January 14, 2013
Electric Cars Cheap Used

An article in Consumer Reports highlights the faster depreciation rates for electric Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt cars. Is less than $20k realistic for a 2011 Leaf? I dialed up a California zip code with a 500 mile range at autotrader.com and went fishing. Sure enough, you can get a low mileage Leaf for under 20 grand. One with less than 6000 miles goes for $22k and another under 5000 miles goes for under $21k.

Does the limited range of the Leaf so reduce average miles driven that 2 year old Leafs are just going to have low mileage? Makes it hard to pay back the cost of the $16k battery if the average driver can't manage to drive it very far. On the other hand, maybe owning the Leaf just makes people drive less so they really do save a lot of money for gasoline.

The same dollars spent on a single EV would save far more fuel if spread across 4 or 5 different cars to make them each conventional hybrids. A Ford Fusion hybrid or Prius hybrid makes more sense. We need better and much cheaper batteries for EV economics to work.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 January 14 10:15 PM 


Comments
Ronald Brak said at January 15, 2013 5:29 AM:

Apparently a brand new Leaf can now cost $18,800 in California according to this:

http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/15/2013-nissan-leaf-price/

Wolf-Dog said at January 15, 2013 6:22 PM:

To use an electric car like Leaf, the country must first have the infrastructure to service it. In every neighborhood there is a gas station, but so far most streets don't have charging pods. Note that there was even a business plan to augment gas stations with battery swapping robots that would automatically replace the empty battery of the car with a newly charged one, within less than a minute, similar to buying gasoline.

It is calculated that for the United States, the cost of putting charging pods in every street would be equivalent to 1 year of imported oil.

For the moment, Nissan Leaf and other electric cars are not yet being manufactured with economic considerations in mind, these are still demonstration cars to get people interested. But within a decade when superior and cheaper batteries are made available in mass production, at that precise moment this will quickly change everything, and within a few years after that critical point, the world can switch to electric cars. That critical moment will depend on academic innovation for batteries. Note that an electric car without battery would cost less than a gasoline car because it has a lot less components and it is easier to manufacture, and furthermore, an electric car would be much more durable as it has a lot less moving parts, certainly it would last twice as long as a gasoline car.

This website summarizes all recent innovations in battery research, including sulfur-lithium batteries that seem very promising:

http://www.greencarcongress.com/batteries/index.html

Brett Bellmore said at January 16, 2013 4:12 AM:

Don't forget the breakthroughs in carbon nanotube technology; Once you've got your wonder battery with an energy density approaching that of a tank of gasoline, only with the oxidizer and fuel in close proximity, you need a really, really strong shell around it, for when it explodes. I'm thinking that, just like modern cars have "crumple zones" designed in, future electric cars will have "blast zones", where the explosion from a damaged battery can be directed with minimal risk to life.

Crocodile Chuck said at January 17, 2013 8:30 PM:

"A Ford Fusion hybrid or Prius hybrid makes more sense."

Incorrect.

When you include the disposal costs of these hybrids, simple diesel technology makes the most sense ('total cost of ownership')

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2013 9:56 PM:

Crocodile Chuck,

Where do the big disposal costs come from? The battery? Why? The expensive minerals can be recycled.

Nicky T said at January 18, 2013 11:31 AM:

"That critical moment will depend on academic innovation for batteries"....

Ah another take on the chimeric "rapidly developing battery technology" mantra. Problem is the reality of the past 100+ years of battery developement demonstrates the opposite. You believe that batteries will improve & that electric cars are more durable.

Seems contradictory in that if the battery tech is improving, why would you care about the longevity of an "old tech" car? Wouldn't you replace it with newer technology before it wore out?

I believe these cars have low resale value is because after the novelty of demonstrating your green cred wears off, the impractical reality of ownership sets in & like any fad, gets thrown away. I suspect 25 years from now we'll still be waiting for a practical electric car & the "new" battery.

JoeKing said at January 18, 2013 11:32 AM:

"That critical moment will depend on academic innovation for batteries"....

Ah another take on the chimeric "rapidly developing battery technology" mantra. Problem is the reality of the past 100+ years of battery developement demonstrates the opposite. You believe that batteries will improve & that electric cars are more durable.

Seems contradictory in that if the battery tech is improving, why would you care about the longevity of an "old tech" car? Wouldn't you replace it with newer technology before it wore out?

I believe these cars have low resale value is because after the novelty of demonstrating your green cred wears off, the impractical reality of ownership sets in & like any fad, gets thrown away. I suspect 25 years from now we'll still be waiting for a practical electric car & the "new" battery.

Engineer-Poet said at January 18, 2013 1:11 PM:

Well, looks like we have some serious sock-puppetry going on here.

The truth is that we don't need much in the way of better batteries.  Existing batteries cheaper will do.  At today's prices they're good enough to hybridize almost everything.  Once they're cheap enough, everything will go PHEV and liquid fuel requirements go down by 1/2 to 2/3 over the hybrid.

A redesign of the vehicle to place the battery in the floor pan, like the Tesla Model S, will improve the vehicle's weight distribution and interior space.  Once the hybrids are enough of the market, that'll happen.

Engineer-Poet said at January 20, 2013 7:57 AM:

BTW, isn't it interesting that the sock-puppets popped up on exactly the sort of post on which the fossil fuel industry would like to spin public opinion?

JoeKing said at January 21, 2013 1:00 PM:

E-P

You got me, I'm a shill for _______ (your choice). Or, pehaps, it was just a double post because I'm registered here as JoeKing & I mistakenly thought that when my original post didn't appear Randell's sock-puppet software deleted it...but your conspiracy theory is way more sinister.

The article is about Nissan Leaf's & Chevy Volt's resale not about hybrids. Your contention that existing batteries not needing to be much better is optimistic in a NON-hybrid context. FYI, a 2013 Prius will travel on battery power alone...11 miles. The "truth" to most people who actually want a full battery powered vehicle, is batteries DO need ALOT of improvement in energy density & cost reduction.

In the unlikely event that battery technology does actually decrease the demand for liquid fuel..what do you think will happen to its price?

BTW, do you own a Leaf of a Volt? Why not?

Ronald Brak said at January 21, 2013 8:47 PM:

I just read that General Motors says the next model Volt will have its price reduced by "thousands". Taking them at their word means the plug in hybrid will have its price reduced by $2,000 or more.

Engineer-Poet said at January 22, 2013 6:48 AM:

I don't have a Leaf because I regularly drive far beyond its range capabilities.  I don't have a Volt because I have a distaste for Government Motors.

I have been trying to place an order for a Ford Fusion Energi.  I did get a dealer to order one, but the order was not specifically for me (they wouldn't give me that paperwork).

Randall Parker said at January 22, 2013 8:12 PM:

JoeKing,

I figure with a name like that you are royalty. As royalty I figure you are the target of lots of conspiracies. No doubt I'm just a tool in one of them without even knowing it. Those tricky conspirator devils are pretty unstoppable.

As for the likelihood of batteries cutting the demand for liquid fuels: It is a question of how cheap EV batteries can become. If they drop to, say, a third of current prices then, yes, lots of people will shift to EVs. Get batteries down to a fifth their current prices and I would expect a very large shift to EVs.

As for the odds of batteries falling to a third or less current prices: Yes, probably some day. But probably not in this decade. But we will get a big drop in liquid fuel demand due to growing use of HEVs. The CAFE standards assure that HEVs will become a larger fraction of all cars and HEVs use a lot less fuel. So I can easily see HEVs cutting liquid fuel demand in the United States by a third. Rising oil production costs assure higher oil prices anyway as an added incentive to cut liquid fuel usage.

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