The "pay as you go" is a very valuable concept. Take a common man and offer him two choices:
- * a new car for $10K and $1K in gas fees every year for 20 years
- * a new car for $30K and no fuel fees for 30 years
The common man will pick the first option. Why?
I understand what you're saying, and I agree with the general idea. However, I don't think the numbers you chose match up well to the ICE vs. EV comparison. What about these numbers instead?
- * a new car for $20K and $3K in fuel costs every year for 10 years
- * a new car for $30K and $0.5K in fuel costs every year for 10 years
Even "cheap" cars have gotten more expensive, so there's much less difference in the initial cost - more like an extra 50%, not 200%. Based on my own research comparing my Cobalt to a Volt, I think there's probably going to be more savings in recurring fuel costs too. Whereas your example shows that people will choose a low initial cost plus a recurring cost to get 20 years of service over paying that same amount upfront for 30 years of service, my example shows that the break-even point would come after just four years. Assuming you get 10 years of service out of the vehicle (I'm from the Rust Belt, not Cali), you're looking at a TCO of $50K vs. $35K. That's an extra 43% that you're paying for the comfort of the ICE you're used to. If you extend that out to 20 years, you get $80K vs. $40K. A break-even point of 20 years is completely different from 4 years when you're talking about something that's usually bought with a 5-year loan.
At this point, the long term reliability and maintenance costs of EVs aren't well known. If you have to spend $10K to replace your battery pack in 10 years, that puts it a lot closer to the TCO of the ICE. On the other hand, if the 20-year TCO of the ICE is $80K (remember that only 25% of that is the actual purchase cost), you can still save money by buying two of the EVs with a 10-year TCO of $35K. As others have stated, electric motors are quite reliable, so you may have some savings in maintenance costs there, and there are Priuses over a decade old that are still doing fine on the original batteries. The overall maintenance costs of ICE and EV could end up being a wash, or even in favor of the EV. At this point, we don't know what a 10-year-old Tesla will be like, but there's no guarantee that an ICE will be cheaper to maintain, and hopefully the existing hybrids and EVs can help us estimate.
I perfectly understand that Tesla has a [luxury] market. It is not the market for everyone, where a steel mill worker (assuming there is one left in the USA) could walk into the dealership (well, into a Tesla Store, I guess...) and order a Tesla car for his family use. I also understand that they are doing whatever they can. It's a harsh world, and Fisker's fiery demise is not making Tesla people too happy.
All I want to say is that Tesla will not get anywhere until they have a model for the mass market. They will remain a curiosity car maker for a few rich people, but they will not grow. Small market, especially the luxury market, is a dangerous place to be. It may take just one bad accident where the hardware is at fault to lose your reputation - and your sales.
I think if you sit down and look at the hard numbers, which will contain some variances for each individual as well as some not-very-proven data for EVs, I think you'll find that a $30K practical Tesla (not a $60-90K S) is a lot closer to the standard brand-new family car than you realize. With some incremental improvements to range and recharging (so that it could be refilled for another "tankful" of miles in the time it takes to do an average stop at a gas station/convenience store) to make it comparable to ICEs for extended trips, I think it could be a practical replacement for a lot of families. For example, a combination of improvements could bump the full-charge range up to 600 miles and make it so a 15 minute quick-charge could add another 300 miles (i.e. not necessarily just making it so that you can completely recharge your 300-mile battery in 5 minutes at a fueling station).
The Malibu starts at $26,725 and the Taurus at $26,700, so a $30K sedan that's saving you a couple grand in fuel costs each year isn't all that crazy. Would you tie up an extra $3,300 initially to save $2,500 a year in fuel costs? Also, it's been said that the BlueStar will be designed to compete with the $32,500 A4 and $32,550 3-series, for some reference. $30K still seems to me like a lot of money for a car (my $15K Cobalt is the most expensive vehicle I've owned), but it actually seems like a pretty good price point relative to the other cars that are available.
Going back to the steel mill worker, trucks (since he's a manly man) aren't cheap either. A regular cab, short box, RWD Chevy 1500 starts at $24,585. If he's got kids, add $4K for extended cab and another $4K for crew cab. 4X4 is another $3-4K, and we haven't even touched trim levels yet. A crew cab 4X4 LTZ is $43,380 before you add any special options. And since we're discussing fuel costs here, it gets 15-21mpg with the standard 5.3L or 12-18mpg with the 6.2L, so you're not likely to be saving money there either.