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Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Soon, Buying an EV Will Get You No Green Cred

It’s getting harder to get noticed in a battery-powered car. Some tips.

  • July 25, 2013

The days when you can go out and buy an electric car to demonstrate your steadfast devotion to the environment are coming to an end. Pretty soon, people might suspect you bought the car because you actually like it.

The iconic Aptera.

Already, we’re well past the good old days, when electric car buyers could boast about sacrificing back seats to make room for the battery. People are getting word that some electric cars out there can out-accelerate a golf cart. Although you can still find one if you look, it’s getting harder to find really weird-looking electric vehicles that scream—“There’s no way I would have bought this if I didn’t love the environment so much.”

The high cost and large size of batteries used to drive automakers to extremes. Think of the doomed Aptera, the fish-on-wheels. The kit airplane without wings. It went to all lengths to eke out mileage. Space for luggage? Passengers? Gone. A fourth wheel? Who needs it?

Now you’ve got an electric car winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. Word is out that Consumer Reports thinks the Tesla Model S is the best car it has ever tested. BMW is coming out when an electric car that, it warns, will be fun to drive. Sure, it still reduces pollution (see “Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment than Gas-Powered Ones?”). But who’s going to think about that when you speed past them on tight mountain turns?

Thankfully, you can still say—“Yeah, but look how much I paid for it!”

The danger, of course, is that the cars might say to some people not, “I’m a green believer,” but, rather, “I’m filthy rich.”

And it may not be long before batteries are cheap enough that you won’t even be able to pay extra for electric vehicles any more. Tesla’s CTO, JB Straubel, says that, even now, the battery–the main reason EVs have been so expensive–has come down in cost to the point that it only accounts for less than a quarter of the cost of the Model S. In the old days, batteries alone cost more than entire gas-powered cars.

The future is bleak. Already, car companies are resorting to clearly labeling their otherwise normal looking vehicles with a decal that says “electric.” The Mini-E ingeniously comes with a large plug painted on the side. For $4.25, plus shipping and handling, you can buy a bumper sticker that let’s everyone know “I am on a low-carbon diet” or “I juice up on electrons.” You can even buy a sticker showing the Aptera (available in 10-packs for $30). It sends a clear message: “This the car I would have bought. But all I could find was this rather nice looking vehicle.”

Another solution: whenever you go out, find a charging station and plug in, even if there’s plenty of power left in the battery or the station is blocks away from where you want to be. Walk back every hour to check on its progress.

And of course, as a last resort, there will always be bicycles.

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