Electric cars

Or: Where’s the catch?

Let’s first review the current situation. This is going to be mostly from a BusinessAdmin point of view (or somewhat close to that) – not gonna go into “Who Killed The Electric Car” (because I haven’t seen it) and won’t talk about some whacko law that California implemented or didn’t or fucked up or something (because I don’t care – that’s not what’s gonna bring change).

Okay, first of: went to the gas station today. 55 litres for the equivalent of a bit more than 100$. That works out to about 8.33$/gallon (if my calculations are correct). Yeah, stop whining about 4$/gallon. It’s beginning to hurt a little (well, not me since I’m not the one paying but at least it’s pissing me off). That’s the current situation – not gonna get a whole lot better anytime soon either.

Now, technology. Jay Leno has a Tesla Roadster. It sells for roughly 100’000$ and has pretty decent specs – go read its wikipedia page, 3.9 secs to 60 mp/h, yadda, yadda, yadda. MONEY: 0.03$/mile. Which apparently works out to about 350mpg. Don’t give a shit about the other calculations made there but this shows two things: one, it’s environmentally friendly, two, it’s financially viable. If they can sell a nice sports car for roughly the equivalent of a Porsche and it’s gonna give me 350 mpg – well, I’m sold. The rest is marketing and very doable. Sure, it’s possible that they’re not making a profit yet but it appears to be solid. With a range of more than 200 miles I don’t exactly see a terrible problem on that front either – yeah, you’re not gonna drive halfway across the US in it but 200 miles is decent.

Next. Renault-Nissan want to offer a complete range of all-electric cars by 2012. Expected price: 25’000$. Range:

But lithium-ion battery technology could push range to 200 miles, and fast-charge systems promise to provide a 70% top-up in only a little more time than it takes to fill a tank with petrol.

So, that one’s the less-than-luxury version.

Now, what might I personally be interested in? Oh, it’s Tesla Motors again! The Tesla White Star. Selling at around 50’000 – 65’000$ and competing with cars such as the BMW 5 series (which I’m currently imaging as my first purchase). Release date: 2010. If its range is in the area of 200+ miles as well – great, I’m pretty much sold.

Additonally, there’s a few other cars. Something from Norway, a concept car by Dodge, a White Star copycat (apparently), other car manufacturers.

Conclusion: it’s doable at a reasonable price (25k, 65k and 100k respectively), with decent range (200 miles) in the foreseeable future (now, 2010, 2012). Obviously, these are subject to change. Stuff might get a bit more expensive (add 10k), it’ll certainly take longer than expected (2011, 2015), it’ll take some time for gas stations to adapt to this/new ones to spring up (why not just add an additional thing for charging electric cars (“70% top-up in only little more time…”)?) – none of that changes the basic conclusion: it’s either “where’s the catch?” or “this is gonna happen”.

Not surprisingly, I’m not one to buy into the whole “oil corporations”/”car manufacturers”/”insert favourite evil corporate capitalists” will make sure this doesn’t happen argument. For one simple reason: if these numbers are legit, there are huge profits to be reaped here. Greenery is fashionable, it comes at an affordable price (it’s actually cheaper) – what’s not to love?

Here’s what I dislike:

  • No noise. A car has to be noisy. Solution: IIRC Ferrari already does something like this. Add artificial sound.
  • No proper acceleration. It’s too fast and I just love that feeling. Solution: they’ll figure something out. Maybe it’s not that important.
  • Range. Solution: they’re already solving this. Add a couple gas stations that offer the necessary services, maybe even hybrids (even though I don’t like that).

Not a terribly long list, huh? Nothing that can’t be solved fairly easily, huh? Nothing that requires government action, huh? And that’s where the real problem is:

This doesn’t force people to suffer.

No suffering. No communism. No redistribution. No government expansion. We solve the problem of transportation just like that. Cheap. Easy. Affordable. No change of behaviour. Marketing will take care of the rest – cool cars, cheap cars, safe cars. Whatever.

However, this doesn’t give the environmentalists what they want. There’s a whole list of things that they’d want up there – and none of it will be given to them by this. Additionally, it’s not emissions-free unless you have some kind of cheap energy source. Oh, that’s right: Nuclear. Fucking. Power.

But they hate that. (cue: something happened in Slovenia, we’re all gonna die, we can’t afford any risk: listen up fuckers: yes we can afford risk. You’re constantly taking risks. There’s a price to avoiding risks. And at some point that price becomes too high – even for you – and nuclear power becomes a necessity. Kinda like how we always seem to find builders even though the risks are pretty high. I refer you to Mankiw’s introduction to economics, it’s explained a lot better somewhere in there and apparently the average human values his own life at around 10 million $).

Even if it’s not gonna be nuclear power – make it renewable energy or something. I don’t care. It’s doable. WITHOUT any government action. Government action actually fucks things up (biofuels, anyone?).

Bottom line: Unless I’m missing something, this part of “global warming” will pretty soon no longer be a problem. Sure, there’s the issue of China and India – but they don’t concern us. Seriously, they don’t. Nothing we can do about them (directly) and nothing that the lefties can make us suffer for.

Let’s run the numbers (conservatively). Let’s assume Nissan puts out their cars by 2016. Others follow. By 2020 plenty of options will be available – and on purely financial reasons, current cars won’t be attractive anymore. A cursory look at Google reveals that the average car is designed for about 10 years. Let’s raise that to 12. And let’s say this is true for 80% of all cars. What’s it mean? It means that by 2032 (that’s 24 years from now – I’ll be 44) 80% of vehicles will be electric cars. Much better than current ones. Cheaper. Longer range. With gas stations offering the necessary services. Just look back ten years and consider how much the internet changed. How much television changed. And, yes, how much cars changed.

In my opinion, as a libertarian (and possibly even as a man-made global-warming skeptic) – this is going to happen. Simply because there’s huge profits in it. End of story. Problem solved. Just like. Yay capitalism.

People don’t give as much of a shit about global warming as they used to.

So reports Cato’s Jerry Taylor. And here are the reasons he comes up with:

 The public has only limited patience for “end of the world” prognostications. If the world isn’t visibly ending from whatever boogey man is said to menace said world, most of us begin to lose interest. We’re all well aware that Earth has been sentenced to doom hundreds of times over by activists of various stripes but has somehow gained a reprieve time and time again.

I finds this one fairly plausible. The sky isn’t falling and warmer weather isn’t all that bad – and the alternatives that are being presented still look awful. Also, there’s bigger fish out there – terrorism, weakening economy (especially this one – it usually is the economy, stupid), you name it. Global warming just doesn’t rank that highly.

The time horizon of most voters is very, very short. Getting people to voluntarily sacrifice for “the grandkids” or whomever is a near-impossible task. It would probably take a Katrina-a-year … and even then, that might not be enough.

Only partly true, in my opinion. There’s certainly far more than a 0% discount rate at work here but I think the main reason why people don’t think the way they are “supposed to” is more based in the fact that predictions just aren’t very accurate. Who knows what’s going to happen, what technologies scientists will come up with, what wars will be fought, how many recessions, who’ll be president – just too many variables included to fully trust the predictions made by the alarmists and therefore embrace their solutions. And yeah, that discount rate really is at work.

Global warming, if it plays out as the IPCC suspects, will be a slow-moving event. Panic over climate change has to compete with panic over Islamic terrorism, panic over housing markets, panic over globalization, panic over energy prices, panic over immigration, and episodic panic over dozens of other (usually dubious) worries. Simply put, global warming has a hard time competing with all of the other items on the policy agenda.

Kinda related to number one and again, good point.

This is why I’m not that terribly worried – I’m not worried about global warming, as I’ve already mentioned, as I don’t think it’s going to work out the way it’s being predicted and even if it does to some extent, we can handle it. The “solutions” proposed, however, could do real damage. But seeing how they are fairly unpopular I can’t see them getting their way in a way that truly hurts. Hopefully.

The idiotic symbolism of climate change

I’m torn on whether or not to believe that the environmentalists actually understand what kind of message they are sending with these “actions”…

What they are basically telling us is that, if we want to “save the planet” and/or “stop climate change” (which is extremely stupid in a “I-don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-to-cry” way), is that we’ll have to give up all that technology we’ve acquired over the last few centuries. I don’t think there’s anything that symbolises this as well as “electricity” does – and what better way than “artificial light” to highlight that. Make an entire city go dark.

Read that last sentence again. Make an entire city go dark. To me, that doesn’t sound like something we’d want to achieve – that sounds like a horrible threat, the consequence of something going terribly wrong – not something that we’d want for pretty much any reason.

On the one hand, this is reassuring – as it means there won’t really be any terribly damaging measures in the name of fighting global warming because as soon as you start really inconveniencing people, they’ll start pushing back. Sure, “let’s fight global warming” but don’t you dare take away my American Idol!

On the other hand, it’s terribly frightning. I don’t belive that a majority of people understands the underlying message they are sending – the end of civilisation and progress as we know it. But I’m sure there’s a minority who do. These people aren’t worried about climate change or about the environment in any way, shape or form – they simply see it as the newest fad to use in trying to (re-)introduce their collectivist ideas. For now, they probably have the upper hand – with no way of ever winning a decisive victory, mind you – but I’m sure this’ll change over time. After it becomes more clear what exactly it is they are trying to achieve, “the public” will be less quick to embrace their messages.

I don’t really want to venture an opinion on climate change as I don’t feel sufficiently informed. To put this post into context I will say where my head’s at in terms of anthropogenic global warming nonetheless (and, rest assured, many other people have no such a doubts when spewing their uninformed BS):

I think it is probably real and there will be some consequences from it. I don’t think these consequences are as grave as they are made out to be by some people and by most major mainstream media outlets. I do belive that some scientists and most politicians are following a “hidden” agenda when talking about climate change and see it as more of a tool than a real problem.

With my – albeit fairly limited – economics background and some reading on the possible solutions, I can say that quite a few measures certainly won’t work and even some of the more convincing ones probably won’t be enough or even help significantly. In general though, I consider the costs of doing something drastic about climate change (and anything else wouldn’t be enough, right?) far too high. The costs of dealing with problems as we go along (and especially if I’m right and sea levels don’t rise 20 feet, for example) and bump into them seem far more reasonable. That solution would also make it possible to ensure continued economic growth and technological progress – but then again we’ve now come full circle. That’s probably more important to the people with the agenda: no more growth, no more progress – we already have “enough”, don’t we?