Market Beat: Investing in electric vehicles

Ken RobertsSpecial to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Prior to the election, CNBC put out some model portfolios based on the outcome of the presidential elections. They had stocks that would have been favored with a Romney win, and they had a portfolio that was favored with an Obama win.One of the stocks in the Obama portfolio was Tesla Motors. The symbol is TSLA. Tesla is a maker of electric vehicles. On November, 6th, Tesla closed at $31.15 per share; on February 8th, it touched $40 per share for a gain of about 28 percent.Does that mean that investing in the electric car manufacturers makes sense for the future? It could – one thing we know for sure is that fossil fuels are a finite resource. Even if consumption stays at current levels, eventually we will run out of oil. Electric vehicles could play an important role in the future.The Obama administration has invested $7.5 billion in electric vehicles, Nissan has invested $5 billion and General Motors has invested about $1 billion. There will be eight new models on the road this year. Nissan makes a car called the “Leaf,” Ford is making the “Focus,” Chevy has the “Volt,” and Toyota, Honda and BMW are also in the market.One way to play this transition is by investing in these traditional, big cap car companies. They have the deep pockets to lead the transition. Unfortunately, sales of these vehicles have not been real strong yet. Plug in electric vehicles only accounted for 0.6 percent of all car sales last year.There are some strong incentives to buy electric cars besides the savings at the gas pump. There is a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of an electric vehicle and the State of California will kick in an additional $2,500.If you calculate the electric costs of charging your vehicle, the costs of operating an electric vehicle will be about 1/3 the cost of operating a vehicle that gets 35 miles per gallon. The average family pays about $3,000 per year for gasoline.One of the drawbacks to electric cars is the range – some of them have to be charged about every 100 miles, and if you’re on a road trip, there are not a lot of charging stations. There are some small startup companies trying to build out the charging infrastructure – one is the Car Charging Group and another is known as ECOtality. Electric vehicles could play an important role as we transition away from fossil fuel use.Kenneth Roberts is a Truckee based Registered Investment Advisor. Information on his money management service can be found at his blog at or by calling 775-657-8065. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial adviser before purchasing any security.

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