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Ready or Not, Electrification Is Coming

December 1, 2017

by - Also by this author

If you are one of the 500,000 people who plopped down a deposit on a new Tesla Model 3, you can take great solace in the fact that Tesla is now able to produce almost 200 of them a month. If you are toward the bottom of the list, you should be able to pick up your car sometime around the year 2223. Of course you’ll really need it then because China, France, and the Republic of California will have long since banned the use of internal combustion engines.

It turns out that taxing fuel, heaping incentives on electric vehicles, and carbon shaming isn’t enough. The thought is that nothing short of a total ban and a possible fine or prison sentence is necessary to inspire the populace to embrace the new electric future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of electric vehicles. But I’m also a big fan of innovation, game changing technology, and competition. I miss the good old early 21st century days where the OEMs were throwing everything against the wall in the race to improve vehicle efficiency. Remember natural gas? Remember biodiesel?  Remember propane?  Remember hydrogen? Not to mention the massive improvements we have seen in traditional internal combustion engines. We have full-size pick-ups that get 25 MPG. We have cars that can do over 50 MPG without breaking a sweat. We even have class 8 trucks that can get north of 13 MPG with low sulfer diesel.

It seems that somewhere along the line the arms race to develop the next chapter in our transportation evolution ended. The fleet industry didn’t get a vote. The retail buying public didn’t get a vote. And 49 out of the 50 states in our great union didn’t really get a vote. But we’re apparently all getting on the electric train now. And the costs are going to be staggering. Batteries may get marginally cheaper with mass production but the raw materials are very expensive and they won’t get cheaper with scale.

Current estimates show that over 90% of the cost of batteries is tied up in raw materials and manufacturing costs. The most optimistic scientists think we can shave a little off of that over the next few years but the best case scenario still looks brutally expensive when weighed against any current powertrain technologies. Not to mention, those juicy $7,500-a-vehicle tax credits are about to run out and that is going to make more than a little difference when you plug the numbers into your favorite life cycle cost calculator.

The relentless drive for efficiency and reduced carbon emissions was always going to have some casualties. But it would have been nice to see everyone put a little more effort into developing some alternatives. We’re not where we need to be with battery technology and the whole herd seems to be betting that a magical new solution will appear in time to save us all. I sure hope they are right. And on a positive note, at least we’re not talking about ethanol anymore.

If you disagree, let me know.


  1. 1. Andy [ December 03, 2017 @ 06:39AM ]

    I'm so glad to read the truth finally! Plus, where is all this electricity going to come from to charge these vehicles? We already have government telling us what time of day to use less electricity so we don't overload the grid! What will happen when the whole nation is plugging in ? This is beyond foolish!

  2. 2. Matt [ December 07, 2017 @ 10:29AM ]

    Not sure about this article. There is no comparison to the subsides given other competing players in the space. Did the aforementioned fuel sources get nothing?

    Andy: In my experience, (I drive an electric car, - cant afford a tesla tho) It's about $0.02 per Mile to run... I commute 12 miles a day. This adds about $0.25/day to my electric bill, or about $8/month. I suspect that the grid can handle selling another $8/month in electricity to those who have electric cars.

    If you do reply, please lets cite sources, not like this author.

  3. 3. Joseph [ December 19, 2017 @ 09:45AM ]

    I like your attitude Sherb, and I like your use of the term "carbon shaming".

    Policy decisions have never been left to a vote, and that's good. We don't need to poll the public, we need leadership.
    It is true that we've been waiting for a miracle for quite some time. Meanwhile, we poison the planet unnecessarily.

    Gas versus electricity is merely a question of which we prefer to waste.
    Instead, we need to reduce transportation. The solution comes from shared systems such as mass transit and high-speed rail, and the simple village vehicles that will connect our homes to that system.
    Read: The End of the Road; the Transition to Safe, Green Horsepower, which I co-authored in 2009.

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Author Bio

Sherb Brown

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Vice President and Group Publisher

Sherb Brown is the vice president and group publisher for BBM's AutoGroup. Sherb has covered the auto industry for more than 12 years in various positions with Bobit Business Media.

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