of: 236,000 in 2012.

With hybrids also available in Toyota's top selling Camry and Highlander models along with its luxury Lexus brand, they now account for 16 percent of the Japanese automaker's US sales at more than 327,000 in 2012.

Despite an outsized investment in advertising of green cars—which can create a 'halo effect' for the whole lineup without necessarily leading to sales—Toprak said haven't done enough to explain the benefits of hybrids.

"They need to do a better job of communicating the financial benefit of owning this car," he told AFP.

With the GM Volt, if you calculate the benefits of tax breaks, attractive leasing costs and fuel savings "it's basically a free car," he said.

Explore further: Researchers achieve 'holy grail' of battery design: A stable lithium anode

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bottomlesssoul
4.6 / 5 (5) Jan 15, 2013
Because even at $5/g the owner only breaks even on the cost of battery replacement. Currently owning a "green" car is a form of public charity.
StarGazer2011
3.3 / 5 (14) Jan 16, 2013
greens always think everyone else should be pious while its ok for them to sin (within the framework of their stupid religion). Those who are shout their piety the loudest are often the same people who sin the most! Just look at Al Gore or Tim Flannery; big houses, nice cars, lots of jet travel while they give sermons on the need for small houses, no cars and no jet travel.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 16, 2013
Currently owning a "green" car is a form of public charity.

And what's wrong with public charity?

I realize that most people just think of themselves and don't care if their behavior leads to great suffering elsewhere (or even to themselves - if only it'll happen tomorow instead of today)
But some people actually don't think that way. They have no problem with going above and beyond 'government mandate'/'bare minimum' when it comes to being social (to the species).

Cost is another major concern as consumers "tend to have a poor ability to do the math in terms of what they're going to pay and what they're going to save"

I think this is where auto execs miscalculate. The math isn't
"What am I going to save in the long run?"
but
"What if I crash my car in the first 1000 miles? Will I be able to buy another one? Or will I not be able to go to work then?"

Not everyone has the financial means of an auto exec where such considerations don't matter.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2013
And what's wrong with public charity?


Nothing. If you can afford it. At the moment the price is a little too steep.

Most people drive second hand cars because that's what they can afford. Very few people can afford to buy new cars in the first place, and those that do often sell them quickly before they lose too much value, so most cars that people have are actually second hand.

The problem I'm concerned with the green cars is that they won't have a second owner because the batteries don't last past the first. They lose value very quickly, and that's why they're simply toys for the rich because practically nobody else has the money to buy them.
Eikka
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2013
The problem is that the lifespan of a modern car is still about 20 years if kept well - although the industry and lawmakers are hell bent to push it down - while lithium batteries have a lifespan of around 5 years.

If the battery represents 1/3 of the price of the car, then the cost of ownership of the green car is twice the regular car over a span of 20 years even if they both initially cost the same in the dealership. It's irrelevant whether this is spread over a single owner, or many owners.

Of course the regular car needs maintenance too. But the sad fact is that they don't cost the same: the green car costs 1/3 more to start with - a difference that largely pays the maintenance cost and even a good chunk of the fuel costs of the regular car.

triplehelix
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2013
A new toyota prius in UK costs more than what I earn in a year, before tax. After tax it's nearly 30% more than what I earn in a year.

If I lived a very dull life just eating rice and beans and using heating only in December and January, I would need to save for 14 years to afford one (rounded up from 13.8). If I lived eating decent food and going out every now and then, I doubt I could afford one within 25 years.

Id rather pay the ~£150 yearly tax for emissions, it's cheaper, 100's x cheaper...

Not everyone makes megabucks. Even if I doubled my salary, it would still after tax and bills take 3.5 years to save for it, which is ridiculous...

The reason sales are low is because if you're going to spend £25000 would you rather a nice high acceleration convertable or BMW, or an electric car, that only had decent facilities in London, where I don't live...

It's just extremely inconvenient and expensive for the common man...
triplehelix
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2013
For clarification, doubling salary wont make 14 years go to 7 years, because

1.New tax levels
2.The first half of the doubled salary is mostly bills and rent, the second half of the doubled salary would be disposable income, ergo the savings would occur at a much faster rate. Im not doubling my bills, so the 7 years is halved almost.

EDIT:Also, can Americans please stop moaning about "gas" (petrol) prices, yours are $3.30 / gallon average

UK is £1.45 / litre (1L x 4.54 = 1 Gallon)

1.45 x 4.54 = £6.583

Currency converter

£1 = £1.60

£6.583 x 1.6 = $10.53 per Gallon.

So stop moaning.
antialias_physorg
1.5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2013
although the industry and lawmakers are hell bent to push it down - while lithium batteries have a lifespan of around 5 years.

I'm looking into buying the smart EV. They don't sell you the battery at all but lease it to you (for 70Euros a month...which is a bit much because if you add the power costs then that comes to about the same as paying for gas per month).

With the range being drastically lower (120km in summer, 90km in winter...which would mean added price for train tickets for the occasional longer trip) and the base price of the car being about 50% higher than the comparable regular model....AND unknown statistics on maintenance costs....that is still a bit beyond my pain threshold for going EV.

The leasing model would have one advantage: When better battery packs come to market you don't have to buy one but get it exchanged with the next, regular battery change (unless the bastards up the monthly fee at the same time, which would seem a likely move).
triplehelix
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2013
antialias, you wrote a good 4 reasons why the vehicle would be completely impractical or put you out of pocket ar at best break even, but you're looking into buying it?

Why?

antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2013
Because (and I think this may come as a shock): I have a very strong sense of fair play. To the point where I don't see why I should unneccesarily pollute the environment so that others have to clean it up or dish out the consequences.
Me switching over is certainly only a miniscule step when seeing the whole - but as with everything: big change starts with individual contributions.
I just feel it's only right that I contribute MORE than my share because I've been pretty lucky in life so far.
I don't like mooching off others - even indirectly - is what I'm trying to say.
(OK, I'm also an electrical engineer, so there's the EV tech-geek factor)

As for practicality: The overwhelming part of my trips are to work, shopping, regional trips to friends/events etc.
So such a vehicle would cover 95% of my needs, easily.
triplehelix
1 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2013
Im not particularly one to "mooch" off others, never had any govt handout and have always held down a job etc, but it just seems at the moment, for the common man, daylight robbery. When the technology becomes more mass production level and is at a similar playing field I will happily contribute. But its less mooching for most, and literally a case of pie in the sky figures that will never be affordable to most unless they completely suck themselves down with a huge loan.

I can buy a fleet of 3 world class sports bikes for the price of 1 prius with a claimed 100mpg.

I currently own a 125 motorbike which has 125mpg and costs £3500 brand new as compared to prius 25,000. The bike is more fuel efficient, and I think bikes give off less CO2, in fact im pretty sure they give off less CO2.

Eikka
2 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2013
for 70Euros a month...which is a bit much


It's a lot much, because for the kind of short driving you would use the EV for, it comes much more expensive than the gasoline.

70€ gets you about 44 liters of unleaded, which goes for about 900 km in a fairly economic hatchback or a regular smart car. You got approximately 20 working days in a month, so you have to commute more than 45 km every time just to break even, and that's not counting the cost of the electricity.

Few people actually drive that much. About 70% of the commutes in the UK are actually less than 15 km which means you pay triple the price per kilometer.
Noumenon
3 / 5 (21) Jan 16, 2013
I realize that most people just think of themselves and don't care [..] - if only it'll happen tomorow instead of today) But some people actually don't think that way. They have no problem with going above and beyond '[..] it comes to being social (to the species).


Everyones actions are intrinsically egoistic in nature. Everyone does things for their own personal gain and best interest, even people who buy green cars, to be known as being "concerned about the environment", or people who volunteer at a soup kitchen, to be known as "someone who cares".

No one knowingly acts counter to their best interests. You should accept this as a natural mechanism related to survival of the fittest, and recognize it as a good and as the basis of strong economies, not as a defect.

Electric cars will need to be better than existing gas cars in order to be adopted en masse. Relying on everyone to act for the benefit of society as a whole, is counter to human nature and won't work.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2013
Everyones actions are intrinsically egoistic in nature. Everyone does things for their own personal gain and best interest, even people who buy green cars, to be known as being "concerned about the environment", or people who volunteer at a soup kitchen, to be known as "someone who cares".
For someone who claims to know quantum logic you do a piss poor job at nontransitive reasoning
FrankHerbert
2.5 / 5 (11) Jan 16, 2013
@triplehelix
never had any govt handout
I highly doubt this. Have you ever used a public road?

@noumenon
Everyones actions are intrinsically egoistic in nature.
Rand is discredited. Only psychopaths believe this.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2013
It's a lot much, because for the kind of short driving you would use the EV for, it comes much more expensive than the gasoline.

Right now I pay roughly 100 Euros for gasoline per month. (remember that gas is somewhat more expensive in germany

so you have to commute more than 45 km every time just to break even

Which is about the size of my commute. Add a couple of extra trips per week for going out, shopping and yeah: an EV would save me some money but it would be in the 1-10Euros a month range.

No one knowingly acts counter to their best interests.

If you want to define "feeling good about not hurting the environment" as being an egoistic drive. But that doesn't mean that one type of egoism is as good as any another.
triplehelix
2 / 5 (8) Jan 17, 2013
@triplehelix
never had any govt handout
I highly doubt this. Have you ever used a public road?

@noumenon
Everyones actions are intrinsically egoistic in nature.
Rand is discredited. Only psychopaths believe this.


Yes, built and paid for by my road tax, income tax, and council tax. The government don't own anything, they take money and redistribute it. A handout isn't also a serviced object (like a road) I meant a literal handout, also known as cash in my bank account.

antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2013
Yes, built and paid for by my road tax, income tax, and council tax. The government don't own anything, they take money and redistribute it

Since governments do tend to spend more than they get in tax revenue we all take handouts. Our taxes doesn't cover the expenses.

Then there's the fact that we indirectly live off of the misery in other countries (ripping off their resources so we can have them cheap, forcing them to pay low wages so we can have our gadgets cheap, ... )

Then there's the fact that the pollution we create hits other parts of the world hard (water shortages and dry spells are already being felt in some parts of the world. Climate change hits us a little later - but THEY are already suffering)

All of that IS cash in your bank account.

So yeah: we take handouts/freebies every day from others - all around the world. If we were to actually pay for all the damage we do (and fair prices for goods) then your bank account would look MUCH different.
Noumenon
3.3 / 5 (16) Jan 17, 2013
Everyones actions are intrinsically egoistic in nature.
Rand is discredited.


If she wasn't right we would still be living in the stone age.

No one knowingly acts counter to their best interests.
If you want to define "feeling good about not hurting the environment" as being an egoistic drive.

Yes, that, ...and being Known as someone who is aware of and concerned about environmental issues.

But that doesn't mean that one type of egoism is as good as any another.


I'm not making moral judgements, I'm speaking about mechanisms that actually drive progress. Getting the 'word out' about long term negative effects to the environment and expecting the masses to react, won't work. People don't even do personal things which would improve their lives long term, if it doesn't immediately cause an ill effect to react to. There will have to be something to react to,... either an effect in the environment or that electric cars are better than gas.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2013
...and being Known as someone who is aware of and concerned about environmental issues.

Does anyone care about that? I mean besides Al Gore?

The whole POINT about caring about the environment is that you realize that you can't eat/breathe money.
And once you realize THAT you automaticaly realize that you can't eat/breathe the envy/admiration of others, either.

Only people who still live in the "money is all important" (read: "it's the economy-stupid") mindset wuld think that the attention of others matters by comparison - because they still think money matters above all in the universe. And money - to them - is status.
So yeah: I can imagine why they would THINK eco-friendly people would be in it for the recognition (not having made that leap of thought). But that's just sad.

Getting the 'word out' about long term negative effects to the environment and expecting the masses to react

Education HAS worked on a number of issues in the past.
Noumenon
3.3 / 5 (16) Jan 17, 2013
Since governments do tend to spend more than they get in tax revenue we all take handouts. Our taxes doesn't cover the expenses.

Government printed money is worthless if not backed up by future capitalistic economies. If a government runs a deficit, it is spending money from future economic strength, future generations creating wealth.

we indirectly live off of the misery in other countries (ripping off their resources so we can have them cheap, forcing them to pay low wages so we can have our gadgets cheap, ... )


Both false. They WANT to sell those resources, their economies depend upon it. We don't force them to pay low wages, we allow them to come out from the fields and emerge as a growing modern economy. Different countries are simply in various states of progress.
Noumenon
3.1 / 5 (15) Jan 17, 2013
The whole POINT about caring about the environment is that you realize that you can't eat/breathe money. And once you realize THAT you automaticaly realize that you can't eat/breathe the envy/admiration of others, either. Only people who still live in the "money is all important" (read: "it's the economy-stupid") mindset wuld think that the attention of others matters by comparison - because they still think money matters above all in the universe. And money - to them - is status.


Money is merely a means of exchange of wealth and value. My point relies on the underlying principal of benefit in general, which may not directly involve money at all, in which I gave two examples. In anycase I assure you that the vast majority of people will NOT buy electric cars unless it makes economic sense to do so,... meaning that they some how benefit.

What I'm saying is relying on people "to do the right thing" does not work. We knew for decades about the negative effects of burning carbon
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2013
What I'm saying is relying on people "to do the right thing" does not work.

Sometimes it works.
We have been separating trash for decades now. There is no immediately obvious benefit (and certainly no monetary benefit) to the one who has to separate the trash at home. But by now nearly everyone does it because everyone understands that it's a sensible thing to do.
And how did we get there? Through educating people in where the wider benefits of that practice lie (as well as showing the contrast to countries where this isn't done).

People will not do the right thing of themselves if they don't know what the right thing is. But when they understand the necessity they'll do it - even if it costs them a bit more.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2013
If a government runs a deficit, it is spending money from future economic strength, future generations creating wealth.

Yet that 'worthless' money is used to buy services and materials over and beyond what the taxpayers provided in taxes.
Someone is paying the 'worth' of that extra money - future generations. snice it is they who will have to pay it back - with interest.
So in that case we're taking free handouts from (as yet unborn) generations.

We don't force them to pay low wages

Are you aware that companies outsource to these countries BECAUSE they pay low wages? Thepeople there don't want low wages. They want HIGH wages - but they can't get them. And we abuse that. We COULD go there and say: "we'll pay you what it's worth" - but we don't.

They WANT to sell those resources

Are you aware of the types of contracts companies have in those countries? That none of the wealth stays there at all?
Noumenon
3.1 / 5 (17) Jan 17, 2013
What I'm saying is relying on people "to do the right thing" does not work.

Sometimes it works.
We have been separating trash for decades now. There is no immediately obvious benefit (and certainly no monetary benefit) to the one who has to separate the trash at home. But by now nearly everyone does it because everyone understands that it's a sensible thing to do.
And how did we get there? Through educating people in where the wider benefits of that practice lie (as well as showing the contrast to countries where this isn't done).


Good point, but there is no personal loss or extra cost associated with separating trash, plus its sooo easy to do and that extra bin out front shows you're doing the right thing. Buying an electric car even though considerably more expensive than a gas car is another matter entirely. The masses are just trying to get by, and when it comes down to a choice between the "theoretical AGW" and going on a trip or their kids college,....
Noumenon
2.9 / 5 (18) Jan 17, 2013
We don't force them to pay low wages

Are you aware that companies outsource to these countries BECAUSE they pay low wages? Thepeople there don't want low wages. They want HIGH wages - but they can't get them. And we abuse that. We COULD go there and say: "we'll pay you what it's worth" - but we don't.


Of course everyone wants high wages, but it has to make sense in the respective economy. Why would companies outsource to China if they had to pay the same labour costs as in their own country. They wouldn't. The result is that those people in China are back into the fields, and their economy is no longer a evolving one. Its not the companies who are deciding pay rates per say, it is China by entering the global labour market. We are providing those people jobs who would not have them except at the going rate.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 17, 2013
Good point, but there is no personal loss or extra cost associated with separating trash

We pay more for trash removal. And it does take more time to separate bio, paper, plastics, batteries, (and in some communities electronic decives and CDs) from other waste than simply putting everything in one can.

Buying an electric car even though considerably more expensive

As long as we're in the 'considerably' more expensive range: yes.
But I'd wager that as soon as we get to the 'margibally' more expensive bracket things will change. It doesn't always have to be cheaper for people to change over.
E.g. the demand for organic foods has risen steadily - and not only from people who are rich.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2013
Why would companies outsource to China if they had to pay the same labour costs as in their own country.

Exactly. And it isn't because they can't pay higher wages. They just abuse it that they can get away with paying low wages in other countries. We're getting freebies. Why do you think fair trade coffe (etc.) costs so much more? And even THAT isn't throwing money at the coffe farmers.

We are providing those people jobs

Every job they provide is one they take away from somewhere else.
Lord_jag
1 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2013
No... Electric car sales are not picking up because they have been engineered specifically to be ugly, slow and have very very small batteries.
Take a Ford Mustang and put a 1 Litre engine in it and see how well it sells.
Now why won't they put a 300hp equivalent electric engine in the Mustang? Because it just might start to sell and eat into their gas-buddies paychecks.
And of course you couldn't possibly put a decent sized battery in it. Of course not! they say its due to cost, but I'd venture it costs them less than $100 to make the batteries they charge $10,000 for.
Just keep the propaganda informing people the don't want electric until you've sold off the last of the oil. Good job oil companies... Good Job.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2013
What's the point in putting a 5 liter engine in a Ford Mustang when you're consigned to puttering along at 55mph max?

they have been engineered specifically to be ugly

Who cares? It's a car. I sit IN it. If I need to impress someone with the looks of something I own then I have done something wrong with my life.

And of course you couldn't possibly put a decent sized battery in it.

You could but it would be enormously expensive.

they say its due to cost, but I'd venture it costs them less than $100 to make the batteries they charge $10,000 for.

Do you have any sources for this outrageous claim or are you just pulling stuff out of your behind again?
Noumenon
3.1 / 5 (15) Jan 17, 2013
I think he's trying to claim a conspiracy theory in that the car companies are deliberately sabotaging the electric car market, because they're buddies with the evil cigar smoking oil bastards,... which of course is non-sense. If money can be made off of electric cars, what difference does it make to the investor? None.
Noumenon
3.1 / 5 (15) Jan 17, 2013
Why would companies outsource to China if they had to pay the same labour costs as in their own country.

Exactly. And it isn't because they can't pay higher wages. They just abuse it that they can get away with paying low wages in other countries. We're getting freebies. Why do you think fair trade coffe (etc.) costs so much more? And even THAT isn't throwing money at the coffe farmers.

We are providing those people jobs

Every job they provide is one they take away from somewhere else.


But no one is going to voluntarily accept less return on their investment, so whether "they could" pay more in labour is quite irrelevent. In fact they would have to get all investors to agree to it,... and even taking into consideration less profit margin some tech products would end up costing too much for the average person to buy,.. so may never get made,... or cause a loss of jobs. Economics is all linked together and is like water seeking its path of least resistance.
Noumenon
3.1 / 5 (15) Jan 17, 2013
,... this why GM went backrupt in the USA. Because of unions demand for ever increasing and absurd pay to screw on a bolt, it added ~$1,500 to the cost of each car, which put un-unionized companies in the USA like Toyota, at an advantage. Most companies make a particular profit margin and expand and strengthen with the rest.
Noumenon
3 / 5 (14) Jan 17, 2013
But I'd wager that as soon as we get to the 'margibally' more expensive bracket things will change. It doesn't always have to be cheaper for people to change over.


I will concede this point. Perhaps the cool factor will make the threshold. Right now the electric cars just don't make fiscal sense for most people. They should do what Sony did with the PS3, in bascally taking a loss for a while until a market can be established.