Electric cars are going nowhere fast | Mulshine – NJ.com


This looks like it’s going to be the second coming of the Edsel – except the Edsel could actually get you where you were going without stopping for three hours to recharge.

I’m talking about the electric car. Last week the Biden administration announced the feds will be spending $274 billion on subsidies for e-cars as part of a $2 trillion infrastructure package.

The theory is that these subsidies will lead the way to President Joe Biden’s stated goal of eliminating fossil-fueled vehicles by 2035.

Of course, the theory behind the Edsel was that Ford could establish a new brand of cars that would be highly popular with consumers.

One problem: People wouldn’t buy those E-cars. I suspect they won’t be buying these e-cars either.

At the moment e-cars make up a mere 2 percent of the market. They are very popular with “early adopters.”

Early adopters are willing to put up with major inconveniences because they are fascinated by new technology. But most Americans expect a light to come on when they flick the switch.

That’s not a problem when you use an e-car around town. But just try to take a road trip in one.

Recently the Wall Street Journal had eight reporters try that trick in different spots around the globe. The first driver looks a bit sweaty as she says, “It’s 80 degrees outside but we can’t run the air-conditioner because we can’t use the juice.”

Then there’s the woman who looks like she’s freezing despite the winter coat she’s wearing.

“We’ve been sitting in this car for three and a half hours as it charges,” she says.

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Regular cars use excess heat from the motor that would otherwise go to waste. But e-cars have to use electric heaters, which are notorious energy hogs.

Remember that blizzard that caught us by surprise in Gov. Phil Murphy’s first year in office? Imagine you were stuck in the snow as the battery wound down to zero.

If a car runs out of gas you can just get a gas can. With an e-car you need a tow truck.

“For most of us, the road trips made one thing obvious: Range anxiety is real,” said one driver. “You’re never really sure whether you’re gonna make it back.”

But what about those predictions that batteries will improve to the point that “range anxiety” is no longer a worry for e-car owners.

No less an authority than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates argues in his recent book on climate change that batteries are a “mature technology,” one that is unlikely to get much better as it gets older.

“Inventors have studied all the metals we could use in batteries, and it seems unlikely that there are materials that will make for vastly better batteries than the ones we’re already building,” Gates writes.

Maybe there will be big improvements in batteries in the future. But without such improvements it will be difficult to eliminate range anxiety.

Adding new charging stations will also help, but road trips will remain a problem.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a niche market for e-cars. I certainly wouldn’t trade my station wagon for one. But sports cars are a different story.

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The British are marketing an electric MG that can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds. I mainly use my sports car on days I can put the top down, thus needing neither heat for AC. So there’s room for that MG in my driveway.

But I confess to being totally mystified by the efforts of some car brands to market electric pickup trucks and SUVs. The people who buy those things like noisy engines, the same way Harley riders do. (And Harley’s effort at marketing an electric motorcycle was no great success.)

All things considered, I predict with some confidence that this push for electric vehicles will have little effect on our consumption of fossil fuels.

That confidence comes from the federal Energy Information Administration. The EIA projects that petroleum usage in the transportation sector will remain at current levels through 2050.

“That sounds about right to me,” said Denton Cinquegrana, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, the industry leader that is based in Monmouth County. “Fossil fuels are going to be around for a very long time. The vehicle fleet turns over very slowly.”

He agreed with me that if the feds are going to subsidize cars they would be wise to invest in hybrids rather than fully electric. A plug-in Toyota Prius can go about 20 miles on battery power, covering most of our short trips. Beyond that it switches seamlessly to gas power – with no range anxiety.

“The plug-in hybrid a bit of a win for everyone,” he said. “It reduces fossil fuels and don’t have such heavy reliance on batteries.”

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That sounds good to me.

But when it comes to politicians, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

In that regard, the e-car is perfect – just like the Edsel was.

ADD – MEETING A BOLT OWNER:

On Saturday I took the dog up the beach for a walk. When I got there I saw a Chevy Bolt parked in front of me. It was the first Bolt I’d ever seen and it looked like a fun little car to drive around.

The owner assured me it is. He was a classic early adopter. The Bolt for him was some really fun technology. When I asked about range, he said he could get up to 500 miles on a charge when driving around town, But it could drop to around 200 miles in high-speed driving. he said.

The need to recharge on occasion didn’t bother him, he said. He knew where the charging stations were located and used them only rarely. When he did, the thought of waiting an hour or so didn’t faze him.

Coincidentally, when I’d gassed up the day before in Brick Township I noticed the gas station had a recharger. The attendant told me it was used only about once a day. The fee was just $2 an hour. When I ran that by the Bolt owner, he said that was quite economical. He figured his electricity costs amounted to about a third of the cost of gas.

That would make it a good second car for a lot of people. But I for one would want a fossil-fueled car for long trips.



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