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Plug-in electric vehicles beset by deceit 2 opportunities offered to fight back, learn the truth
Monday, 04 September 2017 15:26
Special to the Daily Planet

Most media these days contain fake news about plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), such as:

 “Each Chevy Volt costs $75K to build, so GM loses over $40K on every unit. The resale value of PEVs will be atrociously low, presuming they survive the inevitable battery fires. It’s a good thing that nobody wants those glorified golf carts!”

In reality, PEVs are desirable additions to the automotive scene, for reasons I discussed in an earlier article (see  

So where do these lies come from, and why are they so persistent?

Seekers of truth can rest assured that the variable cost to build a Volt is less than the wholesale price, and that each unit sold makes a positive contribution to GM’s bottom line.  Sandy Munro’s infamous study claiming otherwise calculated its number by dividing the total cost of the Volt program as of summer 2012 by the 21,500 cars that had been built at that point.  But new car development requires spending billions of dollars before the first unit is sold.  It should be obvious that any recently-introduced car will look like a loser if judged by this particular calculation.  Financial publications like Reuters and The Wall Street Journal certainly know better than to parrot this sort of nonsense, yet they were the ones that squawked the loudest.

Similarly, the $7,500 tax credit on a new PEV means that there’s an instant “depreciation” of $7,500 off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) before the car is even purchased.  Obviously, a percentage computed by dividing projected resale value by MSRP (i.e., ignoring the tax credit) will appear unfavorable for any PEV sold before the tax credits expire.

The sole battery fire in a Chevy Volt occurred three weeks after a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test.  If NHTSA had followed GM’s published post-crash protocols before storing the car, that fire wouldn’t have occurred.  Plus, if you’re still in your car three weeks after totaling it, you have bigger worries than fire.  Nonetheless, GM came up with a fix, and recalled all Volts built up to that time to prevent a recurrence.  The few highly publicized Tesla fires are more nuanced stories, but it’s worth noting that over 150,000 conventional vehicles catch fire in this country every year, and almost none of them make headlines.

Back in 2003, many publications were claiming that nobody would buy charge sustaining (plugless) hybrids, like the Toyota Prius. Look in any Asheville parking lot to see how that turned out. In 2013, PEVs won market share more than double that enjoyed by the Prius and its ilk at the same point in their evolution. PEV sales in the 12 months from July 2016 to June 2017 grew by 45 percent over the same period a year earlier. Does that sound like low demand?

There are many reasons for the massive disinformation campaign being waged against PEVs.  The threat PEVs pose to oil industry profits is obvious.  Less clearly, a single well-timed negative news article can make millions for hedge fund managers who’ve shorted Tesla’s grossly overvalued stock. There’s plenty of money to pay lying weasels to peddle their deceit. But there are also plenty of reasons to fight the spin.

Do you want to stop sending our mountain sons and daughters to die in the Middle East? Do you want to stop giving money to thugs who use it to corrupt our democracy?  Would you like to breathe cleaner air?  How about spending less money on transportation, while getting a higher quality ride? PEVs offer all of those advantages, and a whole lot more. The key to realizing them is to swim against the flood of lies.

Two opportunities to do just that are coming up:

1)  Filmmaker Pana Columbus and “Professor Plug-In” Dave Erb will present a talk entitled “Electric Vehicles: Local Movement, Global Impact” at 7 p.m. Wed., Sept. 6, at the Unitarian Universalist church (corner of Charlotte Street and Edwin Place in Asheville).

2)  The Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club will hold its fourth annual National Drive Electric Week celebration, from noon to 4 p.m. Sun., Sept. 10, at the Asheville Outlets mall on Brevard Road. Club members, auto dealers, and others will display their plug-in electric vehicles, with many offering rides. See and for further details.

Please join us for one or both of these events. The truth is out there, for those who seek it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Erb, an electric vehicle builder and enthusiast, is a lecturer in the Mechatronics Engineering Department at UNC Asheville.



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