What an Electric Vehicle Costs
We now have a little more evidence. Tesla Motors, a Bay Area startup, has announced that they will be bringing a fully electric vehicle to market in about a year. The relevant facts:
1. Range: 250 miles per charge.
2. Recharge time: 3 1/2 hours with a 240 volt/70 ampere source, longer with ordinary house current.
3. Configuration: Sports car.
4. Price: $85,000-$100,000.
5. Operating cost: 2.6 cents/mile if electricity is 13 cents/kwh.
If gas costs $3/gallon, the per mile cost for a vehicle averaging 25 mpg is 12 cents, so the electric vehicle saves less than ten cents per mile. If we assume a 100,000 mile lifetime, that's less than ten thousand dollars, which doesn't make up for much of the cost difference between the electric car and a conventional vehicle.
The range is sufficient for many people's needs, although not all. But a sports car does not have to carry many passengers or much luggage, leaving more space for batteries. That suggests that a sedan would either be much heavier and more expensive or have a substantially shorter range.
So the evidence suggests that the electric car is not yet viable as a mass market vehicle, although it may be competitive in the expensive sports car niche.
Readers interested in the EV1 controversy may want to revisit the thread I linked to earlier, with particular attention to the posts by Phil Karn, who joined the discussion after my original post. Phil—known to some of us as a party in an important encryption lawsuit—actually owned an EV1, and so was able to provide some first hand evidence from his own experience. He also has an interesting web page on the subject.