This main fallacy is often accompanied by the following related fallacy, which has to do with timelines on which it is reasonable to expect things to happen. A car's effective lifespan on the road is typically a decade-plus. This means, among other things, that
- Even if a new car type immediately conquers the entire market, it will take more than a decade to replace the entire active fleet. A more realistic timeline for technological fleet-replacement is on the order of a human generation, i.e., a couple of automotive generations, because it takes time to build the production capacity.
- Barring exceptional cases, it takes at least a decade to fully characterize a new car model's track record (reliability, behavior in the used market, etc.)
And yet, many people keep expecting changes in EV technology and market to happen nearly overnight in terms of a car's life-cycle. To be fair to EV critics, even people inside the EV industry fall prey to this one. The most egregious example is Better Place, whose CEO thought he could wave a magic wand, and automakers will step up with hundreds of thousands of swappable-battery BEVs within a couple of years. But Renault-Nissan and GM leadership, too, were way too rosy in their initial sales predictions. The issue was not so much that customers didn't like the Leaf and the Volt, but rather that you cannot force on the auto industry and market, a heartbeat that's too fast for its life-cycle.
Together, these 2 fallacies can be summarized by the old saying "Never show a fool a job half-done." One cannot show a fool a work half-done, because fools (whether innocent or willful) don't get what "work in progress" means, cannot envision beyond what they see right now, and certainly don't have the patience to wait the amount of time that's natural for the system they are so busy not liking.
So... does this mean we are not allowed to critique EVs as a whole, just because it's a new technology and it will take a while to see how it shakes out? Of course critique is needed and welcome. But it must pass the test of minimal relevance and realism. Here are some questions one could ask, instead of the stupid ones we see in the press:
- Do the 1st-generation products show enough potential for classic new-technology improvement, including cost and footprint reduction, resulting in solid mass-market viability?
- Given that this is a radical alternative to an existing dominant product, does it seem capable of providing equivalent/acceptable experience and consumer value on the basic aspects, together with a qualitative jump ahead on other aspects? A jump ahead that makes consumers want to join this alternative future?
- Speaking of which: does the cohort of early adopters like this product? Is excited by it? Possess enough social capital to convince others?
- Last but not least: assuming the answers to the questions above are encouraging, what should we expect within one automotive generation (a decade or so)? Within two generations?
This is the type of questions we need to ask in order to understand where EVs are headed.
That's why I was more excited than many other EV bloggers, to see the 107-mile Nissan Leaf and 53-mile Chevy Volt. Not because it's the end-all and be-all, but because the two leading makers of affordable EVs have both succeeded in improving the most critical performance metric - electric range - by 50% over half a decade, while maintaining the same price point.
This, despite less-than-stellar sales, middling oil prices, internal conflict of interest (the vast majority of their revenue still coming from ICE models), and a rather hostile press. I was even more excited to see Nissan bump its battery-pack warranty up to 8 years or 100k miles, indicating reliability parity with ICE, even on the Leaf's Achilles heel (and superior reliability everywhere else, of course).
Ok, now see if you can apply the principles I demonstrated here, to shut up the following common anti-EV canards:
1. "EVs are too expensive and ordinary people cannot afford them."
2 "EVs lose their value too fast, no one should buy them!" (aside: hark the contradiction with #1...)
3. "EV range is too short to make EVs relevant for ordinary people."
4. "EV automakers are desperate, they're losing money."
5. "With all the hype, so few EVs are sold, because people hate them, they're not real cars."
6. "EVs are a really government pet project. We will never be able to take them off the subsidies lifeline - they will wilt right away."
7. "EVs are lousy unsustainable products, because their batteries don't last."
8. "EV battery-pack production footprint is so huge, that it drowns out all the potential environmental benefits."
9. "Where coal dominates the grid, EV footprint is worse than ICE." (this one requires sophisticated use of the second fallacy)
Try *not* to answer by directly countering the specific content (even though usually one can find good answers that way too). Rather, rise above it using the "Never show a fool a work half-done" principle. Feel free to give your answers in the comments!
[ PS: in my language, the saying in the title is known as "One doesn't show a half-job to a donkey". Personally I like donkeys. ]
[ PS2: despite some issues I had with the image handling, overall writing diaries in DK5 beats the crap out of the DK2-4 experience! ]
Mandatory “wow wrecklist” 9:30 PST Update:
Ok… I really didn’t expect rec list, esp. having posted around 7 PM. I guess DK5 diaries are still few and far between. Hey Kossacks, want to get on the rec list? Just write a diary now. Any diary :)
(more seriously, if anyone knows how/whether DK5 diaries can be delay-posted and delay-queued to groups like was possible in DK4, please reply to my comment asking that below. thanks)
To business: I knew I should have put down some answers to my litany of anti-EV talking points at the diary’s end, b/c it might have saved many of the questions that came up in the comments…
Most commonly: yes folks, EVs will get cheaper while dramatically increasing range and battery lifespan, and broadening the variety of EVs available. In fact, it’s already happening.
In particular, in the US EV makers (led by Nissan) found a nifty solution to make new EVs more affordable, by incorporating the Federal $7.5k rebate into lucrative lease terms (they then get the $7.5k from the Feds). Most drivers of non-Tesla BEVs have leased their cars rather than outright buy them.
This in turn, makes the used-EV and in particular, used-Leaf market, ridiculously cheap right now and in the foreseeable future. Look up sites like autotrader.com: 2011 Leafs go for as cheap as $7k, and 2013’s for a little over $10k. Now that the 107-mile 2016 is out, and a double-range Gen 2 is ~2 years away, this will only get better. A used Leaf saves you ton of gas and repairs, the only major cost item is potentially needing to replace the battery after, say, 6-10 years. And those will only get…. yes, you got it, cheaper and better over time.
In fact, with high confidence one can predict that
- In a half-decade or even less, auto buyers in North America, Europe and East Asia will be able to choose from among several new BEVs with ~200+ mile range and midrange prices.
- In a decade, maybe a little more, no self-respecting transit agency will buy diesel buses anymore, b/c the market will be dominated by pure electric and plug-in-hybrid buses.
The only challenging talking-point among the 9 I listed above, is the last one: both the “Coal Cars” canard, plus a closely related issue of grid accommodation (which came up in the comments).
Here one needs to remember the pace at which the fleet is replaced. We will not have a majority-EV fleet, for a good 20+ years from now. By that point, if we haven’t already gotten rid of pretty much all coal in our grid, we’ll be toast anyway. According to the Guardian's fossil-fuel clock (scroll down to the bottom of the article), we only have 17 years of burning fossils at the current rate before 2C temperature increase is “locked in”. And guess what’s coal’s direction? It’s only down, down, down, starting a few years ago and accelerating downwards.
Similarly, by the first time point at which a majority-EV fleet is conceivable (circa 2035-2040), there will be so many renewable electricity sources, that electricity-storage solutions shifting demand and supply times to work together, will be part and parcel of our grid. Lo and behold, this is precisely what’s needed to help the grid accommodate EV charging on a massive scale.
These happy coincidences are not because EVs are some sort of magic. It’s because they use the common currency of electric power.
To sum it up, you cannot really evaluate the large-scale economic merits and technological limitations of something — be it EVs or a renewable grid — as long as only a tiny sliver of human effort and ingenuity is dedicated to it. At this point, you look at its potential and emerging direction. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit.
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