A Free-Market Energy Blog

Just How Bad are EVs?

By -- February 26, 2024

“This isn’t the Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, he will come.’ …  Automakers are wrestling with the reality of the EV market as politicians continue to believe in fairy tales about them.”

A recent headline on The Drive website read: Ford Slashes 2023 Mustang Mach-E Price by up to $8,100 With 0% APR.”  More interesting was the tagline under the headline. “Now’s a really great time to nab a solid, yet slow-selling EV.” 

Even the advertising department at Ford Motor Company cannot hide the company’s problem with EVs – “slow-selling!” Customers do not want them to the degree politicians believe and have incentivized and mandated. As a report on EV battery costs stated, technology should lead policy rather than the other way around. We are hard-pressed to cite any example of a policy leading the technology. 

After 120 years of history, batteries and EVs remain heavy, expensive; destructive of the environment during the mining of the minerals needed; limited in charging range; and poor performers in extreme cold and hot climate conditions. Despite the rhetoric from EV believers, none of these problems have been solved. So, the solution is to give buyers subsidies and provide huge credits to automakers to build them. 

This isn’t the Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.” I don’t remember the government demanding that people wire their homes for electricity or purchase telephones, now cell phones. The latter demonstrates the technology over policy dictum. How many people remember the shoebox-sized cell phones with limited battery life we started with, let alone how few people purchased them? Technology solved the size and battery-life issues and the market took off. 

Ford’s eMustang; Star to Loser

EVs have been a disaster for domestic auto manufacturers with Ford being the poster child. Last year Ford lost $4.7 billion on EV revenues of $5.9 billion. The company estimates it will lose $5-5.5 billion on EVs this year. The company’s goal of reaching an 8% operating margin by 2026 was dismissed by Ford’s CFO John Lawler during his presentation to investment analysts earlier this year. “I don’t think anybody believes we can bridge from here to 8% by 2026,” he said. The EV division “needs to be profitable and provide a return.” Shareholders, not only taxpayers and automobilists, are losers.

Ford’s publicists crystallized their problem. “Many North American customers interested in buying EVs are unwilling to pay premiums for them over gas or hybrid vehicles, sharply compressing EV prices and profitability,” they wrote. Like any good marketer, slashing prices on leftover merchandise is required.  The chart below from The Drive shows the cuts for left-over 2023 EVs Ford has announced.  They are hoping this step will spur buyers and help clean out dealer lots. 

EV Price Cuts may Attract Buyers but Add to Ford’s Loss per Vehicle

EV companies Rivian and Lucid posted larger EV losses than forecast and reduced their 2024 production outlooks. Rivian is cutting 10% of its salaried staff. The company delivered 50,122 EVs last year but produced 57,232. They are projecting producing 57,000 EVs this year, although Wall Street analysts expected 66,000. The company’s operating margin was a negative $2,030 million in 2023, or a loss of $40,500 per vehicle sold. 

Rumors are that Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency will delay its revised tailpipe emissions rules for model years 2026–2032. Those were the rules that backed up their estimate that two-thirds of vehicles sold in 2032 would need to be EVs to meet the new standards. If the delay rumor is true, it justifies the delay in EV investments automakers have announced. It is another black eye for Biden’s green agenda. 

It will do little to change consumer minds about the problems with EVs. It will go a long way to confirming that EVs are a niche auto market rather than a universal solution for America’s travel. We expect the EPA’s delay will be pitched as an appeasement for voters upset with Joe Biden’s economic policies, but we wonder how great the outrage will be from the environmentalists. 

Hybrid Fall-back?

One can already see the pushback to market realities from these environmentalists. Aaron Regunberg, senior policy counsel at consumer group Public Citizen and a former member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, commented, “Putting more gasoline-powered cars on roads and saying that’s good for the climate is just misleading.”  

This is an opening shot in the Public Citizen’s attack on hybrids and Toyota Motor Corporation, the world’s largest auto manufacturer and the number one provider of hybrid vehicles, in particular.  Public Citizen has urged attorneys general in states including Oregon, New York, Rhode Island, and Illinois to look into Toyota’s marketing of hybrids as being misleading.  No surprise about this collection of states. 

Toyota has long questioned the market for EVs and has aggressively pushed its hybrid technology starting with its Prius model in 1997.  Last year in the U.S., 1.4 million hybrids were sold compared to 1.1 million EVs.  And that comes with hybrids scoring only a $2,500 per vehicle subsidy versus the $7,500 awarded EVs. 

What environmentalists continue to ignore is that EVs are mineral-intensive, which in most cases come from overseas and often are mined with terrible environmental devastation and human suffering.  Toyota has shown it can produce 90 hybrids with the minerals used in one EV battery.  Hybrids deliver better mileage than gas-powered vehicles.  Because of the emissions legacy of EVs during their assembly, as demonstrated by Volvo in studies of its comparable gas and EV models manufactured in South Carolina, it takes years of driving with zero emissions from the vehicle to reach parity with gasoline vehicles.  The time needed to offset the legacy emissions is also influenced by the emissions of the electricity provider used to charge the EV. It can take 6-7 years optimistically or 8-10 years of driving to offset the legacy emissions. [1]

Still, hybrids will reduce emissions considerably, Net Zero aspirations aside. It could be viewed as a better alternative to EVs while better vehicle technologies are developed. But do taxpayers need to be involved?

Ford’s publicists have nailed the reality of the EV market – slow-selling. There are many issues that customers face when purchasing vehicles, especially EVs. Contrary to the optimists, vehicles are not bought the same way cell phones are – they cost much more and are purchased less frequently. Automakers are wrestling with the reality of the EV market as politicians continue to believe in fairy tales about them. 


[1] Volvo’s mid-2021 study calculated the kilometers based on electricity generation mixes – global, EU28, and wind.  The numbers are: Global 146,000 km (90,709 miles); EU28: 84,000 km (52,189 miles); and wind 47,000 km (29,201) miles. A key conclusion was was that an EV generates 70% more carbon emissions when built than an ICE vehicle. 


For more of G. Allen Brooks, see Energy Musings: Insights into the Energy Industry, where this post first appeared. It has been slightly revised for publication here.


  1. Ron Clutz  

    A recent Wall Street Journal video says it out loud: EVs are not practical for most people. The short video can be seen here. A transcript is below for those who prefer to read.


    My synopsis:



  2. Ed Reid  

    “Packaging, marketing and advertising (also incentives) are meaningless if the dogs won’t eat the dog food”. (HT: G. W. Myler)


  3. George J Kamburoff  

    This article is wrong. We got our first EV in 2015, and have two now. They are powered by the solar system on he roof of the house, which paid back in three years in gasoline savings alone.
    Do you still pay for electricity and gasoline?


  4. George J Kamburoff  

    How many EV critics have driven one?
    Their ICE polluters costs them money, but this liberal has gotten electricity and gasoline equivalent for eight years now. Five of them have been free, after the systems paid off in three years.
    Do you still pay for electricity and gasoline?


  5. Sean Smith  

    What could possibly be construed as “deceptive” about Toyota’s marketing? Their hybrids very clearly, indisputably result in lower emissions. Environmental purists always insist on letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Grown-ups understand that real life involves trade-offs.

    My wife and I are shopping for a new SUV, and I’m completely blown away by how much Toyota has improved their powertrains since we were last in the market. The hybrids make significantly more horsepower and torque than the 5.7 liter V8 they were using for decades, yet also get MUCH better fuel economy. Her Sequoia with the 5.7 got maybe 17-18 MPG on the highway, and her LX570–same power plant but much heavier–might get 15 going downhill with a tailwind. Meanwhile the new full-sized truck and SUV offerings from Toyota get around 22 MPG on the highway with better performance. This is a huge leap forward, and only a fanatic would petulantly dismiss it.


  6. rbradley  

    The commentary of Ronald Stein at Energy Literacy adds to Brooks’ critical analysis above:

    “Mandating a change to EV ownership and further financial austerity onto those that can least afford it, is facing a rebellion from those that need transportation. The problem is that manufacturers are loading up the “supply chain” with EV’s on dealer lots, but they’re not seeing the “demand” for EV’s coming from the public.

    The current EV ownership profiles are reflected in the oligarchic elite owners are that they are:
    • Highly educated; Highly compensated; Multi-car families; Low mileage requirements for the families’ second car, i.e., the EV.
    • Reside in a “temperate” climate like CA or FL. Almost 40% of EV’s are in CA and CA has 6 times as many EV’s as FL.

    Unlike the profile of current EV owners, the owners of internal combustion engine vehicles are dramatically different from most potential EV vehicle owners.
    • Many are single-car owners; Most of the potential car buyers are not as highly educated; Nor as highly compensated as the elite EV owners.
    • Mandating a change to EV ownership and forced austerity, may face a rebellion from those that need affordable vehicle transportation.

    EV sales are beginning to hit a speed bump.
    • Hertz, previously an eager early adopter of fleet electrification, announced a big sell-off of EVs.
    • Ford’s electric-vehicle business lost nearly $4.7 billion in 2023 and could lose another $5 billion in 2024, thus, Ford slashed EV production, having earlier pulled back on planned battery factories.
    • Unsold new EVs are piling up on dealer lots, spurring aggressive discounting.
    • “No one wants to buy used EVs”, as Fortune reports, leaving EV used-car values in free fall.

    According to one industry executive, the situation “has the potential to destroy billions” of dollars in value for auto firms.
    1. By law the credit in the Inflation Reduction Act is supposedly available only when purchasing vehicles built with materials sourced primarily in the U.S.
    2. However, nearly all battery materials are currently foreign-made and will remain so for ages.
    3. An Inflation Reduction Act exception allowing credit for leased vehicles built with foreign materials. Evidently, the pen is mightier than the miner.
    4. Thus, leasing has soared to over half of all EV sales in America, as leasing is the only way to capture the federal $7,500 tax credit for most EVs.

    The American government provides incentives and tax deductions to transition society to EV’s, but those incentives are financial incentives for the continuation of Child Labor and Ecological Destruction “Elsewhere”. Is it ethical and moral to provide financial support to the developing countries that are mining for exotic minerals and metals to build EV batteries for Americans?

    The putative EV revolution is stalling for three main reasons, and not because of “dead robots” or the other road bumps in recent news. What will happen is that.
    1. We’ll run out of money to subsidize the common folk,
    2. We’ll run out of copper and other foreign sourced special metals.
    3. Car drivers will run out of patience in putting up with inconveniences.


  7. Richard Greene  

    I did not find any errors in the article but it was anti-EV biased.

    The most important news about US BEV new vehicle registrations in 2023 was a +50% increase versus 2022 despite a huge list of disadvantages. versus ICEs and hybrids. Not mentioned.

    The second most important news may be a January 2024 EV sales slowdown in the US, UK, Germany and probably Australia too. There may be two reasons: The EVs cost more and deliver less. That was not very obvious from pro-EV biased mass media articles until the cold weather charging problems for Teslas in Chicago made headline this winter. And the high prices are more than almost 50% of US households can afford. One reason is 40% of US households owe no federal income taxes so have no need for a tax credit, is

    This also applies to Ford
    Their Mustang EV looks nothing like a Mustang. As a former Ford product development employee (27 years) I had many Mustang GTs as my company cars. The EV “Mustang” was a very expensive dorkmobile that no muscle car owner from the past would want.

    Ford total EV sales up 30% in 2023 (year over year)
    Mustang EV sales up only 3% in 2023
    Mustang EV December 2023 sales up only 2%
    Mustang EV January 2024 sales DOWN 50%
    Price cuts announced

    Whether the Mustang EV price reductions will reduce losses or increase fully accounted losses depend on the effect on sales. Ford must believe the lower prices will increase sales and reduce losses or why would they reduce prices?

    A large portion of Ford EVs losses are from up front engineering and factory construction that is expected to be financed by later sales of EVs. So far Ford EV sales are not keeping up with the industry average (30% growth in 2023 versus 50% growth for all US BEVs sales which are mainly Teslas).

    The last engineer I knew at Ford retired at the end of 2022. He was an electrical engineer working on an EV program for 2026 model. He reported that fellow EV engineers thought EVs were worth $10,000 less than ICEs but Ford was intending ti sell them for $10,000 more. A very bad business plan. Some engineers speculated that in five years Ford would become Federal Motors and GM would become Government Motors.

    Pessimistic Ford EV engineers in 2022: In my 27 years at Ford, engineers were always overoptimistic about the products they were designing. Even the mediocre products. We used to joke that Ford’s Edsel engineers were probably very optimistic about the Edsel too.


    • rbradley  

      Appreciate your comments. The EV story is as bad as it seems, with the growth in sales really a cost rather than a gain. The malinvestment in EVs–the goods and services and savings that were foregone–are not seen.


  8. Bruce Brothers  

    Obviously you own your home and have plenty of money. How is this going to work out forcing most people of lower income living in rentals and apartments to buy electric?


  9. rbradley  

    This in ‘Drilled’ admits to the CO2 deficit at construction:

    ”To run, EVs require six times the mineral input, by weight, of conventional vehicles, excluding steel and aluminum,” the Washington Post reported in 2023.

    That’s because each EV has a 900-pound battery block containing roughly 353 pounds of crucial materials or metals including cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese, aluminum and copper. Gas cars don’t have that, so it’s less emissions-intensive to create a gas car than an electric car.


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