QOTD: Is Your (Green) People’s Car Already Here?


2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid, Image: Kia Motors

A reader linked me to an article last week that started off strong but went downhill near the end. I agree with the main thrust, though.

Mainly, that Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3, in yet-unattainable base form, is wholly unnecessary. We’ll leave the company financials aside — Musk claims high-zoot Model 3s are necessary to keep the cash-burning company afloat, and there’s little reason to doubt it — and focus on the broader argument.

Electric cars are nice, but you don’t need one to save the planet.

Most of the public’s driving duties are easily accomplished by a plug-in hybrid with a Honda Clarity or Chevrolet Volt-type range, the author states, and this is certainly true. The vast majority of driving miles — commuting, running errands — can be handled with a vehicle that doesn’t entirely dispense with gasoline, but doesn’t need it for trips of roughly 50 miles.

If those trips suddenly went electric, we’d all be breathing easier, Mother Earth would smile (maybe less in areas with mineral extraction), and drivers could feel good about themselves. There’d also be gas left in the tank for those longer drives.

Last fall, while testing Hyundai’s all-electric Ioniq variant, I got to talking with a soon-to-be-retired man who lived with his wife in a downtown condo. Super keen on electrics, this man wanted a battery-powered vehicle as his next ride (his current car of choice was an entirely sensible Toyota Corolla). There’s a neat factor at work with EVs, sure. But the man’s wife didn’t want to spend her golden years figuring out the distance to the nearest public recharging station, nor did the idea of kiboshing certain road trips due to lack of infrastructure strike her as appealing. Also, no one wants to cool their heels next to a highway as a 240-volt connection slowly replenishes their battery’s juice.

My entirely predictable advice? “Get a Volt.” The husband would get his EV kick without sacrificing the range needed for a trip to Boston or Stowe or New York City, and his household would still end up about 90 percent gas-free.

Yes, it’s a pain to battle with the condo board for a hookup point in your urban parking spot, but outfitting an ordinary home with a Level 2 charger isn’t the Apollo 11 mission. You’ll just need to upgrade your breaker panel, probably, and run wire to the garage. Depending on a number of variables, it can be done for less than $1,000.

While the author of the piece advocates dumping the cost of electric vehicle charging infrastructure on every new home buyer and parking lot user, that’s simply not my policy cup of tea. Feel free to disagree on the urgency of the matter. What I do agree with, however, is that the base Model 3 — still months away from production — is only necessary for PR purposes. Consumers already have plenty of choice. It’s likely that more than a few $35,000 Model 3 reservation holders have taken notice.

What’s your take?

[Image: Kia Motors]