Home editor's blog on evs & phevs New York Times claims EV savings take forever

New York Times claims EV savings take forever


How fast a Chevy Volt gets you to fuel payoff depends on a lot of different factors -- a fact that a recent New York Times article on hybrids and plug-ins largely misses.

editors-blog-entry3So, the lead story in today’s New York Times business section was yet another comparatively negative piece about hybrid cars and plug-ins such as the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF.

The headline: “Payoff for Efficient Cars Takes Years.”

The Chevy Volt in particular gets a bad rap. For instance, in the newspaper version of the story, there’s a small picture of a Volt underneath the headline and the caption reads: “In the Volt’s case, it is estimated to take 24.2 years for the fuel savings to pay back.”

Of course, this calculation is based on the assumption that Chevy Volt owners will drive the car as if it’s a 100 percent gasoline car and tank out all of the time.

4,000 miles per gallon
In fact, it’s clear that the majority of Volt owners drive as much as they possibly can in all-electric mode. Check out the owner mileage stats at VoltStats.Net where many Volt owners are getting miles per gallon averages in the thousands of miles per gallon range because, well, they almost never push their Volt into gas mode.


A recent New York Times article concludes that it takes nine years for the fuel savings costs netted by a Nissan LEAF to offset the extra cost to buy one.

After hitting readers with the claim that the Volt won’t pay off for 24 years in a prominently placed photo caption, The Times does concede that payoff is about eight years, or less, for Volt owners who drive almost exclusively in electric mode. Of course, this information is buried near the end of the article where not as many people are going to see it as those who read the photo caption claiming payoff for the Volt is 24 years.

Notice that the TrueCar analysis The Times leans on in this story holds the price of gasoline at $4 or $5 per gallon across eight or more years.

Rising gasoline costs
Does anyone really believe that gasoline costs are going to remain where they are now for the next five, six, eight, or 10 years?

To be fair, it is important for consumers interested in plug-ins (and hybrids) to do their own individual personal fuel savings math. They also need to be aware of how a particular plug-in vehicle – or hybrid, or gasoline car, for that matter – fits, or might not fit, their own particular driving needs.

Multiple factors come into play when trying to make fuel savings comparisons – the type of car, type of driver, age of the cars being compared, interest rates on a new car loan, how long a buyer will hold onto a car (I’ve had my 1992 Acura Integra for 20 years), how much gas prices will rise, etc.

Indeed, as the multiple analyses (Checking the math on solar-charged driving, Solar fuel for EVs 20 times cheaper than gasoline, Maybe EV + PV doesn’t pay off after all) we’ve done at SolarChargedDriving.Com on whether solar-charged driving saves you money illustrate, the answer is ultimately, ‘It depends’. This is true at least when looking at the short-term. The long-term savings EV + PV affords are pretty clear, though.

Finally, it’s not just about individual savings: Plug-in cars are better for the environment and for human health, especially if they’re mostly solar-charged. And, if you look at the big picture and take into account the billions of dollars in costs air pollution incurs on American, and global society – something which this New York Times article, and so many other like it, fails to do – electric vehicles end up saving money for us all.

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