Friday, February 9, 2024

Electric Vehicle Questions, and Three Other Possibilities

The past few months have been shaky for electric cars, not so much because they aren’t selling – they are, much more than a couple of years ago – but because things keep appearing that make it seem unlikely they will become the norm. 

What will be the result if “The electric vehicle math isn’t adding up, with average transaction price around $50,000 and gas price nationwide falling to $3 a gallon” (Elesa St. John, Tom Krisher and the Associated Press, Fortune, December 7)?  Sales in 2023 of the things, per, through November were over one million and 7.5% of all vehicles, something which “experts say… must rise swiftly to address climate change.”  But between lower oil prices, themselves partially a result of fewer new cars using petroleum, and sales prices stubbornly high, along with reduced government subsidies, it is a bad time for that.  Other named reasons stopping buyers included range concerns and the “location, cost and convenience of charging these cars.”

Will that last concern remain problematic, as “Slow Rollout of National Charging System Could Hinder E.V. Adoption” (Madeleine Ngo, The New York Times, December 23rd)?  Although the Biden administration wants “a robust federal charging network” to be implemented, the only stations put into service have been in New York and Ohio, making the federal goal of 500,000 “public chargers,” which may need to be one million, by 2030 seem unlikely, meaning that private companies, who may or may not want to, would need to fill the gap.

In Business Insider on January 3rd, Paris Marx asked “What happened to EVs?”  Although “electric vehicles were supposed to be inevitable,” “the pace of adoption has markedly slowed,” as “EVs accumulated at dealerships this fall, even as automakers cut prices,” and, as a result, Ford, General Motors, and Tesla all delayed significant manufacturing plans.  In addition to the problems above, Marx cited less consumer spending power from inflation, heavier battery-laden vehicles requiring “producers to beef up their environmentally destructive mining operations,” such being “harder on roads,” and them causing “a greater safety risk for pedestrians” and even making “more air pollution.”

What alternatives are there?  In The Atlantic, Patrick George assessed one that in previous years appeared to many to be the best overall solution, but has been out of conversations lately, in “The Hybrid-Car Dilemma” (December).  Although hybrids often get over 60 miles per gallon, don’t have most issues mentioned here, and might be exemplified by “the latest Toyota Sienna minivan” which “has nearly half the CO2 emissions of its non-hybrid predecessor,” they have been held back.  Reasons for that include that “the auto industry can’t decide whether hybrids are a bridge to an all-electric future or a dead end,” and the vehicles “involve all the complexities of internal combustion and battery power put together.”  Car companies do not always make what is most popular, and the situation with hybrids may be another example of that.

Five years ago, we were supposed to be humming toward a driverless car future.  Since then, the industry has entered a winter of small action and few implementations.  However, “Apple Ramped Up Autonomous Vehicle Testing Last Year, Filings Show” (Aarian Marshall,, February 2nd).  Although “Apple’s secretive vehicle project doesn’t have much to show for its six years of work, at least publicly,” it “went on an autonomous testing jag last year, almost quadrupling the number of miles it tested on public roads compared to 2022 and jumping 2021’s total by a factor of more than 30.”  Waymo and Alphabet have been testing several times as much, with and without passengers and safety operators.  Will we see more self-driving results?  I hope so.

What other prospect is out there?  As of over two years ago, “You can now buy a flying car for $92,000” (Kristin Houser,, October 28, 2021).  The operator doesn’t need a pilot’s license – if they build the craft and are willing to take liability for crashes.  Since the item here, the Jetson One, “can’t be flown at night, over city traffic, or in restricted air space… right now it’s more like a really expensive, really cool toy than an alternate transportation option,” but that could change.  This one is electric, and doesn’t have much of a range, but who knows?  If electric cars end up in a niche, would we want to see this ancient idea revived?  Questions, questions.

No comments:

Post a Comment