It looks like it’s going to be the second time the Edsel has come – except that the Edsel could actually get you where you wanted to without stopping three hours to recharge.
I am talking about the electric car. Last week, the Biden government announced that the government would be spending $ 274 billion on subsidies for electric cars as part of a $ 2 trillion infrastructure package.
The theory is that these subsidies will lead the way towards President Joe Biden’s stated goal of eliminating fossil fuel vehicles by 2035.
The theory behind the Edsel, of course, was that Ford could establish a new make of car that would be very popular with consumers.
One problem: people wouldn’t buy these e-cars. I suspect they won’t buy these e-cars either.
Electric cars currently only make up 2 percent of the market. They are very popular with early adopters.
Early adopters are prepared to accept great inconvenience because they are fascinated by new technologies. But most Americans expect a light to come on when they flip the switch.
This is not a problem if you are using an electric car in the city. But just try to do a road trip all in one.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal had eight reporters try this trick in different locations around the world. The first driver looks a bit sweaty when she says, “It’s 80 degrees outside, but we can’t run the air conditioning because we can’t use the juice.”
Then there is the woman who looks like she’s freezing in spite of the winter coat she’s wearing.
“We’ve been in this car for three and a half hours while it’s charging,” she says.
Ordinary cars use excess heat from the engine that would otherwise be wasted. But electric cars have to use electric heaters, which are notoriously energy guzzlers.
Do you remember the blizzard that caught us off guard during Governor Phil Murphy’s first year in office? Imagine being stuck in the snow when the battery dropped to zero.
When a car runs out of gas, you can just get a gasoline can. With an electric car, you need a tow truck.
“For most of us, the road trips made one thing clear: fear of range is real,” said one driver. “You’re never really sure you will make it back.”
But what about the predictions that the batteries will improve so much that “range anxiety” is no longer a concern 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” that is unlikely to get much better with age.
“The inventors have studied all the metals we could use in batteries, and it is unlikely that there will be materials that will make batteries far better than the ones we are already making,” Gates writes.
Maybe there will be big improvements in batteries in the future. Without such improvements, however, it will be difficult to allay range anxiety.
Adding new charging stations will help too, but road travel remains a problem.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be a niche market for e-cars. I definitely wouldn’t trade my station wagon for one. But sports cars are a different story.
The British market an electric machine gun that can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds. I mainly use my sports car on days when I can take the top down and therefore don’t need any heat for the air conditioning. So there is room for this MG in my driveway.
But I admit that I am completely confused by the efforts of some car brands to market electric pickups and SUVs. The people who buy these things like loud engines, just like Harley riders. (And Harley’s efforts to market an electric motorcycle weren’t a huge success.)
All in all, I have some confidence that this push for electric vehicles will have little impact on our fossil fuel consumption.
This trust comes from the federal energy information administration. The EIA assumes that oil consumption in the transport sector will remain at the current level until 2050.
“That sounds about right to me,” said Denton Cinquegrana, an analyst with Oil Price Information Service, the industry leader based in Monmouth County. “Fossil fuels will be around for a very long time. The vehicle fleet turns around very slowly. “
He agreed that if the government wants to subsidize cars, it should invest in hybrids rather than fully electric vehicles. A plug-in Toyota Prius can travel approximately 20 miles on battery power and covers most of our short trips. In addition, it switches seamlessly to gas power – without fear of range.
“The plug-in hybrid is a win for everyone,” he said. “It cuts down on fossil fuels and doesn’t rely on batteries as much.”
That sounds good for me.
But when it comes to politicians, perfect is the enemy of good.
In this respect, the e-car is perfect – just like the Edsel.
ADD – MEET A BOLT OWNER:
On Saturday I went for a walk with the dog on the beach. 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 that it is. He was a classic early adopter. The bolt was really fun technology for him. When I asked about the range, he said he could go up to 500 miles on a charge when driving around town, but it could be up to 200 miles when driving at high speed. he said.
The need to recharge occasionally didn’t bother him, he said. He knew where the charging stations were and rarely used them. When he did, he didn’t mind the thought of waiting about an hour.
Coincidentally, when I gassed in Brick Township the day before, I noticed that the gas station had a charger. The companion told me that it was only used about once a day. The fee was only $ 2 an hour. When I ran this from the Bolt owner, he said it was pretty frugal. He estimated that his electricity bills were about a third of the gas bills.
That would make it a good second car for a lot of people. But I would like to have a fossil fuel car for long journeys.