All Electric Cars Are a Fraud

madhedgefundtrader's picture

John Petersen is an attorney specializing in venture capital investments in the alternative energy space with Fefer, Petersen & Cie in Berne, Switzerland.  He argues that the entire electric car movement is a complete fraud orchestrated by a few big car companies pandering to growing numbers of “green” consumers.

Batteries are expensive, and do a poor job of replacing a gas tank. For example, the $100,000 all-electric Tesla roadster uses 6,000 model 18650 cell phone type batteries, which is akin to using “6,000 hamsters to pull a stage coach.”

Deutsche Bank says that there are enough new factories on the drawing board to build batteries generating 36 million Kwh by 2015. These will be used to power vehicles like the $44,300 Nissan Leaf, which launches in December, and will be powered by several hundred larger, soda can sized batteries.

But even if the world’s total battery output is devoted solely to vehicles like the Leaf, fuel savings would amount to only 600 million gallons of gasoline a year, worth only $1.8 billion, about five hours worth of global oil production. If these batteries were devoted to hybrid vehicles like the Prius, the energy savings would amount to 3.8 billion gallons worth, a much more substantial $11.4 billion.

The low hanging fruit for investors in the fuel efficiency race can be found by pushing forward existing, simpler, and cheaper technologies. A great example is the “stop-start” integrated starter/alternator. Cars burn about 10% of their fuel idling at traffic lights while driving in cities. “Stop-start” turns the engine off, and then restarts it when the light turns green.

European car manufacturers are rushing forward with this fuel saver, which costs about $600 per vehicle, to meet stringent CO2 standards. The system requires more advanced batteries which can handle dozens of engine starts a day, instead of a handful. The Department of Energy recently handed $34 million to Xide Technology (XIDE) to develop just such a product using a lead-carbon formula. Global auto parts supplier Johnson Controls (JCI) is also involved in the space.

The play here is that far more versatile batteries can command much higher prices, possibly $150, compared to the average $57 for traditional car batteries. Those taking a look at XIDE will find a $429 million market cap selling at $5.57/share versus $20 a year ago. In the meantime, car companies are going to hold back on making major capital investments in lithium battery power trains until the technology becomes proven. Better to invest in a company that may become profitable next year, rather than in five years, or never.

To learn more about John Petersen's views on alternative energy, please visit his blog at You can also find an archive of his past work at To listen to my complete interview with John Petersen on Hedge Fund Radio, please visit me at  and click on the “Today’s Radio Show” menu tab on the left on my home page.


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AnAnonymous's picture

People are hiding from the reality.
People are looking for solutions to preserve their own way of life. Like depopulation. I wonder how killing people who do not consume a resource helps consumers of the said resource. People have still the imperialistic mind frame without realizing that imperialism has reached its natural end, there is nothing left to steal.

Electric/hybrid cars are not a solution. The transformation of the whole supporting network will require way too much energy to enable that scenario.
A solution only pimped by politicians currently because that provides job prospects and jobs are growing scarce in our civilization.

An empire is not built for all of its subjects but an ever increasingly select fews.

This is how it is going to be: people who will drive a car will be people who can afford. Simple as that.

bergsten's picture

I've heard several times now how powering an electric car "from the grid" is more cost efficient than buying gasoline.

Would someone be so kind to post or post a link to these calculations?  I have yet to find anything that cites kW per mile for any vehicle.

Here in CA, the highest residential rate (day or night) is about .47 cents per kWh.  This just can't be cheaper than gasoline.

Inquiring minds demand hard facts (please).

Augustus's picture

I didn't know that there were so many warped minds posting here.  Nothing is more beautiful than a Peterbilt running at night across Pennsylvania, flames comming out of the stacks, pulling a load of cigarettes to NYC.

carbonmutant's picture

What bitchfest!

You're gonna get Electrics. Every major car company on the planet is going to have an electric model. Deal with it.

Are there going to be problems? Absolutely. Solving those problems is how the next generation of $Millionaires is going to make their money.

There is a convergence of technologies happening here. And one of the technologies EVs are converging with is Solar PV. The key here is "Grid Parity" and companies like FSLR say they reach "Grid parity" by 2012. At that price everybody can afford a PV array. There are other technologies converging on this as well such as ultracapacitors. In fact Honda has been testing this tech for their EVs.

And while we're waiting for American developers to catch up on lithium ion technology LG out of Korea is building a lithium battery pack plant in Michigan for autos.

The bottom line here is that this is a new market and capital is going to flow into it. If your objective is to make money then this is something you want to pay attention to. And the energy storage technology will be the sweet spot here.

The media blitz on this hasn't begun to hit yet and Smart Cars are so common in the Bay Area that no one even stops to look anymore.

trichotil's picture

can i interest you in a 376mpg 1959 opel?

only driven to church on sundays.

how about a car that pulls it's juice out of the planet's magnetic field?

perhaps something that is made of and runs on plant matter?

maybe you'd prefer a power plant that pulls juice from the quantum state?

not coming to a showroom near you.


Augustus's picture

Those seem great.

Did the guy from Luciedale, Miss quit selling those free energy plans?  He was at least twenty years ahead of those guys, and he did it without the internet.

Madcow's picture

Electric cars are a scam.

They stand in unrepentant violation of the laws of physics, and will never be able to survive without massive (misguided) political subsidy.

When you transfer energy from heat - to electricity - back to heat - and then to mechanical - you lose a LOT of energy in the process. Ask any school kid (in Asia).

Also, the batteries used by electric cars are ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS.  Yes, to idiot cheerleaders, electric cars SEEM clean and nice and all that. But (like nuclear power) when you factor in the entire story, its clear that electric cars are FAR MORE HARMFUL TO THE ENVIRONMENT than gasoline powered cars. That is because of all the rare earth minerals that must be mined, blasted from mountaintops, and leeched from rocks with BOILING ACID.  

Smug Prius owners will go out of their way to NOT UNDERSTAND these simple facts. 

Most "environmentalists" are passionate, brimming with conviction and good intentions, but intellectually lazy and often just plain stupid. They're easy to manipulate. Big corporations use them to help accelerate the destruction of the planet. 

cmalbatros's picture

We could all drive Reliant "Robin" 3 wheelers, I had a couple of them. 500kg, 40HP, 60mpg  and could nearly do 100mph, could seat 2 adults & 2 kids. One could even get a fridge/washing machine in the back, it also boasted a galvanised chasis on later models.

Greyzone's picture

There are two particular things to watch in this category that makes Mad Hedge Fund Trader's rant worthless. If you don't know which two they are, I am sure not going to tell you. But there are at least two potential breakthroughs that either one, if successful, could cause us to completely rethink our positions on electric based transportation. And there are probably a few more of which I am unaware. Mad Hedge Fund Trader is relying on one "expert's" opinion without getting a useful consensus.

P.S. Except for the US and a few really poor nations, most of the world's railroads use electric rail systems, not diesel, because it is more powerful, more efficient, and provides far better torque for rail type systems. Diesel has never been able to compete there precisely because of the physical limitations in the Carnot cycle. And if you don't know what that is, without looking it up, you're a fool for talking about investing or not investing in electric transportation. Warren Buffett said don't invest in things you don't understand. It was good advice when he said it and it's good advice now. Mad Hedge Fund Trader might take a lesson.

divide_by_zero's picture

Actually in the US the diesel engines on trains are only there for the purpose of an electric generator, the motors driving the wheels are electric powered, DC to start (for torque) switch to AC when up to speed. A trade-off made due to distances in the US, as running electric distribution lines over distance entails certain power loss.

imapopulistnow's picture

That M F-ing hedgetrader guy sounds about right to me.  Electrics will be bought by the enviro-religous and the early adopter types, but are for now too costly for the general public.  Reliability will be a big issue.  Batteries slowly losing their charge capabilities, ridiculously priced replacement costs, cars doing 25mph on the interstate as low fueled motorists crawl their way to the next charging station.

Conventional hybrids, hybrid plug-ins and stop-starters will rule the fuel efficient segment of the market for quite some time unless there is a paradigm shifting break through in battery capabilities and cost.  btw, why isn't someone making diesel hybrids?

zero intelligence's picture

I wouldn't call electric cars a "fraud" but the engineering realities suggest it's not a good way to go.

If the goal is high mileage and low or at least reasonable car cost, the simple solution is just small, light cars with small engines. The Loremo has taken this idea to the extreme, with a 1000lb car (1/3rd the weight of a Prius) combined with a 20hp two-cylinder turbodiesel, producing about 130mpg.

This is actually not that far off from the Volkswagen Beetle, which weighed 1400lbs, had a 28hp engine, and seated four. It was the most popular car of all time, even during the age of Big Detroit Iron.

Something a little less extreme than the Loremo could be a modern Volkswagen Beetle. Around 1200lbs, 30hp, seats four and 80mpg at $16,000 would be a all-around winner. 


ozziindaus's picture

I was shitting on the Prius years ago when Toyota could do no wrong. The payback period was too long even at $4.00/gallon and the battery life was limited to just over 10 years. So what is a 10 yo Prius worth?

Volt is certainly a token fraud especially with it's 230 mpg claim. Why not infinite mpg by hooking it up to an extension cord and driving it around in circles?

Battery technology, IMO, has actually gone backwards. Ever heard of the GM EV1?

ananda's picture

Forget these overpriced battery cars! I read that a HUMMER is less environmental destructive overall, during its lifespan vs a Prius. Anyway, I drive a VW Jetta with a diesel. I get 52 mpg on the highway and about 44 around town. Why is the F*** doesn't the US have more diesel, clean burning diesel cars, on the road? Europe sure has a lot of them. Africa, too. Go buy a VW diesel and stuff Toyota, Nissan, etc

patience...'s picture

But I thought the volt was to save

Gimmee Motors from extinction.

So much for getting our money back.

RowdyRoddyPiper's picture

I could swear Mr Mad bragged a few weeks ago about his pending purchase of a Nissan Leaf.

Which is the crock?...electric cars or Mr Mad's posts?

Rogerwilco's picture

Behold the future:

Nuclear may not belong in the trunk, but it belongs in the future plans for any electric transportation system. Too bad most greenies can't admit to that reality, and will do almost anything to prevent reactor construction here in the U.S.

Electric vehicles recharged by nuclear power could make sense and it would preserve hydrocarbon fuels for aircraft and other uses where they are essential.

Herne the Hunter's picture

Nobody wants a nuclear powered car. People associate nuclear power with death.

The recalls will be fun though. "Ford recalls 1 million Nucleons due to leaky fission chambers"... meanwhile remember to switch to nuclear winter tires folks!

Edit: sorry RogerWilco, thought you were promoting off-the-grid nuclear powered cars.

mbasham's picture

And just as 'all electric cars are a fraud", all hedge fund traders are fraudulent. Do you ever think about how stupid you sound?

Ripped Chunk's picture

Hybrids are not the answer.

Not even a gap filler. Hybrids for the most part have helped the auto makers meet fleet mpg. requirements through the use of "fuzzy math" (would you expect less?????)

And hybrids are big medicine for the marketing types. After all, the Prius was voted the "Official Car of White People"

Will stick with the 4 cyl econo ride for the next 7 or 8 years until a "real" electric car is offered.

NoNotAgain's picture

Of course electric cars are a total fraud. All they do is change the PLACE where fossil fuels are consumed since most of the electricity required to run them comes from the combustion of coal, oil or natural gas.  Since it's highly unlikely that hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, etc will ever be able to produce energy at anywhere near the dollars/kwh cost that carbon-based fuels do, we're kidding ourselves if we think that electric cars will improve the environment beyond moving carbon emissions out of urban areas.  On a global carbon emissions basis, they don't change a thing.  The best shot mankind has at fixing the energy problem is nuclear fusion, but we have a lot of work ahead of us to make that work.

Atoyota's picture

Yeah i may be in the minority here, but E cars may not be ready yet, but they soon will be.


Think about the durability of a pure E car opposed to combustion or combustion hybrid. The initial investment may put you out of pocket, but over time you'l be a winner... once the batteries and infrastructure support are online.

It's a big change in the way we do things, and opposition to change is natural.

dnarby's picture

Which is likely why they are charging more.

Not nearly as much money to be made on the service end.

scriabinop23's picture

Let's compare apples to apples:

Internal combustion engines (running fossil fuels) run around 20% net efficiency. Diesel, 45%.

Natural gas combined cycle plants: 55-60% efficiency.  Transmission loss, 7% of that. Net efficiency 52%-56%.

Battery Storage/Loss/Electrical Car ineffiency, 20%.

Net Nat gas combined cycle (56%) * Electric Car efficiency (80%) = 45%.  Much cleaner net than diesel, and basically double+ net mileage versus gasoline powered cars.  And this says nothing of the inefficiencies and waste necessary to refine and ship gasoline.  The new fuel cell products coming out have around same efficiency numbers as the the net gas combined cycle plants.

Electric cars become really interesting when the grid goes all-nuke.  Then you have zero net emissions.

And I've seen analysis that shows production of batteries is -not- so expensive when considering lifetime operating and polluting externalities, relative to continued burning of fossil fuels.  So again, what some VC 'lawyer' says is perhaps worth ignoring.

All things equal, if you use dirty coal (with an old inefficient plant) as an electric fuel generation source, then I think in the end you are better off getting a VW diesel...


divide_by_zero's picture

Electric cars become really interesting when the grid goes all-nuke.  Then you have zero net emissions.


Only true if the original fissionable material was miracled into existence.

Herne the Hunter's picture


How about all the rare earth metals you'll need to put in your batteries? How about the pollution and energy that is required to mine and process these rare earth metals? I bet switching to batteries will end up costing more energy (mostly from a hydrocarbon origin) than sticking with gasoline.

Why not just driving less? Cars are hopelessly inefficient in transporting people from A to B.

trav7777's picture

Great until the natural gas peak.

There is no way around this, folks.

mitchrothschild's picture

electric and hybrid cars where developed in the 70's when some people were concerned about the environment.  the point being, by generating power in one central place (electric plant to fuel batterys) you could better control the resulting pollution, rather than having vehicles spewing everywhere.  at no point was it ever claimed that it consumed less fossil fuel.  some of these hybrids may actually have better 'gas milage' but the total sum of fossil fuels consumed per mile and the negative impact on the environment is much greater.

Edmon Plume's picture

Actually, back in the 70s I think people had high hopes for nuclear and hydroelectric as sources, so I think they were making claims of less fossil fuel usage.  Good luck with those other sources.  They are more likely to tear down existing dams than build new ones.  And nuclear?  Not a chance.  Greenies want to sleep on both sides of the sheets.  They fawn over electric cars, but hogtie new clean energy projects in decades-long litigation.

I would love a quiet, clean, cheap, safe mode of personal transportation.  But I don't think it will happen.  Plus, we're dead broke as a country, and what money that can be borrowed for capital projects is increasingly devalued.

Commander Cody's picture

I'm waiting for that Mr. Fusion to plug into my DeLorean.

Edmon Plume's picture

the only car you can take to heaven, where neither rust nor moth destroys.

Missing_Link's picture

The only "fraud" here is madhedgefundtrader, who regularly posts sloppy articles about his latest lunch with any given Famous Person Of The Day and attempts to pass off their (usually ill-informed) opinions as some sort of "insights."

In most cases you'd get equally valid "insights" from asking a 5-year-old.

Hulk's picture

No shit they are a fraud. Battery technology is as old as the dinosaurs. We spend a total of 30 million a year on ACTUAL battery research! practically nothing.

More delusional Calpine green thinking. Just to replace gas/diesel consumption in california alone would require a minimum of 75 1 GW reactors (I will be happy to post the math if anyone is interested) to be built. But this is the land of delusional thinking and good fucking luck trying to get rational thought across....

Missing_Link's picture

Sorry, you fail at researching science and technology.

The batteries of today != the batteries of tomorrow.

I say this not as any hippie environmentalist (I am an anti-environmentalist Republican) but as someone who keeps up-to-date on the latest science and technology.  Batteries are going to become dramatically more powerful in the next several decades.  The capacity of today's batteries is irrelevant by comparison.

Forget about the current equation of electrical storage and look at how the equation is inevitably changing.  Most internal-combustion vehicles can't hold a candle to the Tesla, and internal-combustion engines won't be able to compete with the electric cars of the future.

Hulk's picture

Not @ 30 million bucks a year for research. And like clean coal, fusion, hydrogen, ethanol, biofuel etc, I'll believe it when I see it....

Until then, its DELUSIONAL thinking...welcome to america

trav7777's picture

Wait until peak conditions are achieved in battery components.

There is no way around this...none.

It's a finite world, and all good things must come to an end.

Hulk's picture

Not according to the Adiabatic Oil nuts.....

AnAnonymous's picture

Infinite oil does not change the deal.

It is a matter of flow rate. To be kept going, the current organization of the world needs an increasing oil extraction rate. In daily life experience, a car able to run an unlimited mileage would not be enough. A car with a tremendous speed limit would not be enough. What is needed is a car that would always keep accelerating to the speed limit.

Few physical situations respond to this criterion. Rocket engines are.

Oil extraction cannot respond to this criterion. Finite oil or not.

Missing_Link's picture

Disclaimer: I am not an environmentalist or a fan of "green" anything.

However, this article is an absolute crock, and it's clear that madhedgie is spouting second-hand analysis without any serious investigation or critical thinking applied.

The Tesla roadster proves by itself that electric cars can be extremely powerful and fuel efficient, and they are becoming more economical by the day.  There are ENORMOUS advances coming in battery technology due to nanotech, and those will put electric cars well in advance of anything on the road today.

It has nothing to do with environmentalism and EVERYTHING to do with where progress in engineering is headed.  Internal-combustion engines hit the point of diminishing returns decades ago; electric cars are just getting started.

Edmon Plume's picture

Battery power is for energy storage, not energy production.  Certainly we may have something very efficient in the future, meaning a battery that doesn't lose energy at a rapid pace, which leakage is possibly the worst problem.  But the problem is that the energy to store in the battery has to come from somewhere.  Where?  It takes x amount of work to move a 2000 pound load a distance of y.  The energy requirement to move that load won't change.

Supposing we solve the energy source problem.  With China having possibly the largest supply of rare-earth materials, we are just trading dependency on one unfriendly regime with another.

dnarby's picture

It costs 1/3 as much per mile to use electricity instead of gasoline.

That's assuming 40 MPG equivilent at peak residential rates.

Edmon Plume's picture

There won't likely be any downard pressure on energy prices from here on out, barring some significant changes in energy exploration and production.  Demand will cause electricity supply to go volatile, and of course uncle sugar will take out the bulk in taxes, either on production or consumption, but likely both.

We may have vast natural gas and coal reserves, and even oil if the gubmint would bother to let us look.  But it doesn't matter if it's cost-prohibitive to explore and extract.  At the point that it isn't cost-prohibitive, it will be because demand is so high that the price is at a level that profit-taking can succeed.

Bob's picture

Tip--Exide's source for the far more sensible lead-carbon batteries is Axion Power (AXPW).  Stock has tread water for a long time, but an exclusive worldwide contract with Exide, the largest battery manufacturer-distributer, may pay off in the next year.

AR15AU's picture

So right on the money with this...  I bought a sweet 1990 Ford F250 XLT supercab with 35,000 miles on it for $2250.  Now, I have somewhere around $25,000 in gasoline to use before I get up to the cost of a PRIUS.  That's a lot of driving, even at 15 MPG (150,000 miles?!?).

Feel sorry for the suckers who buy new cars in general.  But especially the over priced and over hyped "green" cars.

Commander Cody's picture

Agreed.  This is the only comment on this thread that makes "financial" sense.

dnarby's picture

Yep, that works.  Assuming we don't experience strong inflation and gas goes to $10.00 a gallon.  But that won't happen, because Timmah has reiterated the US strong dollar policy, and what Timmah says Timmah does.

AR15AU's picture

Uh, well, with the money you save, you can easily hedge by buying some gasoline etfs.  Not saying its a perfect hedge, but it will achieve the goal of locking in your savings.

dnarby's picture

LOL, in order to drive cheap we need to hedge our fuel consumption!

...Actually...  That's a brilliant fucking idea!

WineSorbet's picture

I'm hoping the readers of ZH are smart enough to read up on science and technology before they invest.  Electric cars are real and will be the technology of choice.  There are many forces at work, ie, stock pumpers, oil companies, etc that have a lot of money to lose when the wave hits.  Just my 2cents.