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NextEV, Tesla, Faraday Future (and other companies that Miss the Mark)

and our 14 year-old Honda Insight

Greta Hill, Co-Publisher

Funded to the tune of billions of dollars, NextEV and Faraday Future (and Rimac and Xiaomi and...) propose to build competitive cars to that of Elon Musk’s Tesla. Next year, NextEV will be launching a 1000+ horsepower supercar that proposes to “run circles” around Musk. Rimac’s doing the same. Everyone wants to build an electric Supercar...

The questions is, How many electric supercars can the world digest when the point of auto making is to make a car that has utility and affordability for the masses?

Our Honda Insight - a 2002 model with manual transmission - runs faultlessly at about 60 miles per gallon. They’re available everywhere, really, at from $3,000 to $6,000. The little car doesn’t pollute, is extremely comfortable, has air conditioning, and feels as though one is driving an automobile rather than a motorcycle (see Arcimoto below).

Let’s do the math: At an average of 15,000 miles per year at 60 miles per gallon, our annual fuel cost is $625. To reduce that annual fuel cost through the purchase of an electric vehicle - not eliminate it since there’s still an increase in electric consumption on-grid that has to be accounted for - means conservatively a $60,000 purchase of an all-electric car. Over a 48 month term, financing at 7% results in a monthly payment in excess of $1300 or more than $15,00 per year compared to $625 in gasoline today.

That’s a lot of gasoline. Comparatively at today’s at-pump prices, one might as well drive a 1964 Cadillac and do better financially.

While I am hesitant to invoke his name, you may recall that Adolf Hitler asked Dr. Porsche to build a car for the people: something affordable and reliable and efficient and, while they’ve lost that “inspiration” as of late, from this directive came the Volkswagen, or, roughly, “People’s Car.” Very affordable (after the War) and very practical and reliable, and Volkswagen thus sold over the Bug’s life, more than 20 million cars.

So far no one has come forward with an electrified version of the Volkswagen’s charming little Bug. Will they ever? It’s difficult to say, but the reality is that we will never move the average consumer of average means away from his or her gas-powered vehicle at $1,300 per month in car payment.

So, while all of these Venture-builders look to power, speed, and accessorize the poop out of their prototypical automobiles, the winner, ultimately, will be the company that designs, builds, and markets a car that we can drive for 400 miles without charging, has an expected reliability, and sells in the neighborhood of $12,000+ (today’s equivalent of $2,000 (sales price of a new Bug) in 1970 adjusted for inflation).

And while Arcimoto in Oregon is close to reaching this goal, there are a few design issues that just don’t measure up: Like our Honda Insight the car seats only two. But, and this is important if you happen to like the person with whom you are traveling, your co-traveler is required to sit behind you negating any chance of meaningful dialogue. (The design does work well for prisoner transport, though.) As well, it is a fairly open car - more of a motorcycle - tricycle design partly enclosed with a range of less than 100 miles. That doesn’t work, either. Air conditioning? Stick your head (either left or right) beyond the windscreen...

This is what happens when people in key positions with entrepreneurial spirit and financial backing either choose to forget History or were asleep in class.

A response from Mark Frohnmayer, the driving force (pun intended) of Arcimoto:

“...thank you for forwarding this along. A few corrections: we will offer full enclosure and air conditioning as options, though in sunny climates and on nice days you'll always want to ride it open. Furthermore, the windshield and dash are designed to reflect sound really well, so you can maintain a full conversation with your passenger no problem, even without the side panels on. Plus it parks in spaces your Insight will never fit into :-).”