We’ve come a long way toward “saving the Earth.” Even though I once questioned the value of the flower children in the late ’60s when free-love, pot, and protests came into vogue, I’m now appreciating their fervor (although not their lifestyle, since I had six kids growing up at the time).
This movement somehow gave us all an initiative to clean up our streams, air, and our commercial energy. Our water is purer out of the tap, we smokers are virtually banned as heretics, and our cars are earning 30-plus mpg vs. 10-12.
L.A. doesn’t see smog much anymore; cars are operating well with four-cylinder engines, litter is almost an oddity, and, if you’re like me, you recycle religiously. And, Prius maintains a high resale value.
Our own company produces the Green Fleet Conference. My son, Ty, makes certain that we live by our mission to be “good citizens of this planet” by creating a totally green environment. I’m also a dedicated Michigan State Spartan alum who has lived with the “Go Green!” chant forever.
We’ll all live longer and I’m a poster guy for it.
California leads our country with both good and bad trends. Now, they’re mandating a stiff zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) rule that requires 15.4 percent of all new cars sold in the state be ZEVs by 2025. That’s around 275,000 vehicles per year. That just happens to be the same year President Barack Obama has set the goal for cars and trucks to average 54.5 mpg.
Think about it: There are an additional 10 states that normally follow the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandates. If they do, you can bet the farm that the heavy burden will be on selling electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids. A trade association estimates the total number to be more than 80,000 of them per year to be sold new. You should know, there were less than 18,000 sold last year.
The (Really Bad) Ugly
The economics to attain ZEV status are indeed ugly. Chrysler’s powertrain director, Chris Cowland, says that a regular car’s gasoline engine and transmission cost the OEM about $3,000 (or 10 percent of a $30,000 car).
Alan Mulally, Ford’s CEO, states that batteries for the Focus run $12,000-$15,000 on the $39,200 sticker, or about $15,000 more than a gasoline-powered Focus.
Honda’s Robert Bienenfeld, who is senior manager for energy strategy, estimates that by 2025 a buyer of a plug-in hybrid would wait for up to 10 years to recover the initial added costs compared to a similar car with a regular gasoline engine.
Some of this data is getting through to consumers and fleet managers — maybe. Last year, total U.S. hybrid sales were only 2.4 percent compared to their peak of 2.9 percent in 2008.
If that isn’t bad enough, a new national study shows that nearly two-thirds of hybrid owners chose some other vehicle when they made a new purchase in 2011. If you don’t count the more-loyal Prius owners, the repurchase rate dropped down to 22 percent.
But, do not despair — I’ve seen a worse scenario. I’ve had two ex-wives.