In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Clint Eastwood is my long-time macho hero (along with John Wayne and Bruce Willis). His historic “Make my day!” statement is kind of a mantra with me. Those three words may also offer a challenge to the nation’s environmentalists, activists, and tree huggers everywhere.

June 12, 2012

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.


  1. 1. Russ Cass [ June 13, 2012 @ 10:30AM ]

    Once again Coach, your words of wisdom have rung true. The case for electric and hybrid electric vehicles is a good one and a direction we probably need to go, however, until the cost of these "green" vehicles parallels the the cost of similar gasoline or even diesel powered vehicles, getting people to fully embrace the technology will be very difficult. Everyone has a limit as to what they believe green should cost. I do think most of the population wouldn't mind spending a little more to help the planet, just not clean our pockets to make it work. With that said, I did chuckle regarding your worst scenario. Russ

  2. 2. Mike Nickoloff [ June 15, 2012 @ 11:32AM ]

    As in the past, the public sector i.e. city, county, state and federal motor pools will be required to purchase enough alternate fuel/ electric powered vehicles to make up the quotas mandated by our 'elected' representatives. The Feds added thousands of mandated 'gasohol' powered vehicles to their fleets in the decades of the 90s and 2000. Even though many of today's consumer vehicles will run on the blend of gasoline and alcohol, it is more expensive at the pump and harder to find, so the consumer bypasses that option for cheaper and more readily available gasoline.

    A similar result is taking place after the initial 'glow' has dimmed with regard to electric/hybrid vehicle pricing, convenience and ROI. Hybrids can cost upto $5000 dollars more than their gas powered stable mates. Electric vehicles as much as $15K more! But the Public Sector, with unlimted budgets and our tax dollars, will add those electrics to their fleets to achieve mandated quotas. Plus the government subsidies/tax incentives will help push those electrics over the curb too.[your tax dollars at work]

  3. 3. Steve Kibler [ June 22, 2012 @ 01:07PM ]

    Ed, I'm so glad you just can't hang up the 'Ol pen. You mention growing up in the 60's and I sometimes wonder if you were that curly headed kid riding his bicycle right next to me while we tried to keep up with the DDT mosquito sprayer trucks... We showd them skitters - huh. It is probably worth mentioning that the more hybrid and electric vehicles numbers increase, the less fuel tax revenue will find its way to the road and bridge infrastructure upkeep account. That means more bridges will collapse and road will crumble - until they figure out a way to tax electrons . . . Keep those articles coming old friend.


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.

Author Bio

Ed Bobit

sponsored by

Former Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, former Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflected on issues affecting today’s fleets in his blog. He drew insight from his own experiences in the field and offered a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All