Third Thing I Learned From The Tesla--NYTimes Debacle −

Electric Car Benefits We all love math, by _Untitled-1 (some rights reserved).

Published on February 19th, 2013 | by Zach


Third Thing I Learned From The Tesla–NYTimes Debacle

February 19th, 2013 by

We all love math, by _Untitled-1 (some rights reserved).

We all love math, by _Untitled-1 (some rights reserved).

I think this is the last major thing I learned from the Tesla–NYTimes saga. (Also see my first and second revelations, as well as this list of 5 myths that have been spread all over town in the midst of this internet brouhaha). Unfortunately, this one is again a sad comment on the masses (combined with a positive comment — or 5 — about EVs).

Basically, from the many articles and comments I read, I learned that a lot of people can’t do (or don’t try to do) math. Possibly the most common (and ridiculous) thing I heard about electric vehicles — over and over again — was that they are more expensive than gasoline-powered cars.

Yes, if you look at only one number in the equation — the purchase price of a vehicle — electric vehicles are more expensive. (And, yes, this does influence a great number of buyers.) However, doing this is like looking at this:

3 + 1+ 1

and saying it’s greater than this:

2 + 10 + 10

simply because the 3 is bigger than the 2.

But what am I getting at when it comes to electric vehicles? I’m talking about five other costs (which we do pay) that make gasoline-powered cars much more expensive than electric vehicles:

  • fuel & maintenance costs
  • time costs
  • health costs
  • global warming / climate change
  • energy security costs

If you simply look at the price of electric vehicles (e.g. $28,800 for a Nissan Leaf, $29,125 for a Mitsubishi i, or $25,000 for a smart electric drive) + the price of their fuel + the price of maintenance, many of you would find that they’re cheaper than comparable gasoline-powered cars.

However, that’s not the end of the equation. We also spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on health costs related to the burning of gasoline, as well as trillions of dollars a year related to protecting supplies of foreign oil that we have become dependent on, and potentially even much worse if we don’t get global warming and climate change to stop (and, first, slow down).

Furthermore, there are considerable time costs to owning a gasoline-powered vehicle versus an electric vehicle. As stated in my last article, you save a ton of time standing or sitting at gas stations when you own an electric car — because instead of doing that, you simply have to plug the car in when you get home or to work, and then unplug it again when you leave.

Of course, there are actually several other benefits to electric vehicles that you could try to quantify, but the case has already been soundly made, so the rest is just fun and games.

The bottom line: as long as you do a somewhat decent job of quantifying the costs of an electric vehicle versus the costs of a gasoline-powered vehicle (e.g. get a hypothetical grade of “D”), you will see that electric cars are already much cheaper than gasoline-powered cars in the vast majority of cases. Give it a try!


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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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  • tina

    Paying ahead is a habit Americans have lost. Credit is so easy. With an EV,
    you are paying ahead, and it’s a shock. Ever think of what a gasser
    costs AHEAD? All fuel, lubrication, anti-freeze, mechanical maintenance
    costs for 10 years add up. I did the math a long time ago. My EV
    conversion costs were paid off in the first 18 months of driving. 10
    years later I am planning some major upgrades as I convert to lithium
    batteries. The new charger & controller were paid by cost savings a
    couple of years ago. The new pack is about equal to a replacement
    lead-acid pack. [waiting to pay ahead for Lithium meant a lower price!]
    The old lead acid pack will store electrons from PV panels.

    It may not be the Tesla of my dreams, but I get around!

    • Zachary Shahan


  • Jim Seko

    In my mind the most important part of the NYT/Tesla controvery is this: It may not be easy to drive long distances in a Telsa Model S but just a few months ago it was next to impossible. Tesla Model S + 90 kiloWatt supercharger network, however small, is a breakthrough of EPIC proportions!!!

    • Zachary Shahan

      Great point. Worth an article in itself.

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