Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Extraordinarily Bad Article

I've been absent from my blog for a while, but I haven't been neglecting the issues. Mostly, I've been spending time commenting on stories about EVs and energy. There are some great ones out there because things are moving fast in the EV world and good journalists are covering the stories. (BTW, since starting my job selling the LEAF for Santa Monica Nissan exactly one year ago, I've delivered over 120 LEAFs to some very excited and happy customers. A lot of my long time EV friends have their EVs now and everyone is loving them.)

But there are some particularly nasty articles, too. It almost seems that the people who write them are working together, the things they say are so off-the-charts wrong. It's like they're coordinating with each other to feed misinformation to the public. For a very good example, see this op-ed from Forbes today. They had the nerve to name it "Electric Cars Are An Extraordinarily Bad Idea". It's like they were daring me to weigh in on them.

I was so incensed that Forbes, as conservative as they are, would stoop so low as this. It's very hard to get an op-ed in the NY Times or LA Times, so I imagine it's not easy to get in a magazine like Forbes. You would think they'd at least read it.

Well, we at Plug In America have a few people who like to comment when we see these kinds of stories, and we really ripped this guy a new one. If you want to have a good read, go to the bottom of the article and click to expand the comments. I'm pretty sure Forbes, and this Louis Woodhill fellow, know now they can no longer expect to get away with this sort of biased and dangerous journalism.

Lastly, if you want to read something really good, check out the "EV Hater's Guide" by a very talented writer/doctor in St. Louis, MO. by the name of Steve Harvey.


  1. Paul,
    First, congrats on the 120 LEAFs. Hope we'll have one within the year here in Colorado.

    Second, how effective do you think it is to get into it with anti-EV commentors in comment streams?

    I've done this a lot over the past two years, but I've recently really begun to wonder whether it's worth it.

    First, reading anti-EV stuff really gets me riled up - and that's not good for my health. In fact, this is the main reason I've mostly stopped reading comment streams after many stories about EVs, solar, the environment, etc.

    Second, it seems to me that what happens when commentors who disagree about EVs exchange comments is that neither one is persuaded by the other. They're so entrenched in their own position, that there's no way they're ever going to move an inch.

    I think it's fair to say this describes up to 90%, or more, of the anti-EV/EV skpetic commentators out there (and lots of us pro-EV folks).

    So, the main reason to challenge anti-EV people in comment streams seems to be to convince those who read comment streams, but don't comment, of the positive aspects of EVs.

    But how many people actually read long comment streams, but don't comment themselves -- that's an important question I don't know the answer to...

  2. All great points, Christof. And I find myself in the same predicament quite often. These days I try to look for different angles to change up my comments a bit. Like with you, seeing disinformation being passed off as "news" or any sort of fact just gets me riled up to no end. I do pick and choose where I comment these days. But it is hard to let some of this stuff slip by.

  3. It's Forbes. What can you expect! I tried reading the publication but it is irrelevant and just a bunch of the good old boys clinging desperately to the good old days. Forbes has become more and more irrelevant these last years and we should applaud articles as that one. It only reinforces the fact.

    Thanks Paul

  4. Your comment was a brilliant and well balanced response to a typical and increasingly common line of utter nonsense being spewed out about EV's. I was so thrilled to read it after ploughing through another pile of badly argued rubbish based on zero facts and even less experience. Well done Paul.

  5. Nice responses, Paul. Aside from the absurd thesis (that EVs have 10 year paybacks and won't perform in extreme weather), the article had many inaccuracies, particularly around cost, charge time, and natural gas cost/range/efficiency (he neglects to talk about gas infrastructure as well).

    I can argue the theoretical points, but now having the experience of owning an EV, the authors claims around the bad EV ownership experience really fall flat. Now that we've had our Leaf for a few months (my wife now drives it most the time, I can barely get my hands on it), a lot of the claims of EV skeptics--most if not all of whom have never owned an EV-- around range anxiety are easy to see as 100% theoretical. When you own an EV, it's almost always part of a multi-car setup (the average cars per household now is over 2.5), and you end up using the EV well within its constraints. You also get a "full tank" every morning--people forget that. What you find as opposed to range anxiety is quite the opposite: that almost all of your driving, except for the 20% "tail" of the populace, falls well within the daily 80-110 mi real world capabilities of the vehicle. Our gasoline vehicle now sits idle for 90% of the week, only used for the rare over 100-mi/day trip.

    On the cost side, the best argument to give is the 3 year lease + fuel cost comparison. This is for 3 years, a very unfavorable time period for EVs, and its also limited to 1000 miles/mo--the more miles you drive the better for the EV. So it's "unfavorable" in terms of the set up, but as you'll see the EV does very well.

    The Leaf has a base lease rate now of $349. The fueling per month (given offpeak rates, the EVSE rebates, and EV discounts such as my LADWP) for 1000 miles (assuming ~4kwh/mi) is around $25. EV-specific costs for the first 3 years are $0. Thus you get around $375/mo (plus taxes) for car/fuel/EV-specific maintenance.

    The Versa--which you point out is a very different car, although they are built on the same platform (a better comparison would be comparing an Audi A4 to a VW Beetle, as those are built on the same platform)--has a lease special now for about $180/mo (very cheap) for the stripped-down hatchback. No real luxury-type options here like Nav, etc, thus it's not apples to apples. In LA, real world efficiency for a Versa is (generously) about 25 mpg. Thus for 1000 miles you are consuming about 40 gallons of gas. At $4/gal (which is what I've been paying in LA for my car), you get $160/mo. Add in $15/mo for ICE-specific oil and filter changes (based on ~$45 every 3 months), and you have $355/mo.

    So the Leaf costs $20/month, or about $0.67/day, more than the Versa. What do you get for $0.67/day? So much that I'd guess 99.9% of drivers would pay less than a dollar a day to get the following:

    -navigation with live traffic on a 7" touchscreen
    -bluetooth phone and audio integration
    -satellite radio (free for first 6 months)
    -HID lights
    -Homelink integration
    -advanced telematics including ability to pre-cool your vehicle


    -free parking at LAX (for me this has been a $450 benefit so far, based on actual saved charges, no lie)
    -free use of HOV lane (most drivers would alone pay $5-10 a day for this privilege based on congestion pricing studies)
    -free parking at Santa Monica
    -NEVER having to go to a gas station

    -knowing you are contributing to reducing our trade deficit
    -knowing you are contributing to reducing climate change
    -knowing you are contributing to improving our national security
    -knowing you are contributing to improving local air quality

    All for $0.67 a day! And believe me, if there were an "apples to apples" lease rate on a Versa to choose from in terms of features like bluetooth, nav, etc., you'd get all of the associated benefits for free.

    Thus in future arguments it's helpful to point out that the cost, and more importantly, VALUE, equation, is not something to point to in the future: it's here today.

  6. Interview EV drivers. If the customer experience is great, then EVs will become more prevalent. All the other stuff is arm waving.

  7. I appreciate the time you took to set the record straight. I have also been writing into to comment on some fallacious articles. Even though we should not expect it would have any effect on the haters there are very many people out there who want to learn more about EVs and are looking to see how things pan out.

    Best wishes and keep selling those lEAFs!!!

  8. Hey Paul - a couple of things:

    1) That Forbes article is propaganda, but it's not organized - I call it "disorganized crime" - the interests of many of these folks randomly align, they all read the same blogs, watch the same FOX commentators, and so the BS just jerkulates....

    2) I'm not sure having your readers go to Forbes to comment is such a great idea, but I don't know what's better. The more people who vist Forbes, the eyeballs it's advertisers get. Better to list the Forbes advertisers and have your readers contact THEM and call BS on the article, thus pressuring Forbes editors to do better fact checking.

    3) EVs are not perfect, but they are a HUGE step in the right direction. The whole range anxiety thing is a bogus argument - as is the assumption that people should be able to routinely drive 100 miles each way to work.

    Say what? 100 miles??? Even 25 miles is stupid. It takes over an hour to do that on the 405 - each way! 100?

    Ask the haters this: "You really want to spend 8 hours a day in rush hour traffic?"

    People need to live where they work. Cars with less range will PROMOTE this more responsible way of life.

    Conservation, not efficiency.

    Less is more.

  9. I really appreciate all the comments, thanks! I want to respond to the first one from Christof, though. Yes, it's still worth it to comment on these articles. We at Plug In America have a crack team of rapid response commenters, several of whom you'll read having commented on this article. While maybe only a few people will see them, it's still important that we do this to limit the damage done by these kinds of articles. Remember, we're in this for the long haul, and it takes changing a few minds at a time to get where we want to be.

    I am of the belief that there is a concerted effort by the oil companies to seed these kinds of articles everywhere they can to damp down sales of EVs. It works, too. They are insidious. But we will continue fighting them everywhere we can, all the while churning out positive articles about EVs to counter their negative ones. Our voice is loud and clear and taken seriously since we actually use the technology. And it's not just a few of anymore, we now number over ten thousand! and we're growing fast:~)

  10. Hey All!

    I enjoy the "work from home" comment.

    The fact is , not everyone can do that. An electric car is not for everyone either. Solar power does not work on everybody's property. Not everyone lives near a bus stop or mass transportation. Not everyone has natural gas available on their property. Not every one has sufficient wind or water for those methods of generating electricity.

    What's my point? We all should do what is most efficient for each of us, based on our personal environment. We all need to applaud people who are doing this.

    For someone living in Southern California it may be installing solar panels, working from home and driving an electric vehicle. For someone living in a colder climate it may mean adding insulation to their house and using energy efficient light bulbs while telecommuting.

    Our energy situation, as a country, is a form of economic warfare and the stakes are high. It is imperative that each dollar be spent as efficiently as possible to win this war of energy independence.

    As an aside, I have solar power and try to encourage others to consider getting it. Most people ask the same question about it- "What's the payback period?"

    My reply is, "What's the payback period on your electric bill that you have been paying for for the past twenty years?"

    Spend wisely,

    Lauri J.

  11. It takes me less than 3 hours to charge my new LEAF to 80 percent overnight, and 4-5 hrs. overnight for a full charge, and I too, am getting that power from the solar panels on the roof of our house. We are powering our entire 2,500-square-foot home, with pool pump going year-round and air conditioning running much of the year (sunny SoCal), PLUS plugging in the LEAF to "gas up" every night, for a grand total of $40 plus tax per month for our 20-year, fixed-rate solar lease fee with Solar City. That's in place of an average $125/month electric bill and a $100/month gasoline bill (for our "old technology" Prius, which I used for daily commute until the LEAF arrived). If saving $185 a month doesn't make good business sense to the folks at Forbes, I humbly suggest that they don't have as much finance and business sense (much less common sense) as they ought to.

  12. Keep up the great work Paul. Those of us in New England have not even had a chance to buy EVs yet. Once we do, it will be easier to spread the message here.

  13. Well, the author of the Forbes article, Louis Woodhill, proudly notes, "I apply unconventional logic to economic issues" -- as if it's a virtue. Here's a suggestion, Louis: stick with conventional logic -- and don't forget about fact-checking.

  14. Make sure to send the author a personal message by writing to

  15. Paul
    I read the article first on Forbes before finding your Blog.
    Thanks for taking the time to write a decent rebuttal.
    Neal Roche
    - Happy Leaf Owner Westlake Village CA.

  16. A few thoughts.

    One of my mantras the past few years is:
    The less someone knows about a subject, the BIGGER is their OPINION!

    The Forbes writer, Louis Woodhill, fits the profile. Poor guy. He doesn't even have his facts straight. An EV doesn't use any energy to speak of when it is stalled in traffic. Unlike gasoline cars, which idle and burn the gas away. Aside: do you think the oil companies like all the stop signs and how the traffic lights are synchronized so you stop at every one?

    I saw a great infographic on Roger Ebert's blog at the Chicago Tribune this week:
    What if solar energy received the same subsidies as fossil fuels? Do check it out.

    Perhaps Louis Woodhill could apply similar "unconventional logic" to solar, renewables, and EVs.


  17. Great response Paul! I just commented over there also.

    It's the same old "facts" about EV's that keep circulating. Of course, none of them are true.

    However we do need to continue to comment and contest the authors of misinformation because there are millions of people out there reading them that really don't know the truth. We have to offer the truth as much as possible and let the readers decide who they believe.

    I recently did a blog post about driving my EV during the power outages in NJ after the hurricane. I had no problem while the gas stations where I live were closed:

  18. Some clarity on First, remember that this was clearly labeled as an op-ed. Further, Louis Woodhil is a contributor to the site - one of about 850 outside freelance journalists, policy wonks, businesspeople, economists and the like who have blogs on the

    That means there's a wide variety of opinions, none of which carry the endorsement of Forbes. Hence this tagline for all outside contributors: "The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer."

    In the print magazine, the columnists do tend to be conservative, but that does not influence the news reporting. I have worked repeatedly with several top editors and bloggers, who have done some of the media's most extensive and supportive EV, environmental and green tech reporting.

    Zan Dubin Scott

  19. "-NEVER having to go to a gas station"

    Let's say the average person spends 10 minutes a week putting gas in their car (including overhead like the need to look for a station when one runs low at an inopportune time).

    Taking one's time to be worth 20 dollars an hour, this means 173 dollars per year. Times 100 million cars gives 17.3 billion dollars a year in savings.
    But gas station attendants will go the way of video store clerks, and my auto mechanic snidely says he will be retired before electric cars eat too much into his business.

  20. The biggest problem I have run into since I bought my Leaf 3 months ago: I have to keep my ICE vehicle on a battery charger and remember to take it out once a month for a good spin on the freeway to keep the cylinders from getting scored. Otherwise, it would probably be 6 months until I took the ICE vehicle of the garage.

    Keep up the good work, Paul.

  21. Each and every modern woman lovesBurberry Scarf to own at Burberry Scarf least a few designer purses. Too bad that most of Coach Outlet Online the timesCoach Outlet Online such Coach Outlet Online Store bags come with a very high price tag, so someCoach Outlet Online Store ladies cannot afford buying at least one. There has to be a cheaper way to look good. Indeed, smartCoach Outlet Store Online women can manage to be fresh and col without spending a lot of money. Leather goods manufacturers suchCoach Outlet Online as Coach handbags are an Coach Outlet Store Online excellent option Louis Vuitton Bags and significantly cheaper than a Prada, Gucci or Fendi. Louis VuittonCoach Factory Outlet Here you'll be able to read a few tricks that will allow you to enjoy your style to the full. Smart ladies always chase promotions. Coach Factory Outlet If youCoach Factory Outlet Online look in the shops during the discount periods, you'll notice a lot of women struggling to obtain those items Coach Factory Outlet Online they have been logged in Coach Factory for over the past every year, and which now are Coach Factory Online for sale at incredibly discounted prices. Coach Factory, which are not expensive,Coach Factory but not quite cheap either, can be bought with important discounts when the collections get older, and when fashion changes. Coach Factory Online Even so, you can buy such discounted bags today, because the fashion always returns after a few years, so you'll have the chance to be in vogue withCoach Factory very little money invested. Bright colors are a good choice for bags. A sparkling purse can make others notice you out of the crowds. Yet, you need to watch yourself in order ofCoach Factory Online keeping the number of colors you wear at a time at a maximum of three. You don't want to look like an exotic bird, after all.

  22. Regardless of man's age, hermes belt mens watches present both classically refined and vintage inspired. Despite searching opulent, michael kors stretch and play with their color hues from black pave crystals adorning round bezel to white ceramic bezel embellish with numeric engraving.

  23. Of course
    Coach Factory Outletthese may
    possibly not
    be your
    Coach Factory Outletordinary retailer
    Coach Factory Outlet purchased ones
    Coach Factory Outletbut they
    Coach Factory Outletare sturdy
    Coach Factory Outletand can be
    Coach Factory Outletterrific for heavy
    Factory Outlet
    duty get
    Coach Factory Outletthe job
    Coach Factory Outletdone. Army
    Coach Factory Outletcoats are also offered as perfectly as rain dress in.

  24. Company sends the ignore coupons for within their supplies after the guise have done shopping at least once. The Coach Outlet Online accessories in recurring malls are utterly different from the sort found in passage supplies. Generally these Coach Outlet Store malls enclose those accessories that are not liability good thing in the repeated boutiques or which are sold at discounted assess.

  25. A lately
    Coach Factory Store Handbags Replica
    Coach Outlet that has
    Coach Factory generated interest
    Coach Factory of fashion
    Coach Factory Outlet enthusiast is
    Coach Outlet Online Samba. There's been an extended waiting list of style conscious people today, who just simply wish to possess this
    Coach Factory Outlet bag whatever it takes. These
    Coach bags Outlet Handbags Replica
    Coach Outlet Store Online are mostly liked by celebrities
    Coach Outlet Store and
    Coach Outlet Online socialites, simply because of its
    Coach Outlet craftsmanship and
    Coach Outlet Online luscious
    Coach Outlet material. A
    Coach Bags Handbags Replica is a smaller accessory that reflects 1 private style and character.

  26. Interested in shopping for a designer breitling watches from a ray ban sunglasses locations?
    These typical merchants of the corporation stock goods which are surplus,
    and all those products which could suffer small defects because of to shipment or at the time of production.
    ray ban glasses that breitling watches typically obtain goods in bulk,
    they get these products at comparatively lower price ranges and also offer prospects enticing reductions on designer goods like purses and rolex watches for sale.

  27. If you look closely will find the words hidden in the shoes of "23", two large patterns in the upper side support, three the soles lateral bottom

  28. How to breitling watches get Coach Outlet Coupons?Stop ray ban sunglasses paying full price ray ban glasses when you breitling watches can save and rolex watches for sale get crazy rolex watches discountsFor Coach ray ban Outlet Coupons ray bansjoin a ray ban glassesgreat website ray ban eyeglasses that is rolex watches100% free and rolex watches for saleoffers free ray ban wayfarer coupons, for youray ban sunglasses
    to use and save ```money off your puphases.

  29. --! @senquanHaving both a louis vuitton and retail louis vuitton outlet in one location proves to be advantageous when Louis Vuitton comes to increasing the louis vuitton. This louis vuitton outlet will show you how the louis vuitton handbags can go hand in hand. You can distribute louis vuitton bags on the wholesale side to your retail louis vuitton outlet or other retail outlets. --! @senquan.

  30. In That Respect Chanel Wallet is a wide Chanel Sunglasses range ready for Chanel bags choice including the Chanel Outlet Store black leather satin Chanel Outlet bag.