Nail in Whose Coffin, Mr. Kenzie?

By Bill Moore

Posted: 22 Mar 2011

When German General Luttwitz asked for the surrender of the 101st Airborne troops surrounded in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, American General Anthony McAuliffe replied with a singlarly terse phrase: "To the German General. Nuts!"

That famous quote is what came to mind when I read Jim Kenzie's review of the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG. In his article entitled, "Another nail in the electric car's coffin," he opens with this statement.

What can a 500-odd horsepower super-sports sedan tell us about the prospects for success for electric and other alternative energy cars?

Nothing that we don't already know. They're doomed.

To Mr. Kenzie: Nuts!

I don't know what you're smoking out there in San Diego, sir, but it has clearly addled your brain. You're obviously so "out of it" that you can't see the handwriting on the wall, much less the price on the gas pump. By the way, what's the price of petrol out there in the sunny Southland? Over $4 a gallon is what I find on the 'Net. And since Kenzie wrote this exclusively for a Canadian publication, have you checked their prices lately? $1.40 per liter Canadian. I know, I was just in Toronto where people are complaining about it. For those of us who live south of the border -- US-Canadian one, that is -- that's $4.86 a gallon in US dollars. That's nearly $100 to fill this nail's 21 gallon tank with premium, and I'll bet Mercedes paid the bill during his test drive. Of course, if you can afford a $126,700 automobile with "attitude," then hey, dropping a Ben Franklin (or a Sir Robert Borden) every time you make a pit stop, probably is the least of your worries.

And how often would you have to reach into your wallet with what Kenzie describes as "one of the most powerful and fastest four-door cars in the world, gets about 32-per-cent better fuel consumption and emits 30-per-cent less CO2 than its predecessor?" A lot if you believe the numbers given in the review: 17.1L/100km city driving and 13.5L/100km on the highway. In a word, that is gawd awful fuel economy, folks. It translates into a miserable 13.7 mpg and 17.4 respectively. Either Mr. Kenzie has a lead foot and likes to push his cars to the limit or his numbers are way off. Another review gives the car an average of 23.3 combined. Frankly, that's still not all that impressive, but certainly better than Kenzie's numbers.

Which is really confusing because he touts the fact that the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG uses "third less fuel and emits 30% less CO2 than its predecessor." Taking one last swipe at those damned electric cars and their ilk, he contends this..

...means even at this level of performance, alternative energy cars are pursuing an ever-harder-to-hit target.

Electrics et al make no economic sense under the current state of the internal combustion fossil-fuel-powered engine art.

What horse shit! (Pardon my Nebraska bluntness)

Let's compare the AMG to say the Fisker Karma, shall we?

Both are sport coupes. Both are attractive. Both boast nice leather interiors. Their baseline prices are roughly the same: just under $100,000 (way too rich for my blood, to be sure). The 550hp turbo V8 Benz will do 0-60 in 4 flat. The Karma in sport mode: 5.9 seconds and just under 8 in "stealth mode." Top speed of the Benz? Neither Kenzie nor Inside Line say: probably well above what's legal anywhere on the planet except maybe one of the Persian Gulf emirates. The Karma posts a respectable 125; faster than I care go, to be sure.

But let's get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? The "nail in the coffin" bit.

The AMG can travel 489 miles on a tankful of premium at a cost of just a few pennies under $100… US or Canadian: take your pick. But most people don't drive their cars that way. It's usually a steady succession of short drives of 30-40 miles per day, to and fro, home-to-work-to-lunch-to-work-to-home, etc., etc., etc. So, what's the per mile cost of doing that? In the Benz it works out to be 19.6¢ per mile, assuming 21 mpg, 35 mile commute and $4.15 premium. In the Karma? The company estimates the equivalent of 2.5¢ per mile for the first 50 miles. Over a 10-year, 100,000-mile lifetime, the Karma will cost you $1,500 in gasoline, in part because the first 50 miles are in electric mode. Yes, you need to figure the cost of electricity into that, of course, and if you live in California and have tiered pricing, you might pay roughly the same in overall energy costs as the Benz. But here's the difference, that electricity comes from secure, home-grown, domestic sources. Those sources can be fossil fuels, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and solar.

Interestingly, a recent study of early Nissan LEAF owners found that 40% of them also use photovoltaics on their homes, which often is used to charge their cars. Anecdotally, something like a quarter of all first generation Toyota RAV4 EV owners charge their cars with solar energy.

And the premium gasoline dependent AMG? Well, it's just sort of stuck burning crude oil at whatever price producing nations, oil traders and refiners set it at. Talk about nail in a coffin! Assuming the price remains $4.15 a gallon for the next decade, a highly unlikely scenario, in my view, the Benz owner will lay out nearly $18,000 in fuel costs, money he could have invested in solar to charge the Karma for the next 25 years!

So, whose days do you think are numbered?

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