In November Mike Hosking published his opinion of electric cars titled ‘Environmentalists have no grasp on reality‘, concluding that “no matter how hard the media, the spin doctors, and the environmentalists tell us that EVs are here and the future, they’re not.”
Before we disassemble his views in detail it would be good to discuss why fossil fuel cars have no future. Let us for a moment put aside the fact that their emissions are contributing to the warming of the planet. Ignore the fact that their emissions contribute to health issues. The simple fact is that fossil fuels are a finite resource. At some point in the future the cost of extracting them will exceed the economically justifiable price. We can argue about the detail, about how much fossil fuel remains and how technology might be able to improve production, but fossil fuels were always going to end.
But climate change is an issue, fossil fuels emissions are driving climate change and the earlier we stop these emissions the less warming there will be. Electric Vehicles in themselves are not the silver bullet solution, but rather part of a larger program of adaptation from energy generation to consumption. It is important to understand the global importance of this change, but at the same time it is possible to make personal buying decisions based simply on good economics.
Hosking asks some questions about the cheap second hand Leafs available cheaply in New Zealand. He asks “So how long does a battery last?” I’m in a reasonable place to answer given that I own a second hand Leaf. The battery has degraded about 2% over the last year. The current health is quite low but even so I am easily able to do all the regular journeys I need to. The Leaf is however one of the earliest EVs on the market, and so the battery technology was the least advanced. The latest EV from Hyundai, the Kona, is capable of over 400km.
My car cost $13,000. Over the year I have tracked the running costs of electricity use both at home and on fast chargers. Total cost per month was $22 while doing about 1000km per month. Compared to my Prius which I owned previously this would cost me about $130 in petrol a month. Other less efficient cars could easily double this figure.
In terms of depreciation cars are notorious for it already. The advantage with an EV is that it has far less moving parts and so there is far less to wear out. My previous petrol cars all had serious mechanical faults develop which required major repairs. If anything an EV will be more reliable and less susceptible to expensive mechanical failures. There are companies in New Zealand developing third party replacement battery packs. As the fleet size increases the market for replacement will increase. Furthermore the cost for batteries is dropping as the demand for batteries is met with increased production and improving technology.
Hosking then tries to tell us that the current state, where EV sales make up only a small portion of car sales in New Zealand, is an argument against the EV. Do you remember your last CRT TV? How long did it take for the traditional CRT based TV to vanish from New Zealand homes? The economic, practical and environmental benefits of EVs will drive mass adoption in the same way LCD TVs replaced CRT TVs.
Car manufacturers are all starting to embrace the EV. Some companies have committed to a deadline on petrol cars while GM has been shutting down factories that make petrol cars in order to retool for EVs. The EV is only getting better, with range increasing, battery life extending and cost dropping.
You can’t switch the entire fleet over night. But what will happen to the price of petrol cars when the new EVs prices drop sufficiently to be about equal to petrol? The problem will perhaps be production, the supply side, trying to meet demand.