Fair and Balanced


Settle in for an education, Fox News.

I’m not quite sure why I did this, but I called up foxnews.com a few mornings ago.  I suppose I wanted to know what was going on in the world.  Instead of that, I found a link to an article on foxbusiness.com, entitled “Don’t Buy An Electric Car.”  Look at the picture headlining the article, and you might guess where I’m going with this.  The author is a Mr. Steve Tobak, “a Silicon Valley-based strategy consultant and former senior executive of the technology industry” according to the credit at the bottom of the article.

<<deep breath>>

Dear Mr. Tobak,

If you plan on writing an article bashing electric cars and discouraging people from buying them while in the same breath saying you own a Honda Civic Hybrid and “it’s a great car,” it would behoove you to be very clear about your definitions.  Since the Honda Civic Hybrid is excluded from your bashing, I believe that when you say “electric,” you refer to cars whose sole source of power is a battery attached to an electric motor, such as the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Roadster, Tesla Model S, Smart EV, etc.

If that is the case, you should make sure that the Chevrolet Volt is a) not in the headline picture and b) not mentioned in the section of your article where you bash pure electrics.  The Volt is a hybrid, just like your beloved Civic; it does not fit your definition of electric.  The only difference between it and your Civic is that it can go significantly farther and faster on electric power alone.  Once the Volt’s battery is depleted, it keeps going by firing up its internal combustion engine and burning the gasoline in its tank, just like your Honda.

That covers the first of two issues I have with your article: the Volt is a hybrid–not a pure electric–thus not your target.  Get it out of your headline.  My second issue is, well, the rest of your article.

Let us examine the reasons you won’t buy a pure electric.  First, “I’m a car person,” you say, and “the car I want to drive doesn’t come in electric.”  Really?  Your 110hp, 123lb-ft Civic (I’m assuming it’s vintage 2007 or so, given your stated mileage) is a thrill to pilot?  Do you really know anything about the pure electric Tesla Model S, Automobile (and Motor Trend) Magazine’s Car of the Year?  Car and Driver “measured 0-to-60 mph in 4.6 seconds, a quarter-mile of 13.3 seconds at 104 mph, and a governed top speed of  134 mph.”  They also noted that such numbers are “similar to the performance of the V-8 German sedans” with which it competes.  If you are truly claiming that your “great” Civic is better than a car like that, I might say you’re a bit of a Honda fanboy, and that stopped being cool back in 2007.

Electric vehicles “aren’t cost-effective,” you say.  That’s odd, because over the lifetime of my Volt, I’ve averaged 120 mpg.  Given that I paid right about $36,500 for it (after the tax credit, which brings it to not much more than the average new car price) and considering my savings at the pump (120 mpg versus 25mpg in the average car) , I don’t think you can truly say that Volts are reserved for “rock stars and actors.”

What else?  Electric cars are “different,” you say, and you bought a Civic Hybrid because it “looks just like a regular Civic.”  Well, the Volt is based on the “regular” Chevy Cruze, except that the Volt has a hatchback, so I can bring the dog along.  Sorry about that concession to practicality.  Either way, abhorring things that are “different” has never been a well from which eternally springs proud moments in human history, has it?

But “you have to plug it in,” you say.  Well, I suppose we should all stop plugging in our smartphones all the time, because that’s exhausting.  And plugging in the car, well, that requires an equivalent level of effort, so forget it.

Your next gripe is “government subsidies.”  Well, that’s a long debate, there.  But you bought a government-subsidized solar array because it fit your needs and you saw no need to “cut off your nose to spite your face.”  I suppose that means that despite your lofty government-shouldn’t-meddle principles, your actual behavior probably includes a mortgage interest tax credit and child tax credit on top of your solar array subsidy.  The Volt fits my needs, burns very little gasoline, and was affordable to me because of said tax credit.  I wasn’t going to cut off my nose, either.  Am I still in the wrong here?

Lastly, you think this “green” thing is a “fad” which will go away, and you won’t support it while it’s fashionable.  Allow me to correct you.  Justin Bieber is a fad.  One Direction is a fad.  YOLO is a fad (I hardly know what these things are or mean, but Google them if you wish to be enlightened).  Efficient vehicles, however, are here to stay.  The Christian Science Monitor very recently reported that the average fuel economy of the US vehicle fleet has reached an all-time high.  Consumers (yourself included, obviously) demand efficient vehicles and manufacturers are working hard to provide them.  The best way to do so seems to be to build a traditional internal-combustion-engined platform, and then adjust it as required/able to include a mode of electric-only operation or electric assistance.  There are many variations of this theme at present, including your Civic and my Volt, and many more are coming.

There are, of course, those who have attempted to leap forward and leave internal combustion engines to the ashes of history.  Many have derided those enterprising souls and the fruits of their hard labor, because the ingrained cultural mental image of pure electrics tends to look like a Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, or Smart EV…rather small, somewhat homely things with limited utility, high up-front cost, limited range, and long recharge times.  That stereotype has admittedly been well-earned; most pure electrics, including the ones above, do indeed have those problems.

The Tesla Model S, however, does not.  It is lovely to behold, seats six (four adults and two children with the rear-facing seat option), and even the less-expensive version with the smaller battery will manage 200 miles before needing a recharge (which can be accomplished at a rate of 150 miles per 30 minutes at a Tesla Supercharger Station).  Yes, it is expensive, but no more so than its nearest traditional competitors, the likes of the Audi S7 and Mercedes CLS550 (as noted earlier).  But the Model S is like nothing else in the world.  It’s not a copy, not a revision, not a tweak or a facelift or a re-badge.  It is rather a shining example of American risk-taking, entrepreneurship, and engineering.   It is not a mass-market solution, but it is an incredible achievement.  It deserves your accolades for being a great example of what America can still do.  It proves that a “pure electric” can be everything a conventional automobile can be and more.

In summary, your article was misleading and/or uninformed, full of personal opinions and hyperbole, was based on very few actual facts, and ignored what facts directly contradicted it.  I am quite certain that Fox compensated you handsomely.  Congratulations on all your success.