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The Great Debate -- All-Electric Cars vs. Plug-In Hybrids

This sort of suggests that $10,000 is the maximum number for the money saver and a smaller number being far more likely. You can judge for yourself when you think that we will start going below $10,000 for the additional cost of an equivalent BEV over an ICE car. It may happen some day, but we are not there yet.

There are three almost impossible problems in judging whether there is an economic payback on a BEV or not:

A. What's the apples-to-apples comparison in terms of the cars?

For most BEVs, there is not an exact ICE counterpart. For example, the Nissan (NSANY) Leaf does not have an exact ICE equivalent. Yes, there's something of an approximate size -- the Nissan Versa -- but they come with different equipment.

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B. The drivetrain characteristics are simply different: One car is smoother to drive (electric), whereas the other one has superior range and refueling time. How do you compare the two?

C. What is the battery depreciation over time? Let's say that after 10 or 20 years, you want to replace the battery. What will be the cost? Really, nobody knows at this point. You obviously have to amortize this annual depreciation in order to have a fair economic comparison. This may be the BEV's highest cost -- depreciation.

2. Range and refueling time.

No matter how you slice it, this is the Achilles' heel of a BEV. Range is vastly inferior to an equivalent-priced ICE; perhaps more importantly, you can't just stop almost anywhere and refuel another 300 to 600 miles of range in a couple of minutes. For the average person who is not obsessed with gaming his or her car, and who isn't willing to organize the entire life around the car's recharging needs, this is asinine.

Either there aren't enough charging stations or they are busy all the time. Either way, it's a disaster. Unlike a gasoline station, if there's a person or two ahead of you in line, your wait isn't a minute or two. It could be an hour or two -- or more! This is totally unacceptable to 99% of all sane people.

What's worse is that the recharging time problem isn't going away anytime soon. Yes, faster chargers will become available. Yes, there will be many more of them. However, the congestion problem is just getting worse -- not better -- at least for now. Wake me up when this reverses.

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