Are Electric Vehicles Just A Fad?

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First, what is a fad? From Wikipedia:

“A fadtrend, or craze is any form of collective behavior that develops within a culture, a generation or social group in which a group of people enthusiastically follow an impulse for a short time period.”

Even though I’m pro electric vehicles (EVs), let’s present both sides to try to be fair.

Anti-EV: EV sales growth is slowing and they’re not practical for widespread use.

Pro-EV: EVs are efficient, cost-effective, and backed by global policies.

The Case Against Electric Vehicles (Yes, They Are A Fad)

  • “Sure, EV sales have gone up a lot over the last 10 years, but now they are slowing.” As Steve Hanley reported in this excellent recent article, it isn’t that EV sales are slowing, it is that the growth rate in EV sales is dropping. This is to be expected — growth of products always slows as they enter the mainstream.
  • “Last year, there weren’t any discounts on EVs — they were selling over sticker price. Now there are big discounts. Nobody wants EVs.” The first part is true (there are now discounts), but it is important to remember that prices react to both supply and demand. There are a lot more EVs available than a year ago, so even though demand is up, supply is up even more and so prices need to come down a bit to bring the market into equilibrium. It is a sign that demand for EVs isn’t unlimited.
  • “Even if you could sell EVs, we don’t have enough electricity to charge them. Even if we had the electricity to charge them, the grid can’t support it.” As I have spent a lot of time following the utility industry, it is clear to me that we have plenty of capacity to generate electricity 99% of the time, but we don’t have a way to shift demand away from those peak demand times. As Jigar Shah recently said on a recent Catalyst Podcast, “The amount of load growth that we can handle within the actual system that we’ve already paid for is gargantuan — it can easily take us through probably 2034, 2035.” There is also a mania about how much power AI will take over the next few years, and if it really takes that much electricity, it might slow our transition to renewable sources, but not very much. The demand is too small and the momentum in solar (rooftop and utility) is too great. As I covered in this article and as you can see in the graph below, solar production is really accelerating quickly globally and in the US.
  • Image Credit Ember
  • “There aren’t enough chargers, so even if you sell these EVs and you have enough electricity, there will be nowhere to charge them.” There is some truth to this point, but most EV haters don’t realize two things. The first is that there are a lot of fast and slow chargers already, its just that they don’t have giant signs advertising them, since people either use their car’s navigations systems to find them or the PlugShare or Chargeway app on their smartphones. The second is most charging is done at home, so you don’t need as much public refueling/recharging as you do with gas vehicles. Overall, score a half point here for the EV haters.
  • “EVs just take too long to charge, I don’t have 8 hours to wait.” This point happens because most gas car drivers don’t understand the difference between level 1, level 2, and level 3 charging — and also you don’t charge an EV the same way you fuel a gas car. The truth is most people who can charge at home prefer the convenience of an EV while most people who can’t charge at home find it a little inconvenient to charge an EV. Newer batteries and chargers are getting faster all the time, so this point is fading quickly, but for people living in apartments or condos that resist adding charging stations, this point will persist for a while.
  • “You can have your EVs, but don’t force them on me — I want freedom to buy what I want.” I’m for freedom as much as the next guy, but as the famous quote says, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” See the fourth point above in favor of EVs for more details on why governments around the world are “meddling” in the free market. It’s because these vehicles are hitting our collective “noses.” A popular Libertarian book from a decade ago is titled Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff. Enough people around the world (including the US, so this isn’t just foreigners imposing their will on us) have decided that gas and diesel vehicles “Hurt People” and they have passed laws to phase them out.

The Case For Electric Vehicles (No, They Aren’t A Fad, They Are The Future)

  • They are vastly more efficient. I wish one of the EV haters would explain how gas cars will overcome their 20% efficiency vs. electric cars’ 60% efficiency. It means gas cars mainly create heat, vibration, and noise, with only 20% of energy going towards moving the car. Hybrids can increase this to about 35%, which is a big increase for only about $1,500 extra cost. But as electric cars start to become available that cost less than gas cars, we will see how long the EV haters will be willing to spend more to drive dirty gas cars. One of the first articles I wrote for CleanTechnica 6 years ago, and I think one of my best articles, was titled “It Costs Less To Fuel An Electric Car, And Why.” In it I discussed the efficiency, not just the relative efficiency of an EV vs. a gas car, but also that with gas cars you need gas, while with EVs, you can use natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, or biomass to create your electricity. Having so many ways to produce electricity naturally lowers costs, since market forces will always be forcing some of those methods to get more expensive, while others get cheaper. With an EV, you can just substitute the cheaper source of electricity. With the gas car, you are stuck paying whatever the price of gas is.
  • This means they cost less to own. At CleanTechnica, we have written a lot about how EVs don’t just have fuel savings, they also save on repair and maintenance costs and have the potential to last longer than gas cars too. This isn’t always the case — there are certainly EVs that cost more to own than a gas car — but we are at point today when many EVs cost about the same to buy (with or without incentives) and less to own over time.
  • This advantage in relative total cost of ownership isn’t static. We have written a lot about Wright’s Law and how costs go down with every doubling of cumulative production. So many gas cars have been produced that there isn’t much left to learn about making them better. EV production, on the other hand, is doubling globally every couple of years, and this lowers costs considerably. Gas cars just get more expensive, as they need to add more technology to keep up with emissions standards.
  • Governments around the world are forcing the automotive industry to get cleaner. Some regulations focus on traditional pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide and ammonia — which have been proven to cause 1 in 5 deaths. When our uncle dies of a heart attack, we think it is because he ate too many cheeseburgers. Although that may not have helped his health, a significant contributing factor may be that our uncle lived near a major road and breathed in a lot of pollution over his life. Of course, another significant effect of gas vehicles is their carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change. Many regulations are focused on reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The rest of the world (not just China and Europe, but even the smaller markets like Brazil) is going to EVs. Most auto companies are somewhat global operations. If all the world is going electric, can they afford to keep making gas and diesel engines just for the US market? I think the answer is “yes, they can if there is sufficient demand,” but it will cost more to make a product when you can’t spread out the development costs to your global customers and those have to be recovered by your sales to a single (but large) region. Therein lies the problem. I think a lot of people are comfortable with their gas cars and diesel trucks, but if the prices of those favored vehicles keep rising and the prices of the EV alternatives keep falling, I think their loyalty to gas and diesel vehicles will quickly fade, especially as their friends, neighbors, and relatives buy EVs and brag about how much money they saved.

If you have 41 minutes to watch this, the following video covers many of these topics very well from a different perspective. They pretty much come to the same conclusion, but get there a different way. I found it very interesting and recommend it highly.


Although I tried to be fair, this was never a fair question, as it was obvious to me that EVs are not a fad. But it isn’t a total victory, because I do think the transition to EVs in the US will take longer than I expected due to the valid and invalid reasons promoted by the EV haters. Whether the reasons for not liking EVs are just because they are comfortable with what they drive now, because of their political views, or because they have investments in fossil fuels that they are trying to protect, I have to say the EV haters have done a good job of convincing a lot of people that EVs are bad.

I will continue to promote EVs to those who I think they are a good fit, and to those who I can’t move to EVs (either because one wouldn’t work for them yet or because they have been so brainwashed against EVs that it is hopeless), I promote a plug-in hybrid or a regular hybrid when they ask for my advice. I encourage you to do what you can to influence those close to you to do the same.

Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA], BYD [BYDDY], Nio [NIO], XPeng [XPEV], Hertz [HTZ], NextEra Energy [NEP], and several ARK ETFs. But I offer no investment advice of any sort here.

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Paul Fosse

I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code:

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