The rise of electric vehicles is finally a real-world phenomenon. Between luxury icons with hybrid versions and electric-powered sports cars, the auto industry has changed, yet not everyone is on board. For every green car enthusiast, there’s an old-school muscle car driver; for every lover of EVs, there’s an even more violent detractor. Here are the eight reasons people love or hate the trend toward hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
In the heyday of the Big Three, cars were enormous and pretty, and guzzled gas like it was water. The mere sight of a 1960 Cadillac Convertible is enough to send classic car enthusiasts into hysterics. GM (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F) weren’t shy about putting picturesque mammoths on the road.
Compare that to, say, a Nissan (NSANY.PK) Leaf (pictured), and you have a huge reason why some people loathe electric vehicles and their hybrid counterparts. Their lack of style is almost un-American.
7. Lovers: The Latest Models Are Gorgeous
To those who say every electric vehicle and hybrid looks like a plastic toy, lovers of EVs present the case of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA). The Wall Street darling has shattered the EV’s ugly duckling image with stylish — though expensive — cars since the company’s inception. Not to be outdone in the luxury hybrid segment, GM is presenting the Cadillac ELR, while Ford is enjoying success with the Lincoln MKZ hybrid.
6. Haters: Their Boosters Are Self-Righteous and Arrogant
More than a few EV detractors have targeted industry boosters as self-serving, smug, and arrogant. Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, seems to have his own dedicated anti-fan base, for example. Paul Scott, who founded Plug In America and recently lobbied President Obama on electric vehicles, has his share of critics as well. In Musk’s case, he’s gamely taken on the challenge, and even staged a recent event as a boxing match, with EVs in one corner and gas-guzzlers in the other.
5. Lovers: EV Pioneers Are the Great Innovators of Our Time
It’s no accident that the name of the EV industry’s top company is Tesla. Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-born U.S. inventor who rivaled Thomas Edison in his day, does not have the same name recognition as his contemporaries, yet was considered one of the most productive and innovative minds in American history. Electric vehicle makers hope not to end up dying penniless, as Nikola Tesla did at the New Yorker Hotel in 1943.
4. Haters: They’re Way Too Expensive
Impartial observers with neither love nor hate for EVs often cite one reason they won’t buy one: the high price. There is at least a 10 percent markup for hybrids when matched against their gasoline-powered equivalents. In many cases, it is 20 percent more — or even twice as costly — with all-electric models before the tax credit kicks in (a 2014 Focus Electric is $35,200; the 2014 Focus S Sedan starts at $16,310).
Then there’s the million-dollar elephant in the room. Porsche (POAHF.PK) decided to blow the conception of hybrids to smithereens by introducing the 918 Spyder, which packs 887 horsepower and goes 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. Its base price is $970,000.
3. Lovers: The Premium Is Worth Ditching Gas Forever
The problem with the price differential between the Focus Electric and gas-powered models is not shared by all electric-motor vehicles. The Lincoln MKZ hybrid, for example, comes in at $35,925 — the exact same price as the standard version. A 2014 Honda (NYSE:HMC) Accord Hybrid (pictured) will also close the gap.
Since hybrids only improve fuel economy (rather than eliminate the need for gas entirely), the electric premium will stand. It could take years for drivers to match the value of gas-powered cars, but electric car lovers are happy to wait. By the time they start seeing those big savings, their green credentials will be unparalleled.
2. Haters: They Depend on Government Loans and Assistance
The government dished out billions in loans to electric car makers (including Tesla), giving them the stigma as companies dependent on taxpayers and clueless politicians. Though the ATVM loans have proved a failure on some counts, detractors also point to the $7,500 in tax credits available to buyers of cars using qualifying battery packs. In our post-bailout world, any company buoyed by the government can seem to have a black eye.
1. Lovers: They’re Worth the Investment
Lovers of the industry again hold Tesla as the prime example of why this experiment is working. Elon Musk & Co. repaid their $465 million in federal loans back already — nine years ahead of schedule. It was a refutation of all the talk about failed investments and wasted government money. By the way, lovers of EVs would remind their opponents of some other facts: didn’t certain U.S. automakers get bailouts (ones that will never be repaid)? They’re just saying.
As with modern U.S. political parties, the two sides of this debate may never see eye-to-eye, yet it’s impossible to deny the argument is one of the most interesting in the modern U.S. auto industry.