By Duggan Flanakin for CFACT | May 13, 2023
Now that the American Dream has been turned into a nightmare in part by overspending that has led to the highest interest rates in the 21st Century, it is high time to admit that, as Melanie Mcdonagh writes in The Telegraph, the electric vehicle dream, too, “has turned into a nightmare.”
Mcdonagh, who admits she does not drive, points out many problems, among them the horrific impact when a heavy, quiet-running electric vehicle hits an unsuspecting pedestrian or a cyclist. She also notes that some of these “vehicles” are collecting data on route history and road speed that governments (and corporations) can use for remote surveillance (and marketing gimmickry). Another problem is that the much heavier EVs could collapse bridges and force lengthy detours.
Mcdonagh, however, has barely scratched the surface of the mess created by the hipster culture that believes everything sacred must be sacrificed before the god of carbon (dioxide) reduction. It turns out that manufacturing electric vehicles has to date been a bad investment for automakers, despite all the subsidies.
Ford Motor Co. says it will lose $3 billion on EV sales this year, after losing $900 million in 2021 and $2.1 billion in 2022, when the company sold 96,000 units. Price drops by Ford and Tesla (and doubtless other companies) are not coming because the vehicles are cheaper to manufacture but because demand has slowed despite the new Biden subsidies. As Robert Bryce points out, Ford in the first quarter of this year lost $66,446 on every EV it sold.
One reason for the huge losses is the increasing price of battery materials, reflected in the 7 percent increase in the volume-weighted average for lithium-ion battery packs from 2021 to 2022. The Biden subsidies are supposed to offset such costs, just as the Biden build in America plan (in Michigan, at least, by Chinese companies) has no chance of diminishing China’s huge lead in EV battery and vehicle production.
Senator John Kennedy (R, LA) recently asked, “If electric cars are so swell. why does government have to pay people to drive them?”
A new J.D. Power report points to a number of reasons that American consumers are sticking with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. While the highest objections to EVs are high prices and lack of public charging infrastructure, vehicle range, charging times, and the threat of grid disruptions that render EVs useless are also deterrents. Other concerns are fires, power surges that lead to accidents, towing capacity and range, and performance in bad weather.
Even a third of Gen Z shoppers, who have been bombarded with pro-EV propaganda for most of their lives, admit they are unlikely to buy one.
It is obvious that the EV boom, such as it is, has been powered nearly entirely by heavy subsidies and marketing hype initiated by bureaucrats and politicians, most of whom have no background in auto sales or any service industries. Their M.O. is bribery and thuggery (forcing people into unwanted choices through market manipulation). Automakers are beginning to balk at these techniques, if only because they see their customer base shrinking once people cannot buy the vehicles they have used for decades.
While Ford and other companies are now boasting of the towing capacity of their EVs, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. MotorBiscuit last month reported that the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T can be souped up to tow 10,000 pounds, far short of the gasoline-powered F-150, but with an average range of only 88 miles. That hardly works for multiple tows in a day or for towing a trailer to a campsite 100 or more miles from home.
Imagine putting your family into the truck, hitching up the Airstream, and driving out to the mountains for a weekend at the lake. Finding a charging station where you don’t have to unhitch the trailer to get to the plug-in is a huge challenge, and you have to do this multiple times on a 300-mile trip. With a maximum 90-mile range, you need to recharge every 60 or 70 miles, taking 30 minutes or more for each recharge. You lose an entire day each way. So practical.
Far worse, though, are the risks and challenges to tow truck drivers with an EV that has stopped running. Not only are the vehicles heavy, they are dead weight, locked in park, and potentially suspect to spontaneous fires that ordinary extinguishers cannot put out. A 2021 National Transportation Safety Board report notes that “the energy remaining in a damaged high-voltage lithium-ion battery, known as stranded energy, poses a risk of electric shock and creates the potential for thermal runaway that can result in battery reignition and fire.”
Of course, the bean counters with their glorious visions for an all-electric future (replete with blackouts, price increases, and other tricks to keep the majority of people off the roads entirely) do not take into consideration ANY of the real reasons people drive cars and trucks. Their ONLY consideration appears to be the imaginary reduction in carbon dioxide emissions their computer models insist can only happen by inconveniencing “the little people.”
But should those “little people” elect leaders who will end the inflationary subsidies and dictatorial mandates (including those that ban gas appliances, cripple the performance of dishwashers and HVAC units, etc.), the automakers who have heavily invested in EVs will adjust to real market conditions and continue improving long-cherished technologies.
In today’s increasingly top-down world, Mcdonagh points out that “you can’t even discuss the problems with electric cars without getting jumped on.” That is already beginning to change, especially in a freedom-loving America that has had a century-long love affair with the open road.
Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows is an option that could both reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and keep ICE vehicles on the road. Hydrogen-based synthetic e-fuels may be expensive today, but they can power ICE vehicles today and tomorrow without sacrificing a nation to the whims of China’s maniacal leadership.
Duggan Flanakin is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. A former Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas. A brief history of his multifaceted career appears in his book, "Infinite Galaxies: Poems from the Dugout."
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