Do the Math Before Praising Electric Cars

Darrell Schapmire calculates the costs of operating electric cars, including the replacement of the battery pack.

Published: 01-Dec-2007

William Stephens' letter regarding the Tesla Roadster was quite interesting.

The vehicle's base price, with no extras, is a mere $98,000. Not bad for a little two-seater and contortionists who want to make a political fashion statement.

But first, a potential buyer must make a $5,000 payment to be put on a waiting list for delivery at a later, unspecified time.

Then there's that little issue of return on investment. The average U.S. household drives 21,000 miles a year. Call it 20,000 to make the math easy. Assuming a dismal 20 mpg average and $3.10 gas, that is an average expense of $3,100 - whereas the price of a replacement lithium-ion battery is just $20,000 and lasts about five years.

Who said ``being green' was going to cost less?

There's also the question of basic physical science that needs to be considered. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed - remember that one from your science classes? - where is that energy coming from to charge our Roadster?

When we put the plug into the wall, is the energy needed to charge the battery produced by a magical process of some kind - or is there a need to use fuel - perhaps fossil fuel - to generate the electricity?

When an electric vehicle becomes cost-effective - meaning that it is cheaper to acquire and operate - than a gasoline-powered vehicle, there won't be any need for the government to coerce manufacturers into producing products the public will buy.

After all, business moves toward opportunity, and the public has enough common sense to make basic economic assessments. It's called a free market - and when the government leaves its hands off, a free market will make the right choice every time.

Just one last question on my mind: Is Mr. Stephen giving free rides in his Roadster?

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