Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

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.

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.